Monday, July 26, 2010

Watchability, Watchability, Wherefore Art Thou, Watchability? ...

Once upon a time, I wrote a blog about HGTV's "Design Star."

I didn't write it for HGTV. I wrote it for, the oddly named entertainment site that's part of Tribune.

I hadn't watched all of the first season of the show, but given that I was being paid to write about the second season, I tuned in. Because I'm professional that way, because my name is not Jayson Blair.

Now, as we all know, this is interior designer we're talking about. We're not looking for the cure for cancer. We're not trying to put another man on the moon. We're talking paint and furniture and wallpaper and tchotchkes.

But still.

Design has its place in the world. Design done well is an art form, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But that's how I see it. Design to me is a lot like editing: If it's done well, you don't notice that it's been done.

I mean, you notice the spaces. And hopefully, you think or say, "That's so cool!"

But some rooms look designed. Some rooms look like someone tried too hard to make a statement. Some rooms make me think, "No one really lives there."

Last season, I was initially surprised that Antonio won over Dan, but then, once I thought about it, the decision made perfect sense. Dan's design was nice, but who wants "nice"? "Nice" is the province of home-staging shows, where everything is painted a neutral color and predictable art is hung on walls and rooms are stripped down to levels that suggest "model home," yet everyone oohs and ahhs.

I haven't seen a lot of Antonio since – has anyone? – but what I have seen has been artful and inspired. His background serves him well.

But this season. Oh, this season. Mark Burnett has gotten his mitts on the show and after the first episode, I vowed to watch no more. Gone is Clive, the affable accented host. Vern, Gen, and Candice, three designers I used to admire, have left me wondering if the director has to coax that kind of snarkiness out of them or if their previous television presences have been the lie. Vern is particularly vicious. And they deliberate right in front of the contestants who are about to get voted off the island. All that's missing is the extinguished torch.

I continued to watch, though, laptop on my lap, tweeting away with the hashtag #designstar every Sunday night. With my focus half on the show and half on the Twitter feed, I've been able to watch.

And now I'm wondering how it is that any of these contestants landed on the show. Of course, in seasons past, there have been stronger designers and weaker designers. That just makes sense. You need wheat, you need chaff.

But at this stage, someone should be emerging as the designer to beat, and after last night's episode, I'm more convinced than ever that none of them deserve their own show.

Yes, some of them are pretty. That's all well and good. But with all these group challenges, it's been all but impossible to get a read on any of them as designers. Their weaknesses are on evident display, but where are their strengths?

Do they have any?

Painting some stripes on the wall? OK, that's nice. And? Next?

Last week, the most beloved item from any of the designers was a red silhouette of a fireman painted onto a large canvas. That was art. In a firehouse. Really? The judges ate it up, but is that what firemen want to see? Do cops have "cop" art in police stations? I wouldn't know.

And this week was just as absurd. Even the furniture seemed to feel that way. The bolster pillow on the day bed was flaccid. Yes, even the pillow was bored.

And can we just take a moment to ask what's happened to Candice's wardrobe? Has that been Burnett-ified as well? On her show, she wears mostly casual clothes, but they suit her long, lithe frame. Last night, I swear to God, the woman was wearing a mini-skirt. What? Does that have something to do with "Trump"? And an episode or two ago, she was wearing an enormous floral coat. Was that the week of the "floral" design challenge? I think so. But there's no need to be so literal with the wardrobe. Or ugly. And don't even get me started on what passes for "fashion."

Anyway, were it not for Twitter, I would no longer be watching. I hate the new format. It's snarky and it's so mean as to border on cruel. The designers hardly seem like designers. From what I've seen, none of them could carry a show.

I recognize that not everyone is a David Bromstad, so talented and adorable and eat-him-up-yum. My mother wants to adopt him. Who wouldn't want to have him around? And I look forward to seeing more from Antonio, now that I know that he's not going to adorn every space with paintings of buxom women in sombreros and belts of ammuntion.

But this season. Oh, this season can't end soon enough.

Perhaps the twist to this season is that no one gets a show.

Or perhaps it will end with Bob Newhart waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette. Which it can't, since she died.

But oh, wouldn't it be a comfort to know that this was all a bad dream?

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Anonymous Diane said...

I am a big fan of Design Star's past seasons. But I couldn't agree with you more about this one (including Candice's wardrobe)! I am uncomfortable watching the snide critiques, the design is horrible - yes, horrible, and the contestants are (mostly) unlikable. I trudge through every week hoping for some flicker of seasons past but so far I have not seen it. I don't see how any of these people will be able to carry their own show. Disappointing.

Oh- and I LOVE Antonio! I also was not a huge Antonio fan during his DS season but his design on The Antonio Treatment is so fresh and edgy and different from any other HGTV show. I would never put The Sombrero Lady in my house, but I love that he did. He has a great team on that show too. I even love Chewie (the dog). HGTV needs to produce more episodes.

10:06 AM  

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