A new TV season is upon us, and all the media is talking about is The Soprano's. Apparently, life's worth living again, now that Tony is back. Well, I've never seen an episode, and nobody I know talks about it. However, mention Trading Spaces and heads pop out of cubicles at work, perfect strangers start talking to you in stores, even feuding neighbors put aside their differences to chat about this show. "Did you see the one where the lady cried and had to leave the room" is the most common remark I hear. "Yeah", I always reply, "And Doug didn't even touch her precious wood mantle." I'm amazed at how many people watch this show, although they usually don't mention it until you do. It's a guilty pleasure, I suppose. The Learning Channel had the good sense to take the British show "Changing Rooms" and make into the American "Trading Spaces", which ought to satisfy all the highbrows out there that you're watching quality television
TLC runs two episodes on Saturday night, plus one every weekday afternoon. And if you've been good, they run marathons some weekends. The premise of the show is simple: two sets of neighbors redecorate a room in each others house and can't see the results until the job is complete. Each team of two has two days, $1000 dollars, and help from a professional designer and carpenter. Each show has the same outline: The interview with the homeowner(s), meeting the designer and carpenter, swapping keys to each others house, the first day, homework, the second day, "time's up", the before and after shots, the interview with the designers, and the reveal. The reveal is the high point of the show - this is where the neighbors get to see what's happened to their room. Some people have been known to cry. Others are more low key, but clearly dislike the transformation. Most of the time, people are happy. They tell you not to say "Wow" or "Oh my God", but everybody does. Even if they hate it.
Why is it so popular? It combines the reality show (or "life unscripted" which is TLC's tagline) with the home improvement show, recasts it as a mystery, and throws in some fun and personality. First Alex was the hostess, but she moved on, and now we have perky Paige, the younger sister next door. There are two regular carpenters (only one per show): Ty Pennington, who's a funny flake, and Amy Wynn Pastor, who's a babe. They have a bunch of designers — who you don't get to pick.