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Ten years ago a million dollars was a magical amount of money. With a million dollars a family of nineteen could retire early and send all the kids to college, each in a four-door Neon. Then Regis started asking multiple choice questions while wearing a tie that was the same color as his shirt and the world changed.
The tech bubble burst, we “elected” a frat boy with something to prove to his dad, and now in 2011, when we should all be drinking gold milkshakes in our flying cars, we drink rationed bowls of tears and pay serial misogynists $4.50 a gallon for the PRIVILEGE of idling on the 405 for three hours.
A million dollars? It’s gone the way of the penny. I will throw a penny in the garbage before walking three additional steps to put it in my change bowl, it’s just not worth it.
Following this logic we can surmise that a “million dollar” decorator, probably doesn’t get you quite as much decorator as it used to.
Not that I wouldn’t cross the street for a million dollars in cash, but a million dollars in lamps and carpets? Eh…
Million Dollar Decorators opens with a montage of people talking about money with great insistence while pointing at things. What they’re talking about doesn’t matter, so long as the amount of money is LARGE and the thing is a thing.
The first designer we meet is Mary ‘Triple G for Glamour’ McDonald who says, “I’m not stuck to glamour, but glamour is stuck to me”, which must have been alternate catchphrase from the title sequence.
At the very least Mary knows that it sounds “repulsive” when she says she can “easily” spend five million dollars decorating a house. And I’m sure the 200 people who died of starvation in the time it took her to say those words would be comforted by her self-awareness.
Did you guys catch the empty photo frame on her desk at the two minute mark? Couldn’t be bothered to toss a Poloroid of her dogs in there? All of these designers have, like, 10 assistants, but their closest, most treasured friend, is Shiny, Vacant, Effortless GLAMOUR
In a moment of manufactured drama Mary insists to her assistant Lavin that her three pugs “can’t be in the office”, but Lavin leaves because he has “stuff to do” There is no fight, no consequences, he just leaves and she plays with her dogs. We don’t ever see Lavin again but Mary clearly doesn’t mind at all that her dogs are there.
I get a red flag when people think they KNOW what other people think of them. They’re trying to force a self-image on an outsider’s perception… it’s arrogant and vain to assume you know what other people think of you.
So when Mary insists that people think she’s “eccentric” and “kooky” the room starts to smell like stale fart. Especially when the “kookiest” thing the MDD producers could find footage of her doing is just her playing with her dogs and saying “good dog” in a totally normal talking-to-a-dog exaggeration voice. HOW GLAMOROUSLY ECCENTRIC YOU ARE MARY! YOU DON’T SOUND EXACTLY LIKE MY GREAT AUNT WHO WEARS STAINED SWEATPANTS TO CHURCH AT ALL!
Next we’re introduced to Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who I’ve needed more of since he called good design “delicious” in a British accent that sounds like a person who has never heard a British accent mocking a British accent. Indubidubly Gid Soir!
Martyn came to LA “to be a star” and now he’s “a design star”. Martyn has a thing for stripes and star fucking.
He name drops like it’s his fucking job, cause it is, and he’s really good at it. He’s designed for Elton John (excuse me, “Sir Elton John”), Christina Aguilera, Cher, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Martyn loves making “fantasy a reality”, he says “delicious” again, so far he is definitely my favorite.
Martyn is designing an apartment for Sharon Osbourne, it’s where she’ll be living while filming her CBS knockoff of ‘The View’. Seriously, if TV were purses, CBS bought that uneven stitching out of a trash bag from a Nigerian in Times Square.
The Osbourne apartment is a rush job, and Martyn practically orgasms while insisting he wouldn’t be able to do it so quickly if he and Sharon “weren’t such good friends”. He’s designed houses for her before and they’re both British, which to me says “employee” not “friend”, but let’s give him that one, he clearly needs it.
Next we meet Kathryn Ireland, a woman who has likely spent a majority of her life not working on her line of designer fabrics, but saying “No, no, I’m not that Kathy Ireland” to someone she just disappointed.
