One of my guilty pleasures as of late? Trading Spaces on TLC. The whole concept, while called a “game show”, really isn’t. Two couples, also neighbors, are given 2 days and $1,000 to redesign an entire room of the other couple’s house. It’s all done covertly, and neither couple sees their new room until the end of the second day.
They’re each assigned an interior designer and have to do the majority of the work. In the process, both couples have access to a handyperson for doing heavy woodcutting and the like… but the interior designer tends to commendeer the handyperson. In essence, the couple may suggest that the neighbors will or will not like the design, but… the best part… they have little control over it.
Which is why my girlfriend Jeani calls it “cheap labor.” The couples often have to do silly, occasionally labor-intensive or tedious work while the designer gets to, well, sit back and design. This includes giving the couples “homework” – things they have to finish before the second day. One recent episode, filmed in 100 degree heat, forced a couple to sew pillows up outside (!) while the designer started working on a couch in the air-conditioned basement. It’s a tad sadistic.
But, seeing the couple’s reaction at the end is a money shot and can be worth it. It’s also just nice to see what people do with these rooms. Some are atrocious (blue shag carpeting with blue paneling all around and light green furniture); the best part is when you can tell that a neighbor doesn’t like the new design but is saying, “Wow! That’s great!” just to be polite. And it’s all there on camera for you to watch. Oh, and what if the neighbor doesn’t like the room? According to the website, TLC isn’t responsible for undecorating the room.
Trading Spaces is, actually, a show that makes us glad we’ve got TiVo – because some parts are just yawners. But seeing before-and-after shots of the rooms? Definitely worth it. Give it a shot. -pm
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