Homecoming Shows: Love Them or Hate Them?


There are now two television shows dedicated to military homecomings. The Lifetime Channel just closed out its first season of ‘Coming Home’ and The Learning Channel debuted ‘Surprise Homecoming’ in July.

‘Coming Home’ is hosted by Matt Rogers, who was on season three of ‘American Idol’ and sings the theme song along with Bryon Bos. He was hands-on in helping arrange homecoming surprises for military families.  Some of these reunions took place at the time the entire unit redeployed. ‘Coming Home’ also honored the fallen during their segments.

What do the military branches think? On the Lifetime website it states: “This project is the only homecoming-themed series to have gained the full support of all four branches of the Armed Forces and the Coast Guard.”  Not sure if they’ve had time to do the same for ‘Surprise Homecoming’ since it’s new. The host of this show is Billy Ray Cyrus, singer and actor. They make sure to inform the viewers that this show’s focus is on the service member surprising their deserving family at home. As of yet, there hasn’t been the reunions within the unit like on ‘Coming Home’. Billy is more of a narrator throughout the show until he appears in the final surprise of each show.

Since the airing of ‘Coming Home’ began, I’ve read and heard strong reactions about it from within the military spouse community:

Love it.

It’s about time civilians see what we go through.

It makes me cry.

Can’t watch during deployment.

I want no television cameras at our reunion.

That’s exploiting military families.

I hate that show.

Would our family do it?  I honestly don’t know. I do hope the viewing audience with no military connections are learning more about our families through these shows.

Would you want (or have you had) your homecoming filmed for a television show?

About the Author

Seasoned Air Force Spouse

Partner in well traveled active duty Air Force family. I served and retired from the Air Force. Was born and raised in an Army family! Proud overseas brat. Married to a wonderful, successful southern man with 4 children, one of whom is active duty Army. And yes, I am too young for that! Not the typical family, not the traditional 'mom'. Love military life, social media, writing, business, pop culture, and travel. Born to do more!

23 Comments on "Homecoming Shows: Love Them or Hate Them?"

  1. I might be on "Surprise Homecoming." I thought the experience was a little cheesy and the questions were sort of … surface. "Do you miss your husband?" "Well, yeah…" They're looking for soundbites. The show is the filmed by the same production company that does Toddlers in Tiaras. But if it builds morale, then it's worth it. I think it's more for non-military families to feel good than for military families to feel good. What do I know, though? :)

    • Margaret G. | July 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm |

      Being on a show like that is hard because in one sense you do want to let everyone know your loved one is home or coming home but then again you want that time to be privateand just for the immediate family members.

  2. I'm really mixed on those shows. Every now and then I watch and have a good cry, but there's always a tinge of embarrassment with it, the hope that I will never be displayed and paraded like that. Yeah, sure, the public gets a bit of an idea about what it's like, but they're not there the rest of the 12-15 months, they just get the bits that are warm and fuzzy, the bits they can feel good about. And most of it is staged enough to just not feel realistic (don't we all have interesting homecoming stories that show that seldom do things run as smoothly as presented on tv?)
    That said, I am happy for every family that gets to welcome their soldier home alive, they can welcome him or her in any fashion they like, regardless of how outsiders think of it :)

  3. i totally agree with Heather P. and Petra – and honestly…i watch and just either feel annoyed or embarassed – i dont know why i feel embarassed – maybe because the people werent there for the 12-15 months or whatever the deployment is like – they are very "surface" and staged. that might be where my annoyance comes from…i think homecoming might just be too personal of an issue for me that a show like this can never really grasp the real emotion involved….on the other hand, the only televised homecomings i've ever felt to be real are when huge squadrons get home and there is a sea of servicemembers and a sea of families and they all try to find each other – that probably makes for a bad TV show – but its real, and THAT makes me cry. So…yeah…i think these shows are for the non-military family.

  4. I can only watch those shows when I need to cry. Otherwise I can't force myself to sit down and watch…it feels voyeuristic. Those moments are private, and watching over their shoulders, via camera, is intrusive. I vacillate on whether I would want our reunion filmed, though I know my husband would NOT…and honestly, it would irritate me to have someone asking me questions and filming our private family reunion.

  5. Sandra M. | July 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    I've seen both shows. They make me cry b/c my husband was a Vietnam veteran, and never even got thanked for his service till 36 years later, six months before his death. I think I like it best when the whole unit is welcomed home at the same time. I remember meeting my husband in Hawaii for his R&R from Vietnam. The wives were lined up, facing each other, so the guys would pass between the 2 lines. It was very emotional when one of us spotted our guy, or he spotted us! No cameras, or big productions then. But, to have him back in my arms again, if only for 3 days, was the best memory of my life!

  6. SemperSteen | July 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    Maybe I'm too cynical but I can't stand those shows. I watched fifteen minutes of Coming Home and wanted to put a brick through my tv. It's just…sooo exploitative, so sappy, so over the top, and the thought of someone as tacky as Billy Ray Cyrus hovering around and mugging for the cameras while a family goes through the emotional gut-punch of reunion…it's kind of nauseating.

    I feel the same way about shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Intervention. It's all about exploiting real emotions for ratings with no sincere feelings for the families involved. You think the tv executives created Surprise Homecoming because they care about troops and their families? Maybe they did, but I think it's much more likely they created it because they knew the show would have a built-in audience and low overhead costs.