Out of all the designers, Kathryn has the best peripheral character; her French housekeeper Jacqueline is so Grey Gardens I want to be her when I grow up. She wears ridiculous scarves and dark sunglasses indoors and is constantly drinking wine. I didn’t see her lift a finger to keep house the entire episode. BRAVO please give this woman her own show.
Kathryn also has three sons in their late teens/early twenties. Oscar, Otis, and Louie. The first time we meet them they jump in pool while Kathryn is pretending to be on the phone. As the boys are horsing around in the pool, K gets upset, yelling that she hates “people trying to drown other people.”
When Oscar, her eldest, jumps from the roof of the house into the pool, Kathryn calls him “naughty”. The conflicts may be staged but it’s pretty clear that her sons have no respect for her. Their casual disregard isn’t an act, it’s well practiced and anyone can see they get whatever they want.
In the wake of all the exasperated parenting, it’s no surprise that she says “Food, sex, and decorating” are the most important things to her in life. K says that as a young girl she would ask to move furniture around at friends houses if she thought it was placed wrong. She thinks it was an innate talent for design, I think it must have been fucking annoying as hell.
Finally we get to our first design project. Mary McDonald for Kendra McHotel-Money’s two-story guest house.
The guest house is really gross. It has cheap motel carpet and a black velvet pool table. It’s so over the top ugly and porny it almost looks like someone intentionally decorated it that way. Like maybe the production staff of Million Dollar Decorators.
Project Manager Nancy keeps making suggestions and Mary keeps saying ‘No’ and acting annoyed by it, still she insists that sometimes she LOVES Nancy’s ideas. Kooky.
Back at the Osbourne apartment, Martyn is freaking out, he just found out that Sharon needs her whole apartment done in three days instead of two weeks! Oh no! The floors aren’t even dry! Still, never missing an opportunity, Martyn thinks the only reason he can handle completing the project in time is because “Sharon’s an old friend” and he “knows her taste”.
Oh you thought we were going to focus on design and home makeovers now? NOPE! We have more, YES MORE, designer personalities to meet. Enter Nathan Turner, California born and raised, another dog lover, he fell in love with decorating while working with antiques. Something inner city children can only dream of.
Nathan designs, but the “heart of his business” is his retail store. He sells to high end designers and hints that he hears a lot of shit talk and gossip about the design world while they shop.
Much of what Nathan sells in his shoppe are items he collects while traveling the world. Meaning he buys it for a peso and then adds his 8000% good-taste certified price markup. There is a shot of a $4,000 wooden head.
The eight hundreth designer we get to meet is Jeffrey Alan Marks. A dude who looks like the frat boy that doesn’t get the girl at the end of every 80s movie.
His initials spell Jam and he has a fish cabinet wall, BUT Jeffrey is the ONLY designer who gives us interior design advice instead of generic “glamour” and “delicious” pablum.
ACTUAL INTERESTING DESIGN THEORY: Jam doesn’t think a house should be too serious, “you should always decorate a room and then put one thing in there that’s an accident”
Whoops! There’s a rowboat on the ceiling of our bedroom!
Jam’s super serial boyfriend and head assistant is Ross, a former model from South Africa with a little ponytail.
Ross and Jam have a tiny cute domestic spat about the particulars of washing their dog that makes me think they probably have awesome sex. Sorry Martyn, new favorites.
So apparently Mary and Nathan are BEST FRIENDS. As they grab a lunch of noodles and iced coffee and talk about decorating the porny guest house with painted antlers (this is someone’s life) Nathan says that “a lot” of people think Mary is the inspiration for Karen in Will & Grace because “they’re both in the design world, rich, and funny as hell”
Nathan is clearly the only person who thinks that. And only because if Mary is Karen, then he is Jack, and I bet he fucking LOVES thinking about himself as Just Jack! He also calls Mary “the pied piper of ‘the gays’ because [long pause] she’s fabulous.” Which is annoying on a million dollar level, it’s a perfect mess of not bothering to think of a less cliche adjective than “fabulous” and clumping all gay men together as a z-snapping pack of mice.
Back at the Osbourne apartment Martyn is worried about all the little pieces that need to come together, Sharon threw him “a bit of a curve ball” because she usually likes places styled as antique, older, and a little distressed (like her husband, zing!) but she wants this one to be more modern (like her face, double zing!)
