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Scott D. Pierce: HGTV comes close to ruining 'Design Star'

Published: Friday, Aug. 20 2010 6:00 p.m. MDT

For the past four seasons, HGTV has had its own little reality show.

Well, you could say that pretty much everything on HGTV is a reality show. Except, maybe, for "Selling New York" — because those multimillion-dollar apartments are pretty unreal.

But "Design Star" has been the network's own reality/competition show, not unlike a lot of shows on a lot of channels. A group of contestants compete at various decorating challenges; the winner is awarded his or her own show on HGTV.

It's not just a competition to see who's the best designer, it's also a competition to see who's the best host.

This year, however, the Powers That Be at HGTV decided to turn the "Design Star" franchise over to Mark Burnett. You know, the guy best known as the producer of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."

And his company has managed to very nearly turn "Design Star" into another version of "The Apprentice."

It's now full of largely pointless challenges — most of which require contestants to be "inspired" by a flower. Or a musical instrument. Or a dress. The challenges bear no relation to the real world, and the designs have been underwhelming.

The contestants have always had to work in teams at times. Now, they have to work in teams almost all the time. And the results have often been disappointing at best.

Burnett & Co. have apparently never watched HGTV. This is a network that has always been about showing us how design is done. Now, "Design Star" devotes far less time to how and far more time to judging and "suspense."

As a result, "Design Star" is far less entertaining than it used to be. And the obvious "Apprentice" touches — like having the contestants take their luggage to the judging so the loser can be quickly ushered out the door — are just sort of tacky.

"Design Star" has three of the best judges on any competition/reality show, period. Vern Yip, Candice Olson and Genevieve Gorder — all HGTV designer/hosts themselves — are tough to the point of brutality at times. But they know what they're talking about, and they're very entertaining.

But "Design Star" is not what it used to be.

If we wanted to watch another stupid edition of "The Apprentice," we could change the channel to NBC. This is supposed to be HGTV.

If you watch...

What: The fifth-season finale of "Design Star"

When: Sunday, 11 p.m. (with multiple repeats)

Channel: HGTV

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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