Top Design



11 p.m.-midnight, Wednesday, Jan. 31

I feel like we've seen this before: A 10-episode reality show pitting interior designers. After all, the unscripted genre has been around long enough now that it pretty much guarantees a certain amount of inbreeding and certainly derivation. But I didn't hate "Top Design" as much as I wanted to. What's that about? The premiere actually succeeds in holding your interest even though it's just six pairs of interior decorators competing in the decidedly subjective arena of creating a living space -- in this case, the room of a "mystery celebrity." (Spoiler alert: It's drag queeny character actor Alexis Arquette.) Hosted by designer/personality Todd Oldham, "Top Design" proves a semi-intriguing concept, even if the dozen aspirants don't exactly set the charisma meter jumping and a few are entirely off-putting (they know who they are).

The competitors -- six men and six women ranging in age from mid-20s to late-40s and not all of them fashion-plate attractive, for which the production deserves credit -- are paired up somewhat randomly to see how well they work together in designing a room from scratch. But no one is likely to mistake this for "Trading Spaces." Each team gets a $50,000 budget and the assistance of a carpenter during their first 48-hour challenge conducted at the Pacific Design Center. So this ain't about restraint. The results vary from ho-hum to flashy, with the obligatory trio of judges acting appropriately regal and dismissive. Two people naturally get bounced out at the end of hour one, and unfortunately it's not the guys who wouldn't stop sniping at each other. So Bravo now has food ("Top Chef"), fashion ("Project Runway") and design covered with series. All it needs now is "Top Waitress."

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