    Again, I'm a cynic when it comes to these things.

  7. spouse2000 | July 18, 2011 at 4:45 am |

    I hate them. I hate all the home coming surprises on TV or off. Why would anyone sacrifice time spent with their family hiding so they can surprise them? Just see them as soon as possible. I would not be happy to find out I could have spent more time with my love one except they were hiding out waiting to surprise me.

  8. junevintage | July 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    I don't necessarily have an opinion on the shows (I don't watch a lot of television and I don't particularly care for sappy stuff!) But I told my husband that if he ever surprised me by coming home from deployment, I would more likely punch him than kiss him. Knowing what is going on, having plans and being prepared is what helps me survive deployments. To constantly be afraid that he would come home and I was in my yoga pants, sans make up, the laundry undone and the house a mess- total disaster to my got-to-be-prepared personality!

  9. Jessie Dark | July 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    If it meant my husband would be returning home early… hell yeah I'd do it lol But otherwise, no. I see no reason to have a bunch of camera's in my face when I'm having what I consider an extremely intimate moment with my husband

  10. Margaret G | July 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm |

    I have watched both shows and really don't care what other people do with their lives. Those families should be spending time with their loved one and cherishing every moment like it could be the last one. I do agree with some of the other posts about the shows. My biggest problem is that the producers of these shows are doing this now, but what did the American people even know about soldiers being gone in the last few months of 2002 and the first two months of 2003 before the war started in Iraq. NO one cared that our National Guardsmen were being sent over to fight a war and their families weren't prepared for this. Why don't the tv producers try doing a TRUE documentary about how military life is really like when the soldier comes home. It's not always the bed of roses like some portray it to be.

  11. I have watched some of the shows..honestly I think they give civilians the wrong picture about homecomings. They do not realize what our troops have to go through just to come home, and they don;t realize that some of our troops do not come home that way. We always set up some kind of surprise for out daughter when my husband returns, but having t.v. cameras in our face is too much. I do video tape for memories, but coming home is something to celebrate just as a family.

  12. Guest-Navy wife | July 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    I can't even watch the commercials. They make me cry every time. I know it isn't necessarily the most mature approach, but I like to take the "blissful ignorance" approach, I don't like to think about it until I absolutely have to. I really wouldn't want to be on a show like that because I feel like it is such an intimate moment to see your spouse and for your children to see their father for the first time in goodness only knows how long.

  13. Stir the pot more... | July 23, 2011 at 10:40 am |

    Whether or not I would agree to be on a show like this doesn't matter. I am glad these shows are out there no matter how sappy the homecomings are. People (civilians, foreigners, aliens, etc) need to see these shows to remember…..everything…not just the good reunions. Most will think of the bigger picture of war and military when they see these shows and all the sacrifices that are taken for granted; those that did not come home, those that lost years seeing their children grow up, those that are physically and mentally messed up for the remainder of their lives. Yes, these shows are important to REMIND, especially those who have never served in our country's armed forces.

  14. I personally LOVE them. ive requested at least one season on dvd for the next deployment. it makes me remember I'm not the only one going through this. It does make me bawl like a big baby (even when he's home) especially when they show the ones with the surprise weddings, or the ones with little girls and their dads coming home (because my father was also military). We shouldn't be embarrassed about the life we live, and we should be glad that civilians understand what we go through a little better, not to mention as I said in the beginning it's comforting to know that other women out there feel the same way.

  15. and I would love him to surprise me with an early home coming- whether it's on the show or not

  16. I'm a non-military person, so I guess I don't understand it fully, but I love it, and it does remind me of the whole picture, especially the background on the families without their loved ones. I've only seen Coming Home so far, but I also like how they often recognize soldiers who aren't home yet or who never will come home. again, not a military person so I have a different view. Some are definitely cheesy or kind of awkward, but the ones surprising the kids – they get me every time. they don't care how staged it was or if people are watching, they are pure love. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to see the joy.

  17. Just realized I guess I shouldn't have commented on this page.. made for military people. sorry :/ got here while searching about shows. you can choose to disregard my comment if you like.

  18. R.C. , don't worry. I think your comments were on-topic.

  19. I'm more interested to see if the TV shows will also show, after 20 September, when gay members return home to their children and spouses. Let's see how respectful the producers are then.

  20. Nope, don't watch them. I can barely make it through the commercial's, I don't think i could do a whole hour of it. I personally wouldn't want camera's in my face during such a personal family moment. My husband isn't the 'surprise' type of guy either.

  21. There is nothing like the moment when that music starts playing, the gates open, and they march in. Chilling, moving, and just freaking awesome moment! I take that any day over having him wrapped up in a box or sneaking up on me somewhere :D

  22. I believe it does not show the true picture of what the military family faces, but gives TV another reality show. Where is the real stuff, like when your spouse leaves and you wonder if he/she will return, the emotions your children face, the emotions a spouse faces, the difficult times being a single parent and not asking to be that single parent. Then the emotional adjustment when the military member returns, and trying to readjust as a family. That show is "using" the military family to make money! Would I do the show…of course not!!! It is not the true stuff…just put actors in the show, because it is not what really happens. It awesome and exciting to have your spouse back, but the reality is not what they are showing.

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