February 1, 2007

Top Design... meh

As one of the few straight guys* who watches Bravo's creative reality competition shows (such as Project Runway and Top Chef), I have to say that the new one that just debuted, Top Design, is a bit too girly and gay for my tastes. Don't get me wrong -- all three seasons of Project Runway have been dominated by gay guys, but they embody the stereotype of the gay artist, in contrast to the contestants on the new interior design show who embody more the stereotype of the gay male shopaholic. On Project Runway, contestants must conjure up original designs from nothing, select the raw materials, and construct them into their final form. And since there is always some constraint for each challenge -- use only recycled materials, re-invent the style of a given celebrity from 40 years ago, and so on -- it's really more of a flamboyant engineering project. Fun stuff to watch, for sure.

Interior design, on the other hand, consists mostly of taking pieces someone else conceived and constructed and arranging them in interesting, pleasing configurations. There's some originality, of course -- choosing and applying the paint, making a few architectural adjustments here and there -- but to compare it to fashion, this is a competition not to discover who's the best fashion designer but who's the best stylist. Thus, most of the process is a glorified version of waltzing into an incredibly expensive interior design boutique with a hefty chunk of someone else's money to spend on decorations ($50,000 per room on tonight's show) -- sorry, but again, that's for gay shopaholics and their Orange and Nassau County housewife counterparts. Compared to Top Chef, the new show would be like a competition for event planners or wedding coordinators who don't actually conceive and create the food themselves but have a knack for combining good dishes from various chefs into an impressive array at some formal event. (I hate the name of that job, by the way -- "event planner.")

That's not to say that eminent interior designers aren't very creative, or that figures from other fields haven't done good work in interior design (an obvious example being the half-Japanese American sculpter Isamu Noguchi). So, I would've liked to see a greater focus on this type of original work -- furniture design, lighting design, and so on -- rather than on the harvesting of the work of others. It wouldn't have the same marketing appeal as the "shopaholic's wet dream" version does, but it would be better TV and interest a wider audience. Now, Bravo has only shown the first episode, so maybe I'll be surprised later on, but from the teasers they showed at the end of tonight's show, it doesn't appear likely.

*Some would say I was a teenage girl in my previous life.


  1. Isn't the whole endeavor just incredibly superficial? Why does stlye and design matter so much anyway? Are we really so brainwashed by advertising that we place such a high priority on gaining approval from others based on our skills of matching colors?

  2. Just found your blog....I too am a huge fan of the Bravo reality line up...but I couldn't get past Todd Oldham and his odd sing song voice. I kept waiting for him to channel his inner Tim Gunn, but it never happened. Did he believe that he was hosting some kind of children's show where everything needs to be upbeat and positive??? I don't think I will be watching it again.

  3. There wasn't anything girly or gay about Top Chef, even though some of the contestants were women or gay men. If anything, the just-completed second season was too testosterone-soaked for its own good.

    Iron Rails & Iron Weights


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