It's Always the Quiet One

Rambling about life, culture, Project Runway, and the occasional fruity drink.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's Time for "Top Design"!

First, there was “Project Runway”. Then, “Top Chef”. Now comes the unimaginatively but serviceably-named “Top Design”, which aspires to do for interior design what the other two shows did for fashion and cooking. I've gained a bit more fashion sense from PR and gained several pounds from TC (watching other people make food makes me hungry, okay?) And quite frankly, I could use a good course in interior design, so my hopes are high for TD. Let’s take a look at the premiere episode and see how it’s shaping up, shall we?

By now, the Bravo formula is set: start by showing the contestants moving into their apartments, figuring out where to sleep, and sizing each other up. Our first designer, Goil, takes advantage of being the first in the guys’ room and rearranges the furniture as soon as he walks in. We soon meet all the other guys (Matt, John, Erik, Michael, Ryan) and the gals (Elizabeth, Felicia, Andrea, Carisa, Lisa, Heather). Now, I didn’t watch any of the extra tidbits Bravo posted on its website so I know very little about any of these people’s personalities apart from what they showed in commercials. But a few of them look kind of familiar...

Erik: it’s kind of a toss-up between Sean Hayes from "Will & Grace", and Jai Rodriguez from Queer Eye. He'll be fun.
John: kind of a gay Ralph Kramden, big and blustery, I expect a lot of harmless threats of violence towards other contestants out of him.

Lisa: Yes, it's obvious and everyone else is going to say it so I'll just get it over with and then never mention it again. Storm. X-Men.

And last but definitely not least, Michael. Don’t let the name fool you. This is Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”.

So, they all get settled down when from out of seemingly nowhere, envelopes appear with notes from their host. Of course they are all tickled to find out that it is Todd Oldham, so they jump into their Sponsor Mobiles and away they go to the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood. They meet Todd out front, and as he begins to welcome them I am struck by two things: one, he’s kinda cute. And two – his line delivery is rather awkward. Not in a grating sort of way, but like he’s speaking not to a bunch of adult interior designers, but to a bunch of kids. Preschoolers, even. In fact, if this decorating thing doesn’t work out for him, he’d have a successful career in children’s broadcasting or preschool teacher (“Hi kids! Today we’re going to be fingerpainting! Join me!”). But I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as it’s his first TV hosting experience and I’m sure he’ll get better as he gets used to it. (Wait. It’s not? He's had shows on MTV and HGTV? Ohhhh boy.)

Todd shows them around their work area, which is big and very white (but apparently they’re supposed to decorate it – how cheap is that, Bravo? Cutting some corners on the budget, are we? You didn’t have the PR designers dress Tim and Heidi, did you? Although, come to think of it, Heidi could have used some help last season. But that’s beside the point).

Their first challenge, Todd says, is to design an ‘inner sanctum’ for a busy celebrity client. The client is SO busy, that he/she doesn’t even have time to come talk to the designers. So he/she sent over some objects for the designers to study (but they can’t use the objects in their rooms). Good thing, too, because to my untrained eye they pretty much look like stuff you’d win at a carnival game (“pop three balloons and win this mini-disco ball on a pedestal! It even plays The Bee Gees!”). If my kids won stuff like this I wouldn’t let them in the car.

Now that he has them confused, Todd takes them over to their design spaces. On the way out, he tells them to pick a paint chip off the table as they leave. Wait. Is this going to be the challenge? Design a room using the paint chip you picked up? No, it turns out to be much worse - the first challenge is a TEAM challenge, and whoever has the matching paint chips are teammates. Jaws drop. Including mine. A team for the FIRST challenge?? How cruel, not to mention annoying. How are we supposed to get a feel for each designer’s aesthetic and style if they have to compromise with another person right off the bat?

