Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Design Startling ...

I missed the real-time premiere of "Design Star" on Sunday, but luckily, I have a DVR. So last night, I watched the first installment of the new season.

I'm not a die-hard fan. I didn't watch the first season, when David Bromstad won. I watched the second season, when Kim Myles won, but my viewing was less about interest in the show personally and more about the fact that I was being paid to write a blog about it professionally. I didn't watch the third season, when Jen Bertrand won. I watched the fourth season, when Antonio Ballatore won, which, frankly, I thought was an odd choice at the time, but I've since watched "The Antonio Treatment" and I have to hand it to him, the man has vision. Besides, Dan Vickery's designs were too "normal," and really, how many shows can you have that end with reveals that look like the rooms designed on most of the other shows? So, good on Antonio.

And here we are in the fifth season. Clive, the congenial, accented host of seasons past, is gone. Where did he go? I liked Clive. He was a good buffer between the contestants and the judges.

Now, the contestants and the judges interact directly, and ooh, ouch, I don't like it.

Granted, I'm not a big fan of confrontation, and I realize that conflict is a necessary component of drama, and the producers are striving for drama, but at the end of the day, we're talking about design, people. We're talking about creating aesthetically pleasing spaces.

Twitterpal Angelo has said many times that he believes there is great power in design, and I agree. The spaces in which we live can greatly affect how we think and feel. Which is no small thing.

But designing a space should encompass the emotions on the light end of the spectrum. Design should be fun. Or playful. Or artful. Or inspiring. Or intriguing. Or soothing. Or comforting.

What I saw last night wasn't fun. What I saw last night made me uncomfortable. What's with the tone of the judges? It came off as very parental, very "I'm so disappointed in you," as Vern told the remaining five contestants from the bottom six (after one had been sent packing) that he didn't want to see them there next week, and they slunk out of the studio like newly scolded children.

And what's with discussing the fate of the bottom two contestants in front of everyone?! That's just cruel, that "You just stand there and squirm while we huddle together and hash out which one of you sucks more than the other" approach.

There's a lot that I like about HGTV, though if I ran the network, I'd program about 75 percent fewer hours of "House Hunters" and "House Hunters International." Or, at the very least, I'd insist on less fault-finding with the spaces, because these homebuyers come off as ridiculous much of the time. "Oh, I don't like the color of this room," they say, as viewers at home roll their eyes, as if painting a room would be the most arduous home-improvement task in the history of home improvement. Or, "I don't really like the knobs on these cabinets." Because, as we all know, you need a specialized degree that requires years of apprenticeship to switch out hardware. Who has the time?

And so far, I'm not wild about Bromstad's reimagined "Color Splash." I suspect others feel the same way, as I recently saw him tweet about how great his new crew is and that we should give them a chance. I've watched two episodes. We'll see if I watch any more.

I miss Twitterpal Angelo Surmelis. I was consistently in love with the rooms he created on "Rate My Space." One room, in particular, had me yelling and pointing at my television it was so great. And reliably, I would watch the show and see elements intended for the room at hand, and think, "Oh, Angelo, really? That piece? In there?" And then I'd get to the reveal and marvel at how well it worked. He, too, has vision. Which is why he is a designer. And I am not.

But this new season of "Design Star"? Oof. I have an early sense of who I think should win, of who would make a good host. And I certainly have an early sense of who will go home sooner rather than later. And I'll tune in next week to see if the tone is still the same. (Even the cues in the first episode seemed overly sinister.)

Hopefully, they'll have lightened things up a bit. If not, I'll skip the interim and just tune in for the finale to see if my early choice for the winner was right. If what I'm seeing is the doing of Mark Burnett, let me say this: I don't watch "Survivor" and I don't watch "The Apprentice." On purpose. And if the Burnettification of "Design Star" is the new normal, I won't be watching it, either. Not anymore.

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