Monday, April 9, 2012

TONIGHT'S EPISODE: The short journey that is revisiting Trading Spaces on DVD....

Home Made Simple publicity shot of Paige Davis.
(Procter & Gamble Broadcasting, LLC)

AFTER recently watching Paige Davis on OWN's Home Made Simple, her return to the world of home improvement/lifestyle shows makes me feel nostalgic for Trading Spaces (TLC, 2000-2008). There was more to TS than learning tips on how to redecorate a room cheaply; for those who really got into the show, it was a happening. Week after week, viewers would eagerly await their favorite designers and carpenters (in addition to Paige). They wondered what the two house-trading couples would be like and how they'd got along with TS gang. Most of all, there was always the suspense over if the homeowners would like or loathe their altered rooms. Exactly how they would react wasn't always predictable, and some of the outcomes made for riveting television...on TLC, that is. Since I wasn't one of those TV preservationists who recorded a ton of TS episodes on my VCR when it was originally on (I'm certain I have a few shows on two VHS tapes in a box somewhere), the only way I'm able to reexperience the series now is through the TS DVDs that were released between '03-'08.

The TS Alex set. (Amazon)
I missed out on my first opportunity to get the DVDs because they were gone from the stores long after I got my first DVD player in late 2008. (I'd get a computer a year later.) I could've bought a disc while they were still available, in anticipation of (inevitably) getting a player, but they were expensive, so I had to pass. Jumping ahead to this past February (after seeing HMS), I resumed my search, locating my first TS DVD ($4.99) at a local Barnes & Noble. Satisfied with my purchase, I followed up with a look on Amazon and found more of them there. Remarkably, whether I wanted new or used copies, the other DVDs were all very affordable at substantial discounts, so I wound up buying all new ones. Within two weeks, I got six of the seven DVD sets. (I'm saving for the rare five-disc compilation featuring five episodes with original TS host Alex McLeod, who reigned during the inaugural season. For a used copy, $50 is rather pricey.)

Since I know the TS completists got all the DVDs years ago, for those who'd like a sampling of TS in their video collection, here's a quick rundown of the six sets, along with my recommendations of which ones may be worth your time and money:

(Google images)
The Very Best of Trading Spaces (Artisan, 3/18/03)
Designers and Carpenters: (see cover)
It was the first TS DVD, arriving during Paige's second year on the show when it began to catch fire around the country. To read the Amazon feedback on it, many were disappointed it had no complete episodes; instead, it consists primarily of clips showcasing the TS crew, homeowners, reveals (loved and hated), bloopers, etc. Despite the fact TS was nominated for a Daytime Emmy when Alex was hosting, she is left out of the mix, including getting no mention in a text history of the show. Bear in mind Alex had her fans (she even taped commercials for TLC where she introduced her successor to fans); that TLC decided to completely ignore her contributions to TS on this disc was rude, if not mean. If you enjoy endlessly looking at video fragments, you will love this; if you don't, pass on this clip job.

Viewers' Choice! and They Hated It! (Artisan, both 4/22/03)
Designers: Doug Wilson, Frank Bielec, Laurie Hickson Smith, Genevieve Gorder, and Vern Yip
Carpenters: Ty Pennington and Amy Wynn Pastor
With these, TLC attempted to appease those clamoring for uncut shows. THI has two, and VC has four, featuring designer Doug Wilson's notorious Seattle living room redesign where he covered up the homeowners' fireplace, bringing the lady of the house to tears. The Seattle show would've been better suited to the THI set, but TLC wanted to sell DVDs; so it goes the contents of THI are tame, compared to the fallout after the reveal of Doug's handiwork. (Actually, the couple only hated the concealment of the fireplace, and Doug, to his credit, made sure the cover over it could be easily removed if they wished to do so.) As VC initially retailed for about $35, its new affordability makes it a must have, especially if you desire the Seattle episode.

Great Kitchen Designs and More! and Creative Home Decor with Designer Doug Wilson (Sony, both 4/26/05)
Designers: Vern, Genevieve, Christi Proctor, Laurie, Hildi Santo Tomas, Frank, Doug, Barry Wood, Edward Walker and Kia Steve Dickerson
Carpenters: Ty, Amy and Carter Oosterhouse
These were immediately notable for packaging that made them seem more like authentic "how to" DVDs. GKDAM has five shows with madeover kitchens, and CHDwDDW has five with an emphasis of Doug in action. Of the two, the keeper is CHDwDDW as it contains the Tampa episode where Doug and Hildi make due without a carpenter.

The Specials (Genius, 3/4/08)
Designers: Frank, Hildi, Doug, Frank, Laura Day, Laurie, Genevieve, Barry, Kia, Edward, Christi and Jon Laymon
Carpenters: Amy, Faber Dewar, and Carter
Additional Host: Joe Farrell (on "Through the Roof")
The last DVD (what I bought at B&N) is a mixed bag and the most interesting of all the TS compilations. First, the title is slightly misleading because this is a sampling of TS specials. Next, two of them are Paige-less, the result of her departure from the series during the fifth season. (TLC claimed it was a cost-saving measure, while evidence suggests an incident involving Paige playfully flashing her behind while wearing a thong, which was captured by a tabloid photographer, led to her dismissal. Paige and TLC denied this was why she left.) Then, "Through the Roof" is a longer episode where all the designers and carpenters then on the show, plus Paige and Joe Farrell (host of Trading Spaces: Family, the forgotten spin-off) worked on rooms with $10,000 budgets. Finally, there's "Trading Castles", my personal favorite of all the specials, where rooms are transformed at two castles in Scotland. If you're among the many who changed the channel once Paige was gone, you might want to pass on this disc due to the non-Paige stuff, but I say with the majority of the program containing her (counting the bonus feature "Unglued"), the anomalies are manageable.

BONUS-- Changing Rooms: Trust Me... I'm a Designer (BBC/Warner Brothers, 3/2/04)
Host: Carol Smillie
Designers: Oliver Heath, Lynda Barker, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Graham Wynne, Anna