10 Suggestions for Improving Ellen’s Design Challenge


Photo credit: TV Guide


Last year when HGTV announced a furniture design show with Ellen De Generes it was two awesome worlds coming together – design! and Ellen! But the show missed the mark and I wasn’t sure exactly why. I just didn’t really enjoy it. This year when a second season was announced, I was cautiously excited, hoping that whatever didn’t work for me the first year would be improved and the concept would live up to my dreams.

It didn’t. This year I did more examining of why and here are my 10 ideas to make the show better for season three (if there is one):

  1. Include more Ellen! Duh. Except not the Ellen who showed up this season and seemed disconnected from the show. Have her be a more integral part of the show as a judge, mentor, or announcer. Infuse the show with Ellen’s energy.
  2. Start with more contestants. With so few contenders, we don’t get a chance to form any kind of bond or relationship with them as we do on other reality competition shows. This is part of the experience. We want to root for them and feel like we’re having the experience alongside them.
  3. Include designers of different styles. Everyone seems to have the modern, sculptural, clean line aesthetic. I’m a fan too but it would have been more interesting to see other styles represented. There was hope early on when one of the contestants showed a traditional style but she was one of two who didn’t make it past the first episode. There was also Melissa who made fun stuff for dogs and kids and she was cautioned about fitting more into the mold of adult contemporary furniture. Boring!
  4. Come up with shorter and/or less ambitious challenges so there can be more of them. This would support more contestants and give more variety to the show. Maybe they could make accent pieces or a line of decorative items.
  5. Introduce more interesting challenges such as making stuff for different groups like children or older people, furniture to fit in tiny homes, pet playgrounds. Anything but tables and beds and dressers. Also, steal ideas from other shows such as challenges that feature the use of unusual materials.
  6. Clear up the designer/carpenter hierarchy. Sometimes the carpenters (all HGTV regulars) are treated as equals in partnership with the designers and other times they’re relegated to the background.
  7. Don’t mix the judging with the mentoring. I got this one from a recent article on Reality Blurred. When the judges are doing the mentoring, it can feel like you have to incorporate their suggestions since they’ll soon be judging you.
  8. Note to current judges: loosen up! They seemed so stiff and like they had to maintain a distance from the contestants. Why? Also, display more confidence and conviction in your critiques. There was a hesitancy as the regular judges seemed to wait for someone else to “go first” then they would jump in with similar opinions.
  9. Another thing, judges, get up! Don’t sit behind the desk and make judgements based on what you can see from there. Walk around, touch, shake, sit on, lie on, etc. the pieces. That’s how everyone does it in the furniture store.
  10. Finally, pick winners that don’t produce derivative looks (first season winner) then have to retract the win and pass it to the second place finisher who probably should have been the winner anyway. Fortunately, they  did make this improvement in season two.

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