I know it's not just me. I can not be the only one that has noticed the exceedingly negative tone HGTV's Design Star has taken this season. Seriously, what is WRONG with the judges?
1. I miss Clive. He was what the show needed, and he is what the show is missing.
2. Vern has become a complete a-hole. This week's episode ended with a "Get outta here" from Vern. No kidding around on his part, a for real GTFO in utter disgust over the red team's failure to design a winning space for the firemen. What happened to the smiling, happy, do-gooder Vern from Trading Spaces and Deserving Design. He's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season. The Vern on DS is not the same person that's on DD.
3. Candace Olsen. Totally disappointed in her. Again, split personality or something. She seems so rude when critiquing the contestants. Just unnecessarily harsh. Not the same super-peppy and fun-loving Candace from Divine Design.
4. Genevieve Gorder. Also rude. While she walks a fine line between being nice and condescending, she hasn't yet fallen to the side of nice for good. So many times I feel like she's going to be nice to a contestant, but it's like she hears herself being nice and she reels it back in and trades it out for being a biotch instead.
5. What's up with the deliberation time right in front of the bottom two contestants? That is SO high school. Whispering about someone right in front of them and pretending they can't tell what you're saying? Really? It's not like we can't tell they've already made up their minds when they push their heads together for a few seconds to confirm they still feel the same way. So gross.
6. The critiquing of rooms right in front of the teams. Tacky.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the designers don't need some tough love to inspire them to push harder. I agree with that, but I don't agree with the format of this year's Design Star. The judges no longer sit behind a table, they sit in low, comfortable chairs as if to say "come into this room, stand up, and let me judge you." They no longer seem to provide much constructive criticism. Just, "You suck, do better."
This year, the camera challenges are used as a punishment for those in the bottom rather than as a place to grow and shine and separate the natural-born talents from the not-meant-for-tv talents. The way the camera challenges work this year end up serving to make the contestants fear the camera and want to avoid having to be in front of the camera - kinda not the point of the show, seeing as how they are supposed to be winning their own TELEVISION SHOW. Perhaps the format is to inspire them to be better designers to avoid being in the bottom, but at the same time they are depriving them of much-needed experience in front of the camera and then sending them packing when they aren't perfect on their first try.
Take Dan. Last week, when he was in the bottom two, he had to do his first camera challenge as the "punishment" for being in the bottom. In previous weeks, when he was RULED SAFE BY THE JUDGES, he was not required to do a camera challenge. So naturally, he was sort of rough and didn't do as well as Alex who had done at least two prior camera challenges. Based on the judges' mumblings during deliberation, they were set to send Alex home until they saw Dan's presentation. So let's recap. The more weeks you are safe as a designer, the worse off you are going to be when you get your own TV show and have no camera experience to speak of. Yeah, makes sense HGTV.
If you are like me, you probably also watch The Next Food Network Star. This show and Design Star were born of each other and from watching both the difference in tones is obvious. The judges on FNS have remained the same from season to season and so have their attitudes and critique styles. While the judges on FNS are still tough and say the nasty truths out loud, they still offer encouraging criticism and let the contestants know they are pulling for them. They do not talk down to them, but instead see when the contestants are struggling whether it be with food, point of view, camera presentation, or even personal matters and they offer a shoulder for them to lean on. Each week, no matter how disappointing a contestant may have been, the judges are supportive in the end. They don't say "Get outta here" as if the contestants have invaded their personal space and time. Each week when they send someone home, they seem genuinely sad to have to cut someone and acknowledge that they've got to let someone go and they wish it wasn't so.
Vern is the most disappointing. His style is right in line with mine and I've loved his work since Trading Spaces. He's always done charitable work with his designs and that's something to be inspired by. But now, I just want to toss him aside to find a new design inspiration. He has become this negative, judgmental, critical person on the show and it makes me want to quit watching any of his programming. Then I wonder if all the designers are fakie-fakes on air and just jerks on the side. Candace Olsen, too. She's so fun and spunky on her show and she portrays a can-do-no-wrong design style that is to be envied. But I don't like her attitude on DS and I am finding it hard to ignore. Like I said, Genevieve is walking a fine line and I haven't made up my mind on her yet. She at least cracks a smile during the judging and gives people that have done well a pat on the back. We'll see how she continues.
I think I keep watching week to week just to see if they'll snap out of it as the number of contestants shrinks. Something's telling me this is just the result of Mark Burnett producing the show this year. I miss the old days of cheering the designers on and encouraging them to dig deeper without all the harsh and mean-spirited criticism.