Photo: HGTV

Not Great, Bus

HGTV Star can do better with its "unconventional spaces" episodes. We brainstormed some suggestions.

Last night's HGTV Star semifinal tasked the remaining designers with making over a stripped school bus. Mentor David Bromstad made much of the unconventional nature of the space, telling the designers they could make it into any kind of environment they chose and stressing, "Don't play it safe."

But isn't a school bus kind of safe? In the past, this challenge has saddled the designers with yurts and shipping containers, but those don't strike me as that difficult either; maybe it's just decades of New York City living, and one apartment in particular that shared the layout of a bus at even fewer square feet, but it's not that small or weird-shaped to me, and it has windows. The biggest problem seemed to be the wheel wells, and they could just have their carpenters take those out…it just didn't put enough interesting pressure on them to get creative.

Now, turning a Smartcar into a bunk, or a tiny playroom? That is tough. I drive one, and you can't get most people to believe it's a real car you can take on the highway in the first place. Turn it into a '60s bubble chair, you are my TV boy- or girlfriend.

HGTV Star has budget and volume considerations to consider, of course, and whatever the unconventional venue, they have to get cameras into it somehow. I acknowledge all of that while still believing that the show has lots of room to play with the idea of unconventional spaces. I've put together a list of suggestions. (NB: Some of these spots aren't so much "unconventional" as "traditionally hateful," and I'd like to see what a 72-hour competitive makeover might accomplish in the way of increased livability.)

  • Smart
  • Pillow fort
  • Movie-theater ticket booth
  • Blood-donation room
  • Wedding chuppah
  • TJ Maxx (e.g.) communal dressing room
  • Airplane galley
  • Music room at a senior center
  • Climbing wall
  • Funeral home (or center an entire season around the tombs at Green-Wood) (some of them have windows and vents and whatnot; weird, right?)
  • Swingers' club
  • Jail cell
  • Coat room
  • Chinese restaurant
  • The line at the DMV
  • The Costco in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a.k.a. "if Terry Gilliam directed that scene in National Lampoon's European Vacation where Clark can't get out of the traffic rotary, except with more Veggie Straws"

For Emmy Nomination Week we propose:

Another reality-show Emmy for "shelter" shows.

As much as we love The Amazing Race and Phil Keoghan, and begrudge him none of his hardware, it doesn't make sense for the category -- one that often posts only three nominees in a given eligibility period anyway -- to try cover the entire waterfront of non-fiction shows. It's a slippery slope, we realize, and once you start sub-dividing, you'll have a whole nother Emmys with categories like "Cooking, Competitive," "Cooking, Demonstrative," and "Cooking, Repulsive" (see: the Bourdain oeuvre), but if this is what it takes to get Tim Gunn a statue, we can live with it.

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