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Boredom by Design: "Top Design" is the Bottom of the Barrel


Let me begin by saying that I am an ardent fan of Bravo's many reality competition series. I get completely engrossed by Top Chef and I can't get enough of Project Runway.

But I (wrongly) figured that Top Design, Bravo's latest iteration in this ever-expanding universe of lifestyle competitions, would be a variation on those polished series, produced by the whimsically named production company Magical Elves.

The first thing I thought as Top Design began is that it's extremely obvious that another production company produced this series, as it's far less polished and put together than either Top Chef or Project Runway, which both look beautifully sleek and elegantly intelligent by comparison. Top Design is painfully slow at times (so much so that I wanted to stab out my own eyes), the contestants so far are tedious and lacking in personality, and the show is as exciting as watching paint dry... literally.

While shows about fashion or food have a certain sexiness inherent in their subjects, I couldn't find anything sexy or interesting about watching some bickering people create rooms out of similarly blank spaces. Both Top Chef and Project Runway have certain aspirational qualities to them that don't seem to translate here.

There's no way that anyone could ever fill Tim Gunn's luxurious loafers, but host/mentor Todd Oldham is a decent host/mentor for the designers. However, he doesn't radiate any excitement whatsoever. He's a little too nice and a little too approachable. One of Tim Gunn's chief weapons is the fact that he's helpful while still being a little distant at first. He's erudite and somewhat approachable yet emits an invisible beam of politesse while never seeming haughty. Oldham, on the other hand, just seems... blah. He seems like he's trying way too hard to be upbeat and peppy and the poorly dubbed voice over doesn't help matters either. (He ends up sounding, hysterically, like Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock.) And then he just up and disappears with no warning whatsoever. Bizarre.

As for the contestants, they're your usual bunch of whiny, self-entitled reality series contestants but I was hard pressed to even find a single one that I would want to root for this week... or any week for that matter. As soon as utterly useless 23-year-old Michael and obnoxiously aggressive John were introduced, I just knew that they'd SOMEHOW manage to get paired together in a challenge.

Top Design's judges lack the enthusiasm, presence, and personality of Heidi, Nina, Michael, Tom, or Gail. Watching Jonathan Adler, Kelly Wearstler, and the editor-in-chief of Elle Decor (I can't be bothered to look up her name at this point) walk through a series of rooms while taking notes isn't a highlight of tension and suspense.

As for the whole mystery behind the, er, mystery client, talk about a whole lot of build up for nothing, especially when the Alexis Arquette's participation extends to wandering through the designers' rooms and then sitting quietly before issuing her edict about whose design she liked best. (Not that she really seem to care for anything they did, to be honest.)

Tired, dull, and lackluster, Top Design is not something I can work up any enthusiasm about, nor do I think it will be a worthy successor to Bravo's other reality fare.

Sure, premiering this directly after the Season Two finale of Top Chef might be one way to get some curious viewers to tune in, but I'd be surprised if an audience sticks around for the second installment. Especially as Lost returns in the same timeslot next week. After all, this is one reality series I'd be happy to see disappear--by accident or by design--on a haunted island someplace.


Anonymous said…
I totally agree. Not very impressive. I don't know why, but I had a feeling this show wasn't going to be that great.

Your comments about Oldham are right on (kenneth - hilarious! TWOP made the same observation..I will have to pay better attention next week).

I do like a couple of people. I like Goyle (probably cause his name is Goyle) and his partner. I HATE Michael. I also didn't like either of the women who left, and was rooting for them to leave.

Total snooze. But I will tune in again to see if it gets better. I get it at 7, so no competition there...
rockauteur said…
Top Design was one of the worst reality shows I have ever seen, save for eye candy/former Playboy Playmate Kelly Wearstler, who seemed to either have it out for the contestants or bored that her manager put her up to this as a way to promote her design firm.

From the insipid host Todd Oldham, who came out sounded rehearsed, to the panel of judges, who barely even spoke (I have never seen a show where the guest judge was practically a mute, talk about underutilizing the normally loud personality of Alexis Arquette), the show was just so uninspired.

I even can't believe - for all LA natives out there - that the designers live in those hideous cinderblock live/work lofts on the corner of Melrose/Highland - they can't sell those things! It's nice to see the PDC used in a reality show (since god knows its expensive to shoot there) but it the show came off as one big commercial for the PDC, without really showcasing its personality. Parsons Paris seemed more dimensional! And those spaces the designers have to design in... by locking designers to those dimensions week after week, it not only stifles talent but makes the show not that interesting to watch.

And speaking of the designers, the lack of talent was appaling. It's obvious the producers of the show cast for personalities rather than talent, which is the case of so many reality shows. But when you produce a show that is supposed to be about the talent, you have to walk a fine line and actually get promising candidates (the only reason Michael was kept was for so-called "story." If I have to watch that guy one more time, or listen to his nasily voice, I will kill someone). These designers can't even design their way out of IKEA.
Anonymous said…
I totally thought Kenneth the page as well! Hee, so funny to see others making that connection.

I'm only halfway through the show on my Tivo but I'm not sure I'll continue. Snore city.
The only entertaining thing about this show was the fact that Todd Oldham sounded (and even kind of looked like) Kenneth. Other than that, "Top Design" was a "Top Disaster." It was awkward and clunky and, like Justin said, none of the judges said anything! It just made me miss "Project Runway."

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