Monday, October 5, 2009

What Ever Happened to Bravo's Top Design Show?

We were seriously considering doing a week-long feature on the Real Housewives of Atlanta this week, but in light of recent events surrounding the death of cast member Kandi Burress' ex-fiance, we've decided to postpone that feature. 

But that got us to thinking about another Bravo show:  Top Design, a reality series where interior designers compete for a cash prize and a spread in Elle Decor magazine.  This week we'll feature the homes of the judges and hosts of the show.

By the way, we noticed that we haven't seen any mention of Top Design since the end of Season Two earlier this year.  Sadly, we think it might not be coming back.  As much as we loved the show, we think it had three fundamental problems:

1.  The Hosts Sucked.  Top Design had a rocky start with the first season, hosted at the time by the boring too-nervous-for-television Todd Oldham.  For Season Two, they moved Todd to a supporting role as mentor to the interior designers/contestants.  

India HicksTodd's replacement as host for season two, was pedigreed.  She's the daughter of legendary interior designer David Hicks.  She was almost as easy on the eyes too.  Unfortunately, she was calm, cool, and BOR-ING. 

They both needed to take a page from Ryan Seacrest, who has managed to hold onto his gig as host of Fox's American Idol forever.  With years under his belt as a radio show host, he's skilled at relating to the contestants, the judges, and the audience.  We never could connect with Todd or India.

Speaking of AI, the Top Design judges were much better at replicating the concept.  Kelly Weastler sorta played the Paula Abdul role, with her eccentric clothes and tastes.  Jonathan Adler was the catty sweet-n-snarky version of Simon Cowell.  And Elle Decor editor-in-chief Margaret Russell was the voice of reason a la Randy Jackson.

2.  The Mentor Sucked.  Todd, who was boring as a host for season one, was equally boring as a mentor during season two.   This role is supposed to be similar to the one played by the immensely popular Tim Gunn on Project Runway. On Runway, Tim outshines host Heidi Klum, offering his opinion and encouragement to the clothing designers in a highly entertaining way.

As nice as he was to the contestants and as much as we like him as a designer, Todd probably should have been booted completely from the show.  Not enough personality. 

3.  The Challenges Sucked.  Because speed was often of the essence, like it is for so many other Bravo shows, the challenges often turned into something you would see on TLC's tired old Trading Spaces show.  On that show, do-it-yourself homeowners were paired with so-so designers who had to conceive an interior design scheme that could be executed by the homeowners.  The end results were about the same as those seen on Top Design.

Top Design might have fared better by pairing the designers a la CBS' Amazing Race and having them carry out a series of projects (like all the rooms in a select number of houses) together over the long haul.  No need to condense the time it takes to do design work.  They just need good editors to chop it up and entertain us with the ups and downs as well as the judges' commentary on the quality of the work.

What Top Design really needs of course -- besides a new host, new mentor, and new challenges -- is a guest judge who can come tell it like it is.  So Bravo, if you're listening, we want a seat at the judges' table! 

Photo from Top Design, pictured from left:  Margaret Russell, India Hicks, Jonathan Adler, Todd Oldham, Kelly Wearstler.

Up First:  A look at Jonathan Adler's West Palm Beach Home.


  1. Hopefully Top Design will return better than before.

  2. CDHQ, we can always count on you to tell it like it is!

  3. Agree...I could never get into this show with their hosts and challenges. Funny thing is I don't even remember Todd Oldham being a mentor on the show.

  4. I am so sad it's over! I didn't much care for the hosts they were ridiculous and unrealistic but some of the people that came out of that show were amazing. Nathan Thomas, Eddie Ross! I hope it comes back...

  5. Hi Alicia B: We liked Nathan and Eddie too! FYI, we have looked hi and lo for details on what happened to the show. Still no answers!

  6. Your comments on the hosts are right on the money. But, the concept of the show is pretty decent, and it is entertaining as well. Some of the designers/contestants they had were very good, and some were amazing. It would be a real "shot in the arm" to have Bravo bring this back as the show is considerably better than some of their current shows.

    Here's hoping!

  7. Hi!

    My sources close to the Powers That Be tell me HGTV's Design Star killed Top Design! Let's face it: they know how to produce a decorating show. Magical Elves of Project Runway and Top Chef fame? They're the ones Bravo brought in to revamp the Top Design. Well, let's just say they're better off shacking up with Padma and Tom in the kitchen than trying to produce a decorating show!


    P.S. Margaret's an uber talented editor. Kelly's a genius decorator. Jonathan knocks off genius decorators. And Todd designs for Lazy-Boy.

  8. Wow--thanks for the update and analyis Eddie!

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