Trying to pick the winner of HGTV Design Star based on its Season 6 premiere would be kind of like envisioning an entire bedroom overhaul by flipping through paint chips at Home Depot. Most of what we got from Monday night’s hour were fleeting impressions of our 12 designers, but even some of those early opinions were upended by the time the credits rolled.
Among the random thoughts that went through my head as we met the contestants and watched them shoot 30-second introductory spots under the tutelage of mentor and fabulous Season 1 champ David Bromstad:
* I had an immediate positive response to the name “Blanche” and a negative one to the non-name “j.” Yeah, I know, what’s a moniker got to do with it, but who wouldn’t want a designer with a name that recounts both The Golden Girls and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Hrmm. On second thought…)
* Mark put me in immediate eye-roll mode by gruffly declaring his “aggressive passion towards edgier design.”
* It was pretty clear the producers weren’t setting us up to get attached to the aforementioned Blanche when she was introduced with a shot of her high-heeled boot stepping out of a cab, then quickly lobbing questions about her competitors’ credentials, like “Do you have certification or licensing?”
* I’m not usually one to identify with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders chic, but I kind of loved Leslie’s black leather jacket with silver-ring punchouts down the sleeves. And girlfriend sealed the deal of my fandom by doing pushups before her promo spot, then hilariously dropping an s-bomb at the end of a message about her goal of creating a peaceful home.
* Kellie high-kicked like Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher when she found out Mr. Bromstad would be the Season 6 mentor, so how bad can she be, really?
* I agreed wholeheartedly with David that Meg’s concept of identifying and remedying “design crimes” was completely HGTV-ready, although Cathy’s Passport to Design idea — which marries travel and home decor — is probably the one I’d be most likely to watch.
* And I know some of his competitors were impressed by his intro, but Doug’s whole bit about a room having only seconds to grab your attention seemed awfully gimmicky. I mean, design is something to be lived in and lived with; it’s not something you whiz by from the back of a taxi cab, right?
Once the intros were completed, the designers were divvied into teams of two and asked to redesign one of six rooms in their new apartment complex. I was surprised no mention was made about what’s going to happen with the less successful renovations — will Kevin and Bret be forced to sleep in the scattershot bedroom they coughed up or will it get another overhaul? — but overall, most of the mishaps seemed to be a product of poor time management rather than lack of talent.
* Kevin’s early war cries of “teal!” and “tangerine!” gave me a new appreciation for basic beige — not because I’m afraid of color, but because dude seemed to gravitate toward loud hues without any actual clue what to do with them. Bret’s “RELAX” cutout, meanwhile, drove home the perils of literal design elements; if they’re not executed flawlessly — and in this case, the unfinished, raggedy block letters certainly weren’t — they can wind up looking hokey in the extreme. By the time they’d finished, Bret and Kevin’s bedroom resembled a messy dorm from a gay fraternity house, and I found myself laughing out loud when judge Candice Olson (looking fierce, btw) remarked that the plaid suitcase on the bed seemed like foreshadowing that one of the designers was headed home.
* The two teams with squabbling designers managed to turn out relatively impressive finished products. Cathy was certainly the more outspoken in her partnership with Leslie, but the latter woman’s choice of a two-toned table and a fantastic chest made from recycled tires played the bigger role in the success of their great room. And while my own personal home aesthetic is heavily influenced by the places I’ve traveled, I couldn’t help but feel like Cathy was overreaching when she droned on about her camel-colored velvet pillows being reminiscent of South Africa’s wine region. What’s more, Cathy needs to remember the cameras are still rolling when she screeches instructions like, “Leslie, for the grace of God, just leave it!”
Doug and “j” immediately clashed, too, but luckily the former designer wasn’t thwarted in his quest for a geometic-papered wall with corresponding mirror to add some drama and open up the space of their “tissue box” bedroom. I’m not sure what “j” was going for with those giant swaths of gray fabric behind the beds, but it certainly didn’t match her stated vision of “modern and clean,” let alone “upholstered headboard.”
* I had my doubts about Karl and Kellie’s bonus room, especially when he declared his intention to paint trees on the walls, and she ended up spilling white paint on the floor, the couch, and her own cleavage, but somewhere between my horrified first impressions and the end of the episode, the likable duo pulled their room together with panache and playfulness. Judge Genevieve Gorder was right: Karl’s abstract branches made the ceilings look surprisingly high.
* I got all kinds of good vibes from Meg and Tyler’s personalities, but moments after their bedroom reveal, all I could remember were their sad, sparse rows of white shelves.
* As for this week’s evictee Blanche (and her partner Mark), well, I’m not sure I ever quite understood the point of those giant frames she was building to house huge swathes of gilt-trimmed wallpaper, or her placement for that cluster of tea lights, but the designer herself admitted her execution didn’t live up to her vision, and she took her eviction with grace and good spirits. Personally, I’d have kept her around just for feeding us the words “glam,” “zhuzh,” and “luxury” in the same sentence, but I suppose when it comes to delivering divine disasters as the season progresses, Kevin’s probably the safer bet.
* And I may live to regret this, but here are my totally uninformed, incredibly premature early picks for the Final 3: Leslie, Doug, and either Kellie or Meg.
How about you? What did you think of the HGTV Design Star premiere? Who’s your early pick to win/make the Final 3? Who’s already working your last nerve? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, news, and interviews, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!