Photo: HGTV

Intelligent Design

A perfectly serviceable season of HGTV Star still raises questions about what the show's trying to do.

It isn't fair for critics to complain that a given show or movie isn't something it isn't trying to be. It's perfectly within bounds to say that the Transformers movies aren't good, for example, but to complain that they're not Woody Allen is unreasonable. So, I hesitate to judge HGTV Star -- a well-made, entertaining hour -- for what it's not doing. It's a pretty fun show; the regular cast is likeable, if not particularly exciting; I wanted Brooks to win, but knew he wouldn't despite a homestretch burst of camera-challenge improvement, and Tiffany's show (The Most Embarrassing Rooms in America) is something I'd check out. Fun concept, she's fun, it's all good.

But the aforementioned Brooks burst is my…well, "issue" is a little strong. Let's call it "what I question about HGTV Star," specifically why the show isn't about…what it's about. It's right there in the name; the show is meant to select the host of an upcoming show on the network. Hosting is an entirely separate skill set from interior design. Why is HGTV Star about the latter when it's trying to find the former?

Again: nothing wrong with competitive room-design shows. I mean, there is, but this one gets around a lot of the problems native to the genre. But a show designed (as it were) to choose a host should spend more time on that aspect; the camera challenges don't seem unimportant, exactly, but the contestants don't get much pertinent coaching prior to their weekly camera stand-ups, and except for the episode where they got thrown into a live-TV situation, it didn't bear much resemblance to what their jobs would look like.

Why not restructure the show somewhat so that the contestants already have a show at the beginning, and they have to learn how to do it "on the job"? Show all the retakes, the hosts learning to hit marks, explanations of how things might look on camera vs. to the judges in person, shot clocks on how long a segment can take to film, and consultations with past winners like Tiffany; give us a better sense of what producers look for as positives and problem areas. Each season, select designers who specialize in a certain design skill -- teachers like Brooks; landscape designers; wall-coverings experts -- and dangle a show specific to that design skill. So, The 101, or DIYard, or Grasscloth Journeys -- but assume the designers chosen know how to do the job, and follow the process of translating those skills to 22 or 41 minutes of screen time. No need to eliminate anyone, really, until the end -- or to declare a winner, if none of the designers that season can cut it as a host.

HGTV Star is great at explaining, quickly, why color pairings don't work, or talking about why a given carpeting choice isn't appropriate (Vern's note last night about using a pale/non-patterned rug in a hotel room is a good example). It's good at what it does. But its name says it does something different, and the show is less good at that something -- so I propose either subtracting the hosting element completely, or shifting the competition to that element exclusively. Hey, I'd watch both -- and maybe it would mean that Brooks can come back and get spiffed up for HGTV primetime by a dream team of gaffers and post producers. No Sleep 'Til Brookslyn: While you sleep, Brooks does a style mash-up in your home office or mud room. Right? C'maahhhhn.

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