By Flipit|Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | 6:00 pm | 20 Comments
I’ve been waiting for this show. Not just because it’s another clone of Project Runway and I would watch any show in that format (even though I probably would), but because it revolves around interior designers, the gayest (in both senses of the word) and most melo-dramatic people you could base a reality competition around. Except for maybe celebrity stylists, and even Bravo has to draw the line somewhere. At first glance, Top Design is a cheap plastic version of it’s big sisters, but a few minutes in, I realize it’s that cracked out drag queen cousin we publicly cringe at but secretly sneak off with to smoke a bowl at weddings. Nothing personal, Bee, I love you! As the moments went on, this show traveled further and further into Crazy Town, and even though my face was scrunched the entire time, I went with it. It’s all hazy now, but I remember bright colors, strange creatures, and a sock puppet narrator guy named Todd.
There are twelve contestants, so this episode is chock full of info. Let’s skip the small talk and get down to bidness. The first Designer to arrive at the decked out loft is a little Asian dude named Goil. He has pink frames and does that “through a camera” thing at the us, so he might be trouble, but he gives off a very sweet vibe when he opens his mouth. The first thing he does is re-arrange the furniture, explaining that he thinks of himself as a problem solver and not a designer. Uhhh….Top Problem Solver is already on. It’s called Jeopardy. OK, sentence structure isn’t his strong suit, but Goil has a masters in architecture from Yale and a sweet disposition, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. And the lamp did make more sense pulled further to the right! Oh, Goil. Thank God you got there first!
Next contestant is Felicia, who runs her own design business and is so involved in every aspect of her work that she wants to put the food in the fridge and the toothbrush in the cup. Get the underwear off the floor and you’re hired. She’s been so busy that she hasn’t had time to take a pair of tweezers to her uneven eyebrows. Girl, you can’t win if your face is askew. I tilted my head a little every time she came on screen, but it was nothing like the eye spasms I had when Michael was introduced. If Matt Groening ever decided to make a cartoon centered around a flaming, obnoxious interior designer, this is probably how he’d draw him. Looks like all the pier abuse finally got to Ralph Wiggum, turning him into a bratty little cream puff.
Ralphie’s all grown up!
Promos have shown him saying things like “I don’t have to compete. I’m just better!” and bug-eyeing us, so I know we are supposed to hate him, but the guy’s a hoot. He says while the other kids were out playing baseball, he was inside watching Dynasty, commenting on the interiors. LOL. I don’t doubt it for a second. He and Goil seem like they will get along like sorority sisters, and both are psyched about the Sleep Number Beds in the loft. Color me impressed, Bravo.
The next to arrive over at the ladies loft is Andrea, who seems like a mature, even keeled woman with thinning hair. I always feel for a woman with a bald spot, so I automatically like her and hope she wins. You don’t need hair to be confident, Andrea! Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve been popping Propecia pills like Flinstones tablets since I turned twenty six and can’t even look the Starbuck’s guy in the eye every morning. I hide my insecurities by wearing huge sunglasses and chain smoking, but Ryan, our next contestant, hides his by riding a skateboard, calling himself an artist, and wearing shirts like this.
Can you see me now?
Just in case we thought the skateboard was a prop, Ryan does a jump off the breakfast table to prove he’s got skillz. I wonder how many shots that took.
Finally, a real fag hag. Carisa is an FIT student who wants to help people without the means to hire a designer. In other words, she wants to give poor people hope, which can be very dangerous. This is a real rebel, Ryan! Elizabeth and Lisa join the ladies. Elizabeth seems likeable and harmless, and Lisa looks like a retired Storm from X-Men. Will she have the superpowers her hair suggests, or is she just a hack with a funky cut? Time will tell…Heather is a fun-loving kinda sexy type who looks a lot like Cynthia Rowley, a famous designer and judge on last Summer’s Design Star. I’ve got respect for Rowley, which gives Heather a leg up with me, but when she gets all girly and flirty while she tells us she has no design training but somehow finds herself being offered restaurants and bars to decorate, I cringe. Jury’s out on Heather, but I hope she’s not as much of a dimwit as she seems, because I kind of like her.
