'Design Star' - 'Episode One' Recap (Season Premiere)
by Mike Moody, posted Jun 14th 2010 6:20AM
(S05E01) 'Design Star' is back with new contestants, new challenges and a more hands-on approach from its trio of shrewd and savvy judges.
Former host Clive Pearse has been edged out this season to give chief critics Vern Yip, Candice Olson and Genevieve Gorder more screen time. I'm still not completely sold on this change. I miss Pearse's breezy charm and acerbic asides, but I'm looking forward to hearing more opinion and commentary from the judges.
I'm also looking forward to seeing the contestants work in New York City, the perfect place to show off edgy, urban and upscale designs.
The judges didn't offer much insight into the design process during the premiere. The hour mostly focused on getting to know the contestants and watching them struggle to complete a 'Design Star' classic: the white room challenge. But, of course, there was a twist.
The contestants were paired off and asked to design rooms for each other (after a ten minute get-to-know-ya session) and to critique each other's designs -- a recipe for reality TV drama if there ever was one. This idea had new producer Mark Burnett's ('Survivor,' 'Shark Tank') fingerprints all over it. Surprisingly, most of the contestants acted nice and polite while critiquing each other's work; not an easy thing to do, especially when someone's idea of divine design involves sprinkling goose feathers all over the floor.
But one contestant refused to play nice, and she ended up winning the challenge. Nina Ferrer is a force to be reckoned with; that much is clear. She's confident, a little cocky and she's not afraid to play dirty. I felt sorry for Courtland Bascon, the L.A. designer that Nina "threw under the bus." He obviously hated her design, but he spared her feelings and told the judges he thought it was peachy.
Nina quickly ripped Courtland's work to shreds, saying he ignored her "Bohemian Chic" style and personality. Of course, she never mentioned her "Bohemian Chic" bent to poor old Courtland, who was later chastised by the judges for not calling Nina out on the spot. He was relegated to the "Bottom Six" along with aloof cutie Emily Henderson and Julie Khuu, the goose feather girl.
It's easy to see why Julie was the first designer to get the boot. Her "concept" didn't come through in her design at all. She wanted to create a relaxing sanctuary for slick businessman Tom Vecchione, but her room looked chaotic, immature and not at all functional. I couldn't see anyone wanting to unwind in that space.
Emily seemed a bit overwhelmed by the challenge and very underwhelmed by her own design. Her room really did look like a monk's cell, as Vern observed, or part of a strange sanitarium. She also seemed to lack passion for her work and came across as passive. But the Portland native came alive during her hosting stint. She was fun, natural and honest; miles away from Julie's nervous and mechanical presentation.
I wasn't too impressed with these white room designs. None of them had a real wow factor, and everyone seemed to be playing it safe. I hope the judges' mostly disappointed reactions inspire these folks to step up their game. The competitive drama is fun, but 'Design Star' is also about watching talented people push the limits of their creativity to design innovative and awe-inspiring spaces.
So does anyone have any early favorites, yet? I'm rooting for Alex Sanchez, the guy who forgot half of his haul at the Asian Market. Check out his awesome design portfolio. I also think Tom and Emily have a lot of potential. Maybe they'll do better next week.
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