Remember Design Star? HGTV launched the reality competition in 2006 with 10 designers vying to win their own show on the network. Four things happen when a show like this is produced:
- HGTV fills a programming slot
- It is auditioning everyone who appears on the show and can assess them for future productions regardless of the outcome of the show
- It gets at least one additional show from the endeavor in the form of the winning designer’s show which has a built in audience
- It engages the audience in an ongoing series rather than the usual one-off episodes it airs and hopefully gets people talking about the show, their favorite contestants, the villains, and the good and bad designs.
It seems like a great formula especially as its first winner, David Bromstad, became a big star on the network and has been appearing there on and off ever since.
The show aired for a total of nine seasons, eight with fresh casts and one all-star. None of the other winners became as popular as David Bromstad and some barely appeared on HGTV afterwards.
It seems like a winning formula so why wasn’t it more popular and sustainable? Let’s see.
How many of these winners do you remember?
- David Bromstad
- Kim Myles
- Jennifer Bertrand
- Antonio Ballatore
- Emily Henderson
- Meg Caswell
- Danielle Colding
- Leslie Ezelle
- Tiffany Brooks
Can you name their shows? The first seven winners made shows based on their points of view and some have also appeared on other HGTV shows. Leslie Ezelle, the all-stars winner, did not get a show and Tiffany Brooks, rather than creating her own show, was relegated to one that HGTV likely already had in the works.
Here’s why I think the show didn’t survive (although I would watch it again if HGTV decided to bring it back).
- Each season I would get predictably caught up in the drama of it, rooting for who I thought should win, hoping the meanies would be eliminated after a big humiliating design flop. At the conclusion I was often disappointed when the result seemed like a foregone conclusion based on any number of factors besides talent or interesting concept.
- The challenges weren’t interesting and were too team-focused. Yes, in real life, you’ll work in a team but not with your competitors and one person will clearly be the leader unlike on this show where each team was made up of alphas. [Side note: one of the popular challenges, the white room challenge, was spun off into its own show with David Bromstad as the host. It was on for one season and wasn’t as compelling since we didn’t already know the designers and they weren’t competing for the bigger picture].
- Then HGTV never really made a commitment to the winners so while I might be looking forward to what someone was going to bring to the network, they only appeared briefly and then were gone.
- It’s part of a bigger trend for HGTV as it has moved away from design to focus more on real estate and renovation.
Here’s why Vern Yip, who appeared on every season as a judge, says the show was cancelled: “The ratings of the show were still pretty strong by last year, but the numbers were undeniably shrunken from its peak years.”
Bottom line, right? It’s all about ratings. Could the show have sustained better ratings if they had tweaked the formula? Done more to make bigger stars of the winners?
If you’re interested in reading up on where the stars are now, click here for information from Hooked on Houses.
Would you watch Design Star again? Who was your favorite Design Star winner?