Sunday, August 05, 2007


Opening Night in Vegas

It's a new season of Design Star, HGTV's little show that could. And we're in Las Vegas, which is an excellent setting for crushing people's cherished dreams. Should be fun. Our cast of contestants:

The contestants arrive in the workroom, outfitted with eleven desks. It lets out onto the balcony and there's even a little pool area. Neeraja squeals over the penthouse view. From all the green, you'd think they overlook Central Park. I'm just not into the whole "let's move to the desert and pretend that it's really a fertile plain" mindset. Lisa realizes that there are eleven workstations. She notes that they had ten contestants last season, but that doesn't mean they're stuck with ten this time around.

A helicopter lands on the roof and Clive heads downstairs. On the way, he manages to change from a brown suede jacket into a gangster-like pinstripe suit jacket. The contestants all cheer him because he's on TV. He handles the exposition and gets the contestants to "Woo!" at regular intervals. One point of note: the judges view the designers work on TV so they have the same perspective as everyone at home. Interesting.

The first challenge: Just as in the first season, they must design their own living space. Unlike the first season, they get 28 hours (a slight increase) and $15,000 (twice the money). One designer will be eliminated. Clive pulls out a remote control and the garage door rolls up to reveal a huge loft space. The floors are stained concrete with a central dark "path" that also creates curved areas on the interior side; the exterior side has enormous walls of windows. The designers wander around, oohing and aahing. The upstairs has two bedrooms -- one large and one small -- and "several bathrooms." Thank goodness.

Kim is about to pick up the paint can on the kitchen counter when Neeraja swipes it. She interviews that she wanted to handle the money so she could boss people around. After about an hour, everybody meets downstairs to get organized. Robb takes an interior living space demarcated by a big circle on the floor. Minnesota Josh puts his carpentry skills at Rob's service. Scott likes the sunken pit by the kitchen and Kim teams up with him. Lisa takes the entry. Todd wants to create a quarter pipe near the pit. Perhaps he'll use it launch himself over the pit, a la Evel Knievel. Christina is intimidated by Lisa and Todd's unconventionality, so she decides to steer clear and take the smaller bedroom. Will wants to work on a bedroom as well, and Tennessee Josh volunteers to help, so they have the larger bedroom and Adrianna will team with Christina on the smaller. That leaves the bar and main staircase to Neeraja.

Will sees two problems to address in the big bedroom: the bad carpeting and the number of beds. He wants the room to have a serene, earthy feel. The team gets to work sorting out the beds, which are kind of in a pile at the moment. Adriana shows a sketch to Christina, who interviews that she had "much different ideas." Well, sketch 'em out and put 'em on the table, sweetie. She proposes fabric hangings, but Adriana wants to keep the feel "very contemporary." She interviews that their styles weren't meshing. Once they wrangle the beds into an arrangement, Adriana asks what Christina thinks, and Christina says, "Uh." Adriana thinks it works. They spend two hours coming up with colors and when Adriana tries to get confirmation, Christina finally says, "I'm compromising." So that pretty much covers that team dynamic. Meanwhile, in the other bedroom, Will and Josh have no trouble agreeing on a palette.

Lisa plans a "contemporary, punk, elegant, chic kind of space." If you're using that many adjectives, you don't have a clear idea of what you're doing. Her first project? A "telephone book sculpture." Yes, that would be my priority when designing a space. Over in the "Living Lounge" space, Robb and Josh decide to build their furniture. Neeraja plans something "dramatic" with her bar and stairway. Scott and Kim plan to turn the pit into a dining area, since it already has bench seating. The little space behind it will be a small "meditation area." Because when you're in the middle of a big ol' loft housing a heap of people, it's going to be nice and peaceful. Todd takes inspiration from the concrete floors, the windows and the ceiling height, and promptly comes up with a quarter pipe and a hammock between two trees. Oh, right, landscape architect. Indoor spaces are a new thing for him, I guess. Kim laughingly interviews that no one even thought to question the whole skateboard thing, and the judges might find that odd. Not just the judges.

Downstairs Josh thinks the challenge is "tough" because the living space doesn't provide a lot of definition. Sounds like a design opportunity. The downstairs people gather to talk about color. They decide on bold red tones for accents. Josh and Robb hit up Neeraja for money. Upstairs Josh thinks Neeraja did an "awesome" job handling the money. Perhaps that's why we don't hear anything more about it. Time to shop. Downstairs Josh, Robb and Scott buy lumber. Neeraja, Kim, Lisa and Upstairs Josh all shop at a home decor store. Lisa hits up the counter staff for a phone book. Meanwhile, Will tapes off the room and makes the beds. In a less fancy home store, Adriana picks out accessories while Christina disapproves of her choices.

Back from shopping, Lisa gets to work on her "telephone book sculpture." This means tearing out pages and folding them into accordion pleats. So, it's not a sculpture made out of telephone books, it's a sculpture made out of paper which comes from telephone books. Upstairs, Will is happy with Josh's purchases. They get to painting, and Lisa keeps folding, but the others spend their last few minutes of work time eating. I'm sure they'll learn better soon. Clive arrives and calls an end to their work period. He reveals they have 22 hours of work time left, and heads out.

Morning. It's a good thing Will made those beds, because they're sleeping in them. The bathrooms are kinda crowded as everyone gets ready. Clive returns to kick off the work day; they'll get 14 hours. The downstairs crew dives into painting. Scott reveals he and Kim made a deal with Todd: he builds the "skeleton" of their dining room table and they help him paint. A shirtless Todd has a fun time crawling all over the table as he builds it, and then jumps on it when he's done. "My favorite tool is a Todd," Scott interviews.