The teams are: Elizabeth/Goil, Felicia/Matt, Ryan/Andrea, Heather/Lisa, Carisa/Erik, and John/Michael (how coincindental that the two people I related to characters named Ralph are stuck together. I think from now on I will refer to them as Ralph[ie] – it’ll just be easier). The teams get a budget of $50,000 to use in the design showrooms to pick out fabric, furnishing and accessories, and another much smaller amount to use for paint and lumber. They also get a carpenter. AND… a seamstress. Wow. They got it GOOD. No Trading Spaces roll-up-your-sleeves-and-do-everything-yourselves junk here. These are DESIGNERS, dangit, not Joe and Jane Homeowner and their neighbors, whose idea of interior design is for all the velvet paintings of Elvis and large-eyed children to hang in a straight line.

The reasoning behind this team challenge is soon apparent – they’re going for the drama. Take Ralph[ie]. (Please!! Seriously. Take them.) These two get into it right away. They don’t like each other’s ideas, colors, personalities, clothing, hair, speech patterns – you name it, they hate it. Much eye rolling and cussing and pouting and flouncing and hmph-ing and mouth-taping ensues. They bicker like an old married couple. And of course, so much time is spent on these two that we see very little of what the other teams are doing, because they all seem to be getting along just fine. The only other tension that seems to be going on is that Heather is letting herself be steamrolled by Lisa into doing an Asian theme that has little to do with the objects that they were shown.

They then go shopping. Well, not really, since they’re not actually buying anything. The correct term, as Mr. Todd tells us, is “memo out” (at least I think that’s what he said). I see a lot of very ugly stuff, and some stuff I wouldn’t mind having, but mostly ugly stuff. I guess this is why I am not an interior designer.

Now that they’ve picked out furniture, it’s time to get back to their demo rooms and start painting. So they rush off to get started, and right away I see problems. First of all, half the teams are using green. And two very ugly shades: “canned peas” and “LED alarm clock numbers”. Michael-Ralphie doesn’t know how to paint and John-Ralph won’t let him do anything, so he wanders around visiting the other teams. (PR fans – think Vincent/Angela from last season – same thing.) Felicia and Matt cut a hole in their wall. This worries Heather, who feels inadequate about her team’s plan and lack of innovativeness (is that a word?).

Midnight comes and goes, and in the morning they get a few hours to finish up their rooms. Todd drops another bomb – TWO people will be going home. This is a big bummer. Not only do two people have to leave, but they really won’t get a proper chance to show us why they got picked for this show. Bad form, Bravo. Then Todd calls time, and whisks them off to the White Room (“Join me!”) to meet the judges – designers Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler (who is wearing what appears to be two end-to-end candystriped lampshades and gray flannel longjohn pants) and Margaret Russell, editor of Elle Décor magazine, all of whom the designers ooo and ahhh over.

There are three people in the room, but four chairs, and since Todd’s not judging, that must mean they’re finally going to meet the celebrity client. Todd tells the designers she’s an actress, and a member of “Hollywood royalty”. I immediately think Drew Barrymore. I mean, what family fits that description more than the Barrymores? And I could see her owning those strange objects, which in the context of Drew Barrymore don’t seem so much tacky carnival junk as quirky conversation pieces.

But it’s not Drew Barrymore. Surprise! It’s Alexis Arquette, the brother/sister of David and Patricia and Rosanna Arquette, who is probably best known as the Boy George lookalike from "The Wedding Singer". The designers are sent back to their ‘rooms’ and the judges walk through each one, asking questions and taking notes. Let’s examine the rooms and what the judges had to say about each one.

Ryan/Andrea - Margaret comments that while this room is glitzy and mod, it looks like a dorm room, and I don't disagree. (In fact, my actual college dorm room was this exact same color. I hate this color.) Kelly makes a comment about a "dialogue" between the walls and the floor, which is painted the same green. They're probably discussing how depressed they are about being that color.

Carisa/Erik - Speaking of paint, they painted their walls to look just like the shirt Steve from "Blue’s Clues" wore all the time. While that might be a great design for a preschooler's bedroom, I'm not so sure it's right for the inner sanctum of a busy celebrity. There are also eight thousand pillows in this room, and a lot of glass vases. Not a good combination.