Also the painters thought their deadline was Friday but Friday is two days AFTER the whole apartment needs to be done, and Martyn can’t do anything until the paint is done. So the painting company is sending TEN more painters to finish in a day. That is SO many painters, but will it be enough?! (yes. it is more than enough.)
So Sharon’s apartment is in this high rise with great views of the hills, and a ton of other celebrities live there too. They pay millions in rent and I’m sure it’s very nice, but isn’t it funny picturing Cher and Elton John and Sharon Osbourne living in an apartment building together? Like, fighting over weird hallway smells and discarded diamond tennis rackets clogging up the trash chute? Is Randy Quaid their super?
Martyn is also worried about the paint color, it’s supposed to be cream, but it’s drying gray, which would “make everything drab”
Is “lose the plot” a phrase? As he’s getting more and more frustrated Martyn says, “I don’t really lose the plot, and if I do lose the plot, which is rare, then I [emphasizes] lose. the. plot.”
What. the. fuck. does. that. fucking. even. mean.
Back at Jeffrey Alan Marks productions, Ross is mad about a beach chair that looks like the ones in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Though we don’t really ever find out why the chair so angering, or what becomes of it.
JAM doesn’t even know what one of his assistants does but “she’s needed”. He is designing a restaurant on the beach in Malibu called Hungry Cat. He wants to do it in a nautical theme, with portholes, but Ross thinks that will be tacky and “too insane asylum”… They also take a moment to mock Martyn’s fabric and his stupid accent.
Since I guess it’s time to see the ‘ugly’ side of our new friends, the next scene is Kathryn entering her showroom, ragging on a frame, demanding a new coffee table, and telling her assistants to throw out a TINY antique-looking chair (that I swear she pulled out from under a larger chair) because it’s junk and she’s not a junk store. To that I would say, check your trunk Kathryn, it’s loaded with junk.
Anyway, in a totally by-the-book reality show plotline, Kathryn plans her sit-down dinner birthday party, inviting all of the designers on this show (because they’re so nearest and dearest) and forcing her irresponsible teenage boys to cook the whole meal. Yes, this would definitely happen in real life.
Meanwhile Karen Walker, oh! sorry! Mary McDonald, is on her way over to Kendra McHotelMoney’s house because Kendra “needs to talk”. In a scene that is slightly heartbreaking, Kendra tells Mary that she and her husband are getting a divorce and they are going to sell the house. Mary wants Kendra to keep the house, basically forcing this woman, on tv, to explain that she doesn’t want the house anymore because it was her and her husband’s dream house together.
They still need Mary to redecorate the porny guest house, but she can’t go all out, the real estate agent said it needs be minimal. In an interview Mary says that she’s just going to do it how she wants it anyway… yeah, it’s not like someone is paying you an obscene amount of money to do a job or anything.
Mary then jokes that she when she heard Kendra wanted to talk she was scared the news was really horrible, like Kendra had “lost all her money or something!!!” She then screeches laughter while Kendra forces a smile and holds back tears.
Cut to Martyn picking out shit for Sharon Osbourne’s apartment, he nabs:
-$30,000 photo of The Beatles
-$995 leather chair
-$25,000 rug… ahem, “statement rug” that’s “hugely decadent”
Martyn does slip us a little nugget, to pick one thing that is crazy expensive and then design around that “statement” piece. The “statement” being that you care more about a zebra rug than preventing an entire village’s outbreak of Malaria with $10 bed nets.
Back at Casa de Osbourne Martyn is thrilled because the paint dried to the correct cream color he was hoping for and his “gray paint drama” is over, still there’s a lot left to do. Sharon will be there in a few hours and progress is much slower than he wants, he yells at someone who is still painting, “no more painting! get out!”
The coolest part of his design (and we don’t get to see much of it) is the REAL grass on Sharon’s cement patio, I’m guessing it’s for her 300 dogs.
