I was watching a show on HGTV last night when this commercial came on, one of the ads in National Association of Realtors’ most recent public awareness campaign. As a Realtor, my dues, in part, contribute to these ads. I always expect a certain level of corny schmaltz from NAR, all that warm and fuzzy stuff that the organization is known for. After this one concluded, though, I wrinkled my brow, thinking: I must have missed something. Maybe I had one too many sips of wine at dinner. But then my wife and daughter looked at me and asked, essentially, “huh?”

The ad starts off like a color-saturated version of a Frank Capra front-porch setting. “I’m gonna have a house like this when I grow up,” a boy says to his grandpa.

Grandpa, as a look of worry starts to creep across his kind face, draws his little guy closer, and replies, “I hope so, buddy.” After a slight pause, Gramps peers across the street as movers pack away the belongings from a house with a For Sale sign on the lawn, and he adds a final, ominous, “I. Hope. So.”

Then the narrator comes on to offer some attempt at an explanation: “For the first time in generations, the dream of homeownership is being threatened … Realtors® are here to represent you and protect homeownership.”

Take away the Realtor framework, and this ad could be for one of those paranoid Tea Party PACs. Suddenly, the normally cheerful optimism of the NAR has dissipated and some vague sense of foreboding has arrived. We have no idea specifically what this “threat” is that the narrator has alluded to. We do not know what comes next in the scene. Perhaps a black cloud will appear, or some distant sounds of explosions, and the boy and grandpa will flee like the father and son in The Road.

Well, as a Realtor, I simply have to know what is looming off in the distance if I am going to “protect” such seemingly fantastic folks from this insidiousness. Is it a nuclear dawn? Out-of-control robots? Both?! I mean, when I got my agent’s license, I didn’t believe I was signing up to be Nicholas Cage.