Next we meet Matt, possibly the sweetest and gayest of them all. “I’m maaaried!” Girrrrrl. He uses design in every area of his life. “Going to the pumpkin patch with my daughter and picking out the perfect pumpkin and then placing it when we get home, that’s design!” That is some gay ass design, yes it is, Matt. Matt’s type scares me because I don’t want my mother watching this show and getting it into her head that I can change my mind and get married to a nice Jewish girl (she’s convinced they have more money than us gentiles) and make babies. Sorry, mom. TV’s not real. Especially not reality shows.
Alright, who’s buyin’ it?
I think the only way I’d believe him if this was his wife.
Matt is either the best actor in the world or he’s a true angel. So far so good. Everyone seems pretty likeable, even the Wiggum kid. And then a dark cloud filled with acid rain descends on the men’s loft. John says he didn’t anticipate a very positive experience when he got a load of his flaming roomies. There is NOTHING more sad and horrible than a bitter, aged, self-hating queen, and this one of the most bitter, aged and self hating I’ve seen in a long time (and I do musicals!). Calling Liza Minelli, please come pick up your ex-husband. He can barely move his face, and I hope next time the doctor slips and injects the Botox into his voice box so I won’t be subjected to any more of his bile. “I might as well live with the girls. I mean, what’s the difference?” Right, Butch. Go to your room and don’t come out until you’ve got that gnarly fist out of your ass. I HATE THIS MAN. When he reads the Contestant Welcome Form Letter from Todd Oldham, John screams like a little girl who won a slinky from a claw machine. Woops, the Average Homo bus just passed and you’re covered in mud. You can take off that baseball cap now, Mary.
The letter invites them to their first meeting with Todd at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. I think it’s really brave of Bravo to use a sock puppet as their host. At first it doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but it works brilliantly. Todd out-crackers vanilla and he is as robotic and friendly as a fiberglass character at Chuck-E-Cheese. He’s basically doing Tim Gunn’s job with Heidi’s personality, but unlike her boobies, he won’t get a say at Judging time. The first challenge will be to work in pairs to come up with a soothing, relaxing space for a “mystery guest”. He or she, or he/she, has given them a few objects as inspiration, among them a disco ball, an antique toy, a psychedelic (velvet?) painting, and a framed butterfly. My guess is either Clay Aiken or Charo. I would be happy with either. Each team is given their own carpenter plus a whopping budget of 50,000 bucks to spend at the PDC, which is one of the hugest, most gorgeous design centers in the world. It’s rare to see reality contestants get the opportunity to do that kind of damage in a shopping binge. Hats off, Top Design. The Designers are mostly ecstatic, but Butch is worried because obviously this “mystery guest” wants something campy and he doesn’t do camp. LOL. You are camp, Dorothy.
Retired Storm, on the other hand, ignores the camp thing completely, only choosing to hear “sanctuary”. Since her style is modern ethnic (???) she gets her mind set on an Asian theme. At first I think she’s off her rocker, but then I remember that every karaoke bar has a disco ball, and karaoke is ethnic and modern, so there ya go. She is paired with Heather, who decides it might be better to not make waves in the first challenge and get along and go along with the Asian theme, even though her very large eyes tell us she thinks it’s a bad idea. Stand up for your right, girl! Storm won’t hurt you, she’s retired. All the other designers are on their best behavior for the first challenge and go out of their way to work well together. Well, all but Butch and the Wiggum kid, an obviously rigged disaster pairing. I want to see them choose their damn paint chips! Michael suggests using a rag technique and the Wiggum boy almost faints from disapproval and counters with a high gloss wall. This is Butch’s testosterone ridden reaction.