With 10 hours left in the day, Robb visits a junkyard to find a car door. He interviews that he has always wanted to use car doors; doors are a metaphor for opening and closing. Well, they're more of a mechanism than a metaphor. Kim feels ambivalent about Scott's giant light fixture. Downstairs Josh fumbles with a tape measure. Cut to shirtless Todd practically doing pushups as he saws through the table top. Upstairs Josh reveals that the copper paint he's applying is "the color of spray-on tan." Painting. Awkward Josh carpentry. Slammin' Todd carpentry. Painting. Awkward Josh carpentry. Staining. Painting. Awkward Josh carpentry.

With 5 hours left to the day (so after spending 9 hours), Robb returns with stuff to find Josh behind schedule on the carpentry. They still need to buy foam and fabric. Yeah, this is going to turn out well. Why couldn't Robb buy foam and fabric if he was already out shopping? Upstairs, Will has Josh check out the paint design on the bedroom doors; Josh approves. Adriana suspects their paint color is not "speaking" to Christina (at this point, I might not have been speaking to her either) but they marshall on. Time ticks as people work.

It's not quite light out the next morning when Clive returns. They're missing a Josh; Christina thinks he was washing his hair, so you can guess which one. The Josh with lovely hair interviews that they do have two Joshes: one is more organic and one is more sparkly. Will calls his partner "Sparkle" as he urges him to get going. Clive kicks off the final 8 hours and then wanders around interrogating people. He thinks the dining area is "unfinished" but Scott assures him that it's all detail work at this point. Meanwhile, Organic Josh tells Robb they don't have time for details. Clive wonders why they're running behind and Robb explains that they made furniture by hand. "Was that wise?" Clive wonders. Robb figures they'll find out when the time's up. Upstairs, Clive asks Will and Sparkle Josh about their working relationship, which has improved over the past couple of days. He makes them hug. The second bedroom team also gets a teamwork question, and Christina basically says they keep having to work through disagreements. Neeraja has no bar stools. She has money; she just can't find what she wants. Well, then, find what you can live with. Clive asks Todd, will it be worth it to get booted over a skating ramp? Todd figures yes, since he had fun. Lisa explains that the stencilling is everyone's names spelled backwards. Clive asks if all the spaces are coming together; she replies, "At the moment, not yet."

Only 2 hours into the day, Todd finishes his quarter pipe and tests it out. No one gets hurt. Organic Josh and Robb go shopping for pillows. They return with 2 hours to go. Josh gets back to work finishing the banquettes. As he cuts luan (?), the piece he cuts loose flies across the room and bangs into the quarter pipe before it has a chance to amputate anything off anyone. He gets Robb to hold for the next cut. Robb interviews that maybe Josh is lacking experience. Well, Robb claimed he can build anything; maybe he should take the lead on construction. What exactly has he been doing with all his time? Time ticks down as people scramble to finish. Robb fusses over the pillow arrangement. Clive sounds a horn and time is up.

The Studio. It's spiffier, but it's still black and purple. The judges are still Martha, Vern and Cynthia. (Hi, Vern!) Clive lists the judging criteria as "design sense, creativity, execution and the final result as it appears on TV."

The designers are sent off to the green room to wait. Cynthia starts off with Lisa: "Making sculptures out of phone books is not design." Lisa sniffles, "I'll be in bad shape if my artwork isn't accepted because that's who I am." Sigh. It's not a freakin' art competition! Vern is flabbergasted that Neeraja couldn't find bar stools in Vegas. Robb expects he's getting pulled apart. Vern thinks he at least was able to talk about his intentions, but Martha thinks none of his contributions worked. Scott gets choked up after observing that 10 out of 11 of them will get booted at some point. Cynthia marvels, "This is the first time we've ever disagreed." Interesting.

The designers return. Kim, Christina and Adriana are called forward. They're the "acceptable" group. They get to wait in the green room. Will, "Josh Sparkle," Todd and Scott are called forward. They're the "way to go" group. Clive sends them all to the green room. Wait, no winner? Robb, Lisa, "Josh Organic" and Neeraja are on the chopping block. Josh had time management problems but "showed originality;" he's sent to the green room. Neeraja merely decorated, but that was enough this time; she's sent to the green room. Robb made bad choices and Lisa made her space non-functional. (Well, it functioned, just not well or sensibly.) Lisa is cancelled. She thanks the judges before she leaves. In her parting interview, she says it's the show's loss, but it still "sucks" to be the first one to go. Robb returns to the green room celebrating his survival.

Once again, the wacky artsy woman goes first, although Lisa was a far more credible candidate than Ramona. But she made the same mistake of thinking this was about art instead of design, and that got her booted. Was she that much worse than Robb? I think the explosion of sequined pillows was the worst thing in the room and the car door wasn't much better. Lisa's space at least had some connection to the rest of the room. Perhaps what saved Robb is that he had a teammate to absorb some of the judges' disapproval, while Lisa took the full weight by herself.

At this point, Sparkle Josh is my favorite. He made a really smart choice by going with a calm bedroom so the judges could see he's not all about the shiny. The sheen on the copper spreads and the zebra print on the hanging lights reflected his personality, but worked with the room. I also like Will, because he gets along with people, but I don't have as clear an idea of his design style. Scott and Kim made another good team. Todd will probably become annoying, but he does know how to build stuff. Organic Josh has potential, but right now it looks like he's in over his head. Adriana needs to get off the tchotchke train. Neeraja needs to learn how to just get it done or she's never going to last; she's sour enough that I'm not going to miss her. Christina can take her syrupy-sweet veneer and go back to her family. And Robb? Robb needs to shut up and go away.


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