As the moment of truth draws near, a crazed Martyn sweats everywhere trying to finish the apartment, but he does say “please” while barking orders at people. They do the reality thing where it all seems very last minute, but you know it wasn’t and Sharon arrives. She seems sweet and very genuinely thrilled with how the apartment turned out. She swears, of course, and also says “Harry Potter” which I always enjoy hearing a squeaky Englishwoman say. Her enthusiasm is all in her voice, because her face looks like it was stung by bees. Martyn’s design was a resounding success, but we barely get to see the finished product at all.
Nathan goes to Kathryn’s showroom because he has an idea for her birthday gift and needs some of her fabric. He spends 10 seconds looking at fabric and 20 minutes playing with her dog. What the fuck is up with all of these dogs?!
Prepping for the party Kathryn sends Jaqueline to get the wine. When Jacqueline returns with a case of “mediocre” wine (because the K thinks the colors are bad) she decides Jacqueline knows nothing about wine except how to drink it. I think Jacqueline knows how to scam her boss for a free case of ‘mediocre’ wine.
Kathryn decorates with paper lanterns and sends her eldest to the store for alcohol. He will be making the margaritas to hand to guests as they arrive because then “everyone gets a little pissed”
As if we care that he won’t be there, Martyn calls with his regrets.
As her sons lazily cut avocados in half and call them “gnarly” (because, stereotypes.) K gets impatient, the kids are literally frying one tortilla chip at a time. Thing 2 blows his nose for twelve minutes then mixes onions into the guacamole with his hands without washing them, pure class. Thing 1 grills tuna, and fucks it up. It’s farce
K is this big time designer and even I can tell that her table setting looks like shit. People are arriving there’s no food, nothing’s ready, the boys are serving the snot guac. It’s all so not-scripted and real!
Even though I know it’s not actually the snot guac, it’s still funny to watch all the designers dig in and eat it, acting like it’s the best, “Oh really? Your boys made this? You must be so proud!” Sell it until you die bitches.
K asks Jam and Ross for help picking out her dress, an awesome black one or a really ugly patterned dress. She goes with sexy black and actually looks pretty great. Proving yet again that he is the best at describing people, Nathan arrives, calling K “Ireland” cause “that’s all you need to know” (Nathan please stop talking)
Nathan’s gift super secret gift is a semi-erotic cake of a busty headless woman wearing a dress patterned like Kathryn’s fabric.
You guys, aspirational television has it’s place during economic down times just like eating a dozen cupcakes has it’s place during a juice cleanse. It is THE BEST while you stuff yourself, then your intestines explode.
Everything I’ve ever I bought to decorate my apartment with, I bought at Goodwill, and about half the time I was convinced I was paying too much. I grew up on generic butter, so, I don’t think I will ever understand paying a gal A MILLION DOLLARS to tell me it’s sacrilege to put my own goddamn piano in my own goddamn living room. I. just. don’t. get. it.
That said, I DO understand working in a high-stress industry where the quality of the work you produce is judged by a highly subjective and finicky audience. These bitches are working for bitches, and there is a lot, A LOT of money on the line.
At my work, I feel bad when I buy the wrong box of $16 pens. Think about what a $200,000 mistake feels like. Yikes. All in all, these people are pretty likeable, and in spite their excessive wealth, pretty relatable. They are working for their money.
So hopefully throughout the series we’ll get more designing meat and decorating potatoes. I’m pretty disappointed that the show doesn’t focus more on their aesthetics, which seem really diverse. We only saw one space transformed and we got NO details about it. We know more about these people’s dogs than their work. And they have a lot of dogs.
What did you guys think? Was Sharon Osbourne’s apartment the right mix of antique sleek? Could Mary be the inspiration for Will&Grace’s Karen Walker? Should Kathryn have gone with the printed dress for her party? Just how good MUST the JAM n’ Ross sex be?
MDD EP1 STATS:
-“Sconce” tally: ii
-Custom Awning tally: ii
-Kathryn completely ignoring her insane privilege & sadly calling herself a “tragic mother” tally: ii
-Designer’s Assistant tally: iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
-Dog tally: iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
I really thought they were going to say “sconce” more. Next week I think I’ll add up all of the money sums that they say outloud, just to see if we’re getting our million dollars worth. Until then my loves.