Updated: Found some photos of the finished products if you scroll to the bottom!
For those that don’t know, I work in the entertainment industry to pay the bills. So I get super pumped when my world of interests collide – television, branding, and home design. Such was the case with Ellen’s Design Challenge which premiered this past week on HGTV.
First off – Ellen. Love her. I think she is one of the funniest, most genuine women on TV so naturally I was stoked to have another reason to watch her. The show is named after her, she’s in all the promos and marketing so she’d be a main part of the show, right? Wrong. She’s in one segment. Where the contestants watch a clip of her on a TV. Total snoozefest.
The format. Totally Project Runway meets HGTV Design Star. Pre-selected, talented contestants compete in unique furniture design challenges each week to prove who is the best. You get the gist. Design school graduates, self-made furniture builders, a FEMALE blacksmith (my favorite).
Casting was obviously done both for talent and reality TV drama because honestly, why else would you watch without at least one cat fight?! I could list all their names here, but honestly, no one stood out enough to remember. Which is not good TV.
As the contestants have limited time to complete their challenges, they’re each given a carpenter to help execute their designs.
Here’s what really pulled me out – most of the carpenters are smaller, but recognizable HGTV personalities themselves. This is never acknowledged. It’s like they’re just your average carpenter found through the Yellow Pages.
The host. Generic, mildly charismatic reality show type guy. I do not even remember his name and you learn nothing about him. He just directs the contestants where to look.
The judges. Credit goes to HGTV execs for finding relevant, qualified judges for the competition: Amanda Dameron, editor-in-chief of Dwell Magazine. She’s a little boring, but clearly knows her stuff and her expertise is appreciated. She’s partnered with Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director of Wayfair.com, one of the show’s key sponsors. Christiane is fairly expressive and entertaining to watch.
They also bring in a guest judge, Jason Chauncey of Brownstone Upholstery Inc. Here’s my gripe about the guest judge – although I’m no design expert, I have NEVER heard of this guy. And if I haven’t, your average American viewer DEFINITELY has not heard of him. He was also a bit boring. Where’s Nate Berkus? Or Genevieve Gorder? Granted, HGTV probably can’t afford these now uber-famous faces, but you need another hook to keep your viewer interested. Thought – how about Ellen?! It is her show and she was in very little of this first episode. She may not be a design professional, but she’s certainly a lover of great design. Her home has been featured in some of the best home decor magazines out there. And she’s a recognizable face (THE face that many viewers tuned in for) which is key when you’re trying to find your audience for a new show.
The night’s challenge was to take a big, boring existing box consisting of wood, steel and plexi and repurpose it in to a design exemplary of the contestants’ style (total Project Runway unconventional challenge knock off).
The final designs – I was less than impressed. We had one mid-century modern shelving system knock-off and a sculpturally beautiful chair that was under-appreciated by the judges.
There was also an entry table made by the blacksmith (she is so bad ass!) and the most boring wall shelving unit I’ve ever seen (she is annoying and should have been the first to go!).
Then there was the winner, a beautiful yet useful campaign desk made by the guy who, shocker, specializes in reclaimed materials.
Lastly, I was fairly impressed with the brand integrations on the show. So often shows like this can look like walking advertisements for Home Depot or Armstrong flooring. But the Wayfair.com accessory wall was done very tastefully and they had a great interstitial ad just before you came back from one of the commercial breaks. It showed you examples of the furniture created on the show and then cut to similar styles available for purchase. It was a commercial, but tasteful (and hosted by judge Christiane.)
(best shot of the Wayfair Wall I could find)
Overall, I was a bit disappointed in the show. The previews for upcoming episodes look promising (and include Ellen in person) so I’ll keep watching. But if the show doesn’t deliver, I can only last another episode or 2. Three episodes of any new show is my limit; no one has time these days to waste on uninteresting television.
So there’s my rant. What did you guys think? Did anyone love it? Are you going to keep watching?