Heather/Lisa - The judges feel this is too themey, like a Chinese restaurant. I am concerned about the boxes at the foot of the bed. What if Alexis needed to get up in the middle of the night? She'd break her toes on those, or fall right over them. It's also waaaay too symmetrical. Even I know that. Symmetry is bad. And feng shui comes in there somewhere too.

Side note: What is it with all the orange and green in these three rooms?? Yuk. Being a child of the seventies, this brings back some bad decor memories. And I think next week, Bravo should try to take pictures of the rooms that DON'T show the studio lights. Unless that's part of the design.

Felicia/Matt - The colors are a bit drab, but I guess adding any of Alexis's objets d'art would put a little color into it. And might actually make them look less like midway junk. The lighted niche they built into the wall is very cool.

John/Michael - Blah. White. Dark brown. Orange. Green. Smelly shoes under the coffee table. Eww. The judges like the 'narrative' they put into the room (the shoes, stuff scattered around to make it look lived in). Also, Ralph[ie] does a lot of bitching to the judges about how horrid it was to have to work with such a narcissic imbicile who doesn't know how to paint and gives them a rash. (Time to get out that Red Ryder b-b gun again, perhaps, Ralphie?)

Goil/Elizabeth - A very relaxing room - nice cool blues and whites, and an interesting swinging couch with a sandbox underneath it. That would be totally fun to sit on it and draw in the sand with your toes! Margaret says that the big rake they put in to use on the sand makes her think of a giant litter box. Let's hope Alexis doesn't have cats.

Jonathan, being the lead judge, gets to say "You can stay" to the people who don't win but didn't lose (Carisa/Erik, Ryan/Andrea). The top two teams are Felicia/Matt and Elizabeth/Goil, with the latter taking the win! (I liked their room best anyway, mostly because it wasn't green and I like sandboxes.) That leaves Ralph[ie] and Heather/Lisa. You know that they can't possibly get rid of such a drama factory as Ralph[ie] yet, so poor Heather and Lisa are out. Jonathan simply says "goodbye" which I think is a nice, classy way to do it, much like the auf Wiedersehen you get over at Project Runway. Then he goes and spoils it by sending them out of the room with a "See you later, decorators!" and I gag. That is pure cornball. Who thought THAT up?? I think I'm going to have to mute that every week so I don't get sick.

Heather and Lisa get nice hugs from Todd, who comes in to talk with them and is very sweet. But I still don't think it's fair that they got kicked off so soon for a team challenge. Just dumb. Sorry you couldn't schedule more episodes, Bravo - next time just pick less people.

Will I tune in again next week? Sure. It's only the first episode, they'll get into a groove. But I hope that they show more of the design process (sketching, inspirations, etc.) and less of Ralph[ie]. Plus, it will be fun to see exactly how many different colors of eyeglass frames Goil owns. And I've already learned that it's bad to leave the selvage on fabric if you're hanging it up (so that's why my bedroom curtains look weird! No more using the selvage as the bottom hem I guess. Thanks Todd!).

Oh wait. Before I go, I have to get this off my chest. I know this isn't a show about fashion. Several of the designers were wearing somewhat questionable outfits. But look at this preview shot of Michael-Ralphie. What is he WEARING?? I don’t know if all those outfits Aunt Clara made for him finally confused him to the point where he just gave in, or if it was the soap poisoning, but grown men should NOT wear cutoff khaki pedal pushers. Don't try and tell me they're shorts.



Anonymous MoiIsInTheHouse said...

OMG. I knew Michael reminded me of someone. It IS Ralphie.....he DOES.... this is too freaking scary....

8:34 PM  
Blogger eric3000 said...

"Kelly makes a comment about a "dialogue" between the walls and the floor, which is painted the same green. They're probably discussing how depressed they are about being that color."

Ha ha!

4:00 PM  
Anonymous gimli417 said...

I just watched the rerun of this, and once again, you have hit the proverbial nail right smack on its little head.
And what was up with Alexis' bottom lip?? H/She needs to go back to the plastic surgeon and have it trimmed back a little.

11:31 PM  

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