A couple symptoms of the problems with Bravo's Top Design can be found in two of its blogs: Jonathan Adler's and The Assistant's who both seem to have discovered how to pleasure themselves with the critic's stick (all puns intended). They've realized that it is easy to get a reaction by just waving it around at people (if not bludgeoning them with it). This saves them from having to use any thought let alone subtlety.
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I really want to like this guy but he's sapping my strength.
One reason for the discordances in the show is that, for obvious reasons, it ends with the judging. The imperiousness of Margaret Russell, the snarkiness of Jonathan Adler, and the looniness of Kelly Wearstler can be amusing but they can also hit some rather off notes.
The latest posting from Jonathan Adler describes his views towards Michael as being "charitable" versus "less charitable." It strikes me as being a difference between "uncharitable" versus "mean-spirited."
What goes around comes around.
If I'm feeling charitable, I imagine that Michael wanted some decorative motif for his room and, under time pressure and suffering from exhaustion he just chose those birds and moved on.
The less charitable me has hypothesized that he's insane. In any event, it was a bad idea, second only to them colors. I suppose he could have thought that the birds were a kitsch gesture and that it would be cute.
Re: kitsch, I've often been accused of being a kitsch-enthusiast, which is totally untrue -- I actually hate kitsch. Pink flamingoes on the front lawn? No, merci. But, in the hands of some creative mavericks, traditional kitsch iconography transcends its kitschiness and becomes fantastic.
For instance, I have a giant poodle lamp in my bedroom that's so big and well-crafted that I couldn't say no. I have series of clown pictures that are intricately crafted in wood marquetry and they are so brilliantly designed and made that you really can't argue with them.
Sometimes it's the things in questionable taste -- inappropriate, vulgar, or a little kooky -- that make a room memorable. Diana Vreeland once said, "A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. No taste is what I'm against."
Anyway, whatever. That still doesn't make them birds okay.
I don't need to demonstrate how this is self-contradictory and hypocritical -- and others have already drawn attention to these problems (pink navy, top design blogger). The internal logic of this passage is utterly non-existant. Thus when we get to the alleged conclusion: "Anyway, whatever. That still doesn't make them birds okay" -- asserted as if he has proven some point -- we can only respond with a resounding WFT?
By the way, I'm officially sick and tired of his faux folksiness, e.g., the use of them phrases that use them down-home dialect constructions. I might be able to enjoy this cutesy verbal decorative kitch as endearing if his manner were not so utterly condesdencing. There is something in his manner that belies such a sense of superiority towards (if not also a complete ignorance of) people who actually speak this way.
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NOTE: -- please read my reality television recommended reading as a reminder of the way that I am discussing the personalities on the show (especially "for the record.") I think of the judges as personas -- characters invented and performed for a television show. There is a difference between Jonathan Adler, the Top Design judge, which is a role played by the actual person Jonathan Adler. How much the two have in common I do not know. However there are two things that are proven to be strongly personality-altering--both consciously and unconsciously: being on television and having power over other people, such as being a judge.
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If Jonathan's blog shows an off note, this blog moves us from sour into foul.
I want to know why Bravo is paying this guy to write a blog? He isn't like the judges who are talented people whose opinions count for something. He's not funny. He's not likable. He's just obnoxious.
He reminds me of those boys in junior high school who didn't really do anything -- they weren't smart or popular, they didn't do sports, they weren't dorky nice guys; they were just a little band of brats who went around tormenting people: spreading gossip, insulting people for their weakness (making fun of the fat kid, the kid with bad acne or thick glasses). They were toadies for popular kids and bullies who had no respect for them.
His latest blog gives us gossip that could end up getting one of the cameramen fired. He tells us about the people on the show he dislikes. He informs us about the designs he dislikes. He wrote an ignorant description of Elizabeth when she was kicked off that was totally inappropriate. (Who died and make him the king of what was cool? Of what was hip and who was out of date? Does the world want to know that a little shit like him thinks women over the age of forty are old fogies?) He is even snide about the judges.
The contestants, he tells us, "can annoy like nails on a chalkboard." Well cry me a river. It's your job to deal with them.
It is really rather bizarre.
What is the point? To undermine the show and the cast? To make himself seem important? Even though he has no apparent talent or knowledge of design he can make himself sound like he's as big as the judges and the cast because he can cut them down as an official voice on the Bravo TV web site?
He isn't a blogger like those of us out here doing this for fun -- and for free. We don't actually know these people--we aren't saying anything that is personal--we are talking about this as a television show--as a type of fiction. Plus, and this is the important part: we are doing this not because we are employees but because we are fans.
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Which just reminds me, by way of contrast, of Rucker. I suppose because reading his blog you got the sense that the show was fun (and a lot of work and a pain in the ass and kind of insane). He was also incredibly funny. He wasn't mean-spirited and nasty about the show and the people on it. The worst he ever did was shrug his shoulders at the camera when Vincent had his fluff and fold tantrum. That moment, that gesture, says everything about reality television. That may go down as the most hilarious moment in reality television. Ever.
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What can be done?
On Project Runway Tim Gunn's voice plays an important role setting the tone. The problem is that there isn't enough of Todd's voice in the show. That is a big mistake. The other personalities just are not likeable enough to carry the show.
Todd had a successful show on House of Style. He has a quirky manner but it really grows on you after a while. We need to see more of him. Maybe it isn't too late for the last half of the season to be edited in order to bring out more of Todd's voice, which is funny, genuine, and smart. It may not be as histrionic, pompous and over-the-top as reality television likes, but it is what Top Design needs to keep it from sinking in the mire of its own bile.
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Finally, am I being mean-spirited myself? Perhaps. (Do I contradict myself?)
Nonetheless, I prefer a scalpel to carrying a stick.