When the designers are let loose in the PDC, it’s a spending orgy. Retired Storm has her heart set on an antique Asian bed that would take up the entire space, but has “out of the box” idea for her walls. Rectangular Asian tape off technique! Out of the box or out of a box? You decide. Heather tries to drag Storm to stores with a more “wacky” element, but it’s too late. The bed was bought so anything “wacky” would have to be Asian day bead inspired. They bought some other very small, boring pieces (there wasn’t any room left) and ended up 10 grand under budget. That’s a dirty sin, is what it is.
Who could be miserable with fifty grand in the biggest design mall in the country? Butch and the Wiggum boy, of course. Butch says flat out he’s gonna do things his way, but even though I HATE him it’s hard to argue when Wiggum’s big plan is Chicago Suburb. Yowsers. Butch won’t allow him to pick fabrics or have any say. He makes him carry things and openly refers to him as “my bitch”. Wiggum fights back by whining loudly, rolling his eyes and complaining to anyone within earshot. Straighten up for five minutes and be a man, Ralph! He makes it worse for himself when Butch finally caves and hands him a paint roller and he doesn’t know what to do with it. The Wiggum kid is incredulous. No, he doesn’t know how to paint, and doesn’t expect to need that skill. In the world of design. Oh, dear. The second Butch turns his back, Wiggum drops the roller to gossip with the girls. He does the head roll and snap and talks smack about being better than everyone else. UGH. Society has done this by torturing him when he was young. We should all be ashamed.
Back at the PDC workspace, Heather looks over at Felicia and Matt, who are doing “major construction”. She is worried that she and Retired Storm are being decorators instead of designers, but bitching to the cameras and taking a stand are two different things. She says she has a natural sense of urgency, and she’s nervous. You don’t say.
The next day, the sock brings them some positive energy along with some bad news. Two of them will be eliminated today. Goil giggles dorkily to the camera. “I don’t want to go home, Todd, I want to hang out with you!” Giggle giggle. Wow. These boys love that puppet. Things are coming together with the projects, and some themes are emerging. Lots of green, and lots of Zen. Eastern spiritualism has been raped so hard by American designers that there’s no longer anything relaxing about it. It’s unjust to force a Buddha statue to watch the things that must happen in the sanctuary of anyone that can be described by a disco ball. I call this Buddha rape, and it must be stopped!
The challenge is nearing an end, but we haven’t really seen much yet, because we’ve been force fed the Tale of Butch and the Wiggum Kid for the past half hour. I hope these bozos are being featured so heavily because they get the axe today. After getting yelled at for touching a wet wall, the Wiggum kid screams “I hate you!” and stalks off. Butch retorts “Well you know what, sweetheart? I ain’t in love with you neither, baby cakes!” Please make it stop.
Todd comes around to gage the progress being made. The only thing done in Heather and Retired Storm’s room is the angular Asian tape-off painting, but he loves the green. He also likes Ryan and Andrea’s room, and since it’s the exact same green as Retired Storm’s, he can’t say anything bad about it. He says Ryan seems really calm and he likes his “veneer”. I had to rewind this, because the sock puppet just called Ryan a fake bitch with so much love that no one got it. Todd’s impressed with the work today, but it’s time to let the judges have their say in the White Room, which is so over the top I smile from ear to ear.
Since this is a new show, and I am only a ghetto hobby designer, I had to Google the Judges. Here’s what I found out. Head Judge Jonathan Adler got his start working for Barney’s New York and expanded into his own line of textiles and pottery. His favorite era is the 50′s and he describes his style as being modern, but warm. Simple, clean crisp lines along with rich comfie fabrics. The more I read, the more I pictured my Meemaw in the Jetsons age. I mean that in a good way, I think. He also mentions in one article that he is an avid reality show watcher. He must be peeing his pants right now.
Kelly Wearstler is a famous interior designer known for being uber-chic and fabulous. She has been featured in numerous style magazines (including multiple appearances in Vogue) and owns her own line of rugs and textiles in addition to the design firm that bears her name. She wrote a book called Modern Glamour to teach you how to be glamorous at all times, and she looks like a heroine in a Jackie Collins book. I hope she is as much of a ruthless bitch as her fiction counterparts.
Margaret Russell is the editor-in-chief of Elle Décor Magazine and the lady they keep showing in the previews saying “you can’t just design a room around a cat!” so I automatically love her. She is a bit reserved this first go round, but I have a feeling when the freak flags start flying they are going to ruffle the whole slick society woman from the 50′s thing she’s got going on. I hope so.
Now that we’ve said hello to out lovely Judges, it’s time to meet our mystery guest! The puppet says she’s from Hollywood royalty and is herself an actress. Hollywood royalty? You better work those connections, Top Design! Drew Barrymore in the house! And drumroll, please!
Well, they said it would be a “mystery”…
Alexis Arquette had me stunned and blinded. I pressed pause, took a deep breath, and popped four aspirin. If I didn’t have the internet to teach me things, I would have gone the entire episode thinking the mystery guest was another incarnation of that cat lady chick who’s addicted to plastic surgery.
Jocelyn Wildenstein? Honey, is that you?
Turns out Alexis was born Robert Arquette but eventually morphed from a mediocre male actor into an underground cartoonist, a musician, a drag queen called Eva Destruction, and an actress in such films as Killer Drag Queens on Dope, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, and a couple porn flicks. Wikipedia says she doesn’t like being called a man or a woman. She prefers “tranny”. Alrighty, then, Alexis. That explains the butterfly. Halfway through the bottle of wine I was chugging, I realized her sister in law is Courtney Cox and wondered if they snuck off at weddings together to smoke a bowl. Damn, Courtney you have a goldmine of material here for a show people might actually watch. Open your eyes!
The designers jump up and down when Alexis is introduced as only a group of designers would. The only one who admits he’s confused is Ryan. He didn’t have his glasses on and wondered how the hell they got Iggy Pop to show up in drag. LOL. The first room the Judges walked through was Felicia and Matt’s, which was bo. Ring. Half Frasier Crane/half prison cell. The Judges are silent and onto the next room. Retired Storm said that she didn’t want to go out on any limb with this challenge. In that case, good work. Moron. Erik and Carisa’s green room came off much better, but so far these designers all seem pretty much the same. Butch’s manly getaway was waaaaay off the mark. He even went so far as to put a pair of men’s dress shoes under the coffee table. He tries to save his ass by over pitching the natural wood flooring. He tells the Judges that he selected each piece of wood himself and laid them diagonally, lining up the knots purposefully because they’re “really cool and hot”. The Judges were impressed as they had never seen diagonal flooring before. Oy. How did a disco ball make you think of natural wood and dress shoes? Poor Butch can only be who he is. And he is very, very manly.
Margaret looks like she wants to drag her drunk husband the hell out of this crazy person’s house.
“Thanks for having us! Get your coat, Jonathan. Johnathan, get your coat!”
Andrea says she and Ryan did something that was really them and they wanted there to be some “ambiguity” as to whether it was a bedroom or not. Uh….it has a HUGE bed in it. Don’t use the word ambiguity just to score points, Andrea. Alexis isn’t stupid, she’s ironic.
Goil and Elizabeth make the only truly wacked room. The walls are stark and white, except for a huge chalkboard covered in multicolored notes and hearts. There is a sand pit cut into the hardwood floors and a big swing that serves as a sofa and table. This room is a Jeff Stryker poster away from being gay Heaven.
Back in the White Room, the Judges take Carisa and Erik to task over their boring room when the inspirational clues were so young and vibrant. Elizabeth and Goil’s sandbox and swing got a holla from Kelley, who saw a truly original idea and liked it. Margaret wasn’t as enthused. Where was she supposed to sit? She wasn’t even gonna consider the swing. Give a girl some options.
The Judges were understandably unimpressed by the Asian room. Heather tries to explain that it was all Retired Storm’s idea, but her outfit speaks louder than words, bonding her with Retired Storm in the Judges’ minds.
Sisterhood of the Hideous Prints
Ryan and Andrea’s room took the inspirational objects a little too literally, which there was some discord with, but ultimately their room was liked. Felicia and Matt had a chic room, but it didn’t reflect Alexis. That sounds like a compliment, but it’s not. Felicia tries to defend it, but all I hear are uneven eyebrows. Head tilt.
Butch and Wiggum’s room got mixed reviews. It was obviously off the mark now that they knew they should have been aiming for Tranny Delight, but Jonathan liked the “narrative” of the shoes under the table. What? He was more interested in the drama. Butch admitted that they failed at teamwork, and even though the Wiggum kid copped to hating Butch, he felt both their points of view were on display. 50/50? Butch comes back with 70/30, and the Wiggum kid asks “How do you argue with a narcissist?” Still, he tries. Butch says his skin is crawling. You can still feel it? He’s never been exposed to such a useless person. Wiggum says it’s not fair to say he doesn’t know what he’s doing just because he doesn’t know how to use a paint roller. Yes it is. Instead of slapping him, Johnathan gently tries to explain that every designer has to get their hands dirty and Wiggum whines “my hands are dirty!” Next time I am chased by a bunch of frat boys with baseball bats, I’m blaming these two. They are like a pro gay-bashing ad. I wanted to beat myself up. Where’s Rosie O’Donnell when you need her?
The Judges have some time alone to discuss the rooms. Jonathan felt that Carisa and Erik’s depressing green sitting room needed a shot of Zoloft, but loved Elizabeth and Goil’s sandbox room. Margaret was the only holdout on this one. She said the sand and the rake just reminded her of a litter box. LOL. Kelley stuck up for it, calling it “awesome”. Margaret looked at her with utter annoyance and distaste. I think I am going to like this Margaret woman.
Don’t f*** with me, Barbie.
The Judges all gave Andrea and Ryan credit for their glitz factor, but Margaret says at the end of the day, it reminded her of a reasonably well-done dorm room. No one disagreed. Neither Butch and Wiggums or Felicia and Matt built a room that had anything to do with their client, but at least their spaces didn’t look like a Chinese restaurant. The Judges name Gay Heaven as the winner. Elizabeth is moved to tears. “My voice as a Creator has been validated!” I wouldn’t go that far, sistuh. Take the win and zip it, I like you. The win has also given Goil a mighty shot of confidence. He didn’t know how bad he wanted to win until he was in the White Room, but now he really wants to be the “last person standing on this competition”. How can a person with a graduate degree from Yale talk like that?
Butch and Wiggums are spared, but scolded for their bratty bickering. And Wiggum kid, learn to paint! Heather and Retired Storm are demolished, and Heather can’t hide her disappointment. I feel for the girl, but if you’re sitting in the front seat and you can’t even hold a map, you’re equally as responsible as the driver if you get lost.
There’s no crying in design! Wait…yes there is. Never mind.
To keep with the camp theme, Jonathan kisses them both goodbye and says “see you later, decorators!” Oh, Jonathan. You’re so witty. A Zoloft joke and a rhyme? In one episode? You’re spoiling us!
So what do you think, dear Readers? Will Butch and Wiggum ride off into the sunset? Will someone advise Felicia to buy tweezers? Will this show turn into a campy classic or a paint by numbers train wreck?
Ronnie Karam has been with TVgasm since 2006 , which has given him the opportunity to make fun of hundreds of TV's most loved and hated reality whores. His plan in life was to be Julia Roberts but that plan was stolen by, well, Julia Roberts. He'll get you one day, JULIA ROBERTS!! When not making himself giggle for the gasm, Ronnie performs improv and sketch comedy at IO West in Hollywood a couple of times weekly while using the lovely California days to audition for commercial roles such as "ADORABLE MEXICAN UNCLE". Seriously. He would like to thank Jesus, Buddha and Xenu for the blessings they've bestowed. The writers here are the best around, and he's honored to be associated with them. Find video archives at CankleTV.com, or follow on Twitter @flipit