Interesting points. I don't believe that one asset is better than another universally, it depends on the investor. HGTV doesn't really promote real estate investing, rather speculation and house flipping. People love the 'get rich quick' stories of both real estate or stocks, which is why they buy popular stocks at outrageously high prices and then lose money. Investing is boring and doesn't make the headlines or get TV shows.
The same works with real estate. If you don't know how to buy a good house for a good price and manage it well, it will not be a good investment. If you aren't willing or able to take the time to learn how to do these things well, then passive index investing is the best strategy for you. Nothing wrong with that at all, but more wealth can be built faster in both real estate and the stock market if you take the time to get educated and then put that education into practice.