Norton native running HGTV show 'Over Your Head'

Norton native Paul Amirault, right, talks with Eric Stromer, the host of HGTV's "Over Your Head." (Submitted photo)

Sitting in Denver's Coors Field, watching Jonathan Papelbon get the final out of the Red Sox' World Series sweep of the Rockies, there was almost nowhere Paul Amirault would rather have been.

Almost.

As cool as it was to see his beloved Red Sox, the team he grew up rooting for, win the Series again, there's a place he's actually more in love with.

Los Angeles.

"Everyone said, 'Oh, you'll hate it,'" said Amirault, a Norton native who moved to the land of dreams with stardom in his head. "Because I expected to hate it, I actually liked it. Yeah, I came out here wanting to be Spielberg. One thing I found that's interesting is that movies are totally the province of dreamers."

So he hasn't won an Oscar. But he's thrilled just the same to have made a successful career in the entertainment industry, working his way from production assistant to co-executive producer of the HGTV series "Over Your Head," a home improvement show with a unique twist.

The show bails out homeowners who have slightly botched a home improvement project, helping them make right - and pretty - what went wrong. It airs Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. and is hosted by Eric Stromer.

But even behind the scenes, Amirault's personality stands out. As the man who runs the show, he's responsible for nearly every aspect of its successful execution: He cast Stromer and the show's carpenters, he supervises editing and the shoots, and he serves as the liaison to the HGTV executives.

Not bad for a guy who's very first job was delivering The Sun Chronicle.

After graduating Emerson College in 1985, he tried for about three years to make a living in Boston in the independent film industry.

"I had made a horror film as my senior practicum project (in college), and I was trying to raise money to do a feature," he said. "It wasn't a really happening scene. I had a bunch of friends in L.A., so I basically just made the move."

Taking chances and embracing change paid off.

While paying the bills as a bartender, Amirault took his roommate's offer to work as a production assistant on an NBC pilot. It never aired but looking back, he says "the smartest thing I ever did was work those three days.

"The show was never picked up, but I went ahead and wrote a second episode script."

The script got into the hands of a producer who needed a script editor and associate producer for a show at a local television station called "Health Fax." The show was made up of old news packages from medical reporters.

"Health Fax" won a local Emmy while Amirault was working there, which helped him get an interview for "Hard Copy." He worked on that show as a PA, but earned experience writing and directing as well. That lead to several other industry jobs and, eventually, to HGTV and "Over Your Head," where he's been for the last year and a half.

His dreams of being the next Spielberg are now just a humorous memory.

"People in movies will work on spec, money will fall through, and people get hosed. They get hired and then they pull the plug," he said. "I realized it was just more humane in TV, for the most part. People were friendly and are just very above board."

Plus, he does get write and enjoys knowing that a million people get to see the work he does.

Initially cautious about doing "just another makeover show," Amirault has honed "Over Your Head" into an entertaining program, reflective of the fact that no one should take themselves too seriously.

Stromer often does gags and spoof scenes - written into the script, of course - that keep everyone on set having fun.

"It's one of the more unusual makeover shows," Amirault said. "We don't have to justify things, where it seemed like a good idea at the time and then in the edit bay it's terrible. If it's not funny, we don't put in the show. But it energizes everyone to try it, and we don't argue over every joke and period."

The only thing LA doesn't have for Amirault is seasons, and that makes him miss his hometown from time to time.

He's compensated a bit by buying a cabin in Big Bear Lake with Rob Jacobs, his partner of three years with whom he shares his West Hollywood home. Jacobs is the West Coast director of advertising and consumer marketing for Universal Music Group.

And he still takes in his Red Sox.

When the team comes to the Los Angeles area to play the Angels, everyone knows Amirault won't be at work if it means missing the first pitch.

"I remain a big fan. I'm known, some say I'm infamous, for wearing Red Sox and Patriot caps virtually every day to work," Amirault said. "The Angels series is a ritual I look forward to each summer. Everyone knows that I'm going to leave work early those days."

REBECCA KEISTER can be reached at 508-236-0336 or at rkeister@thesunchronicle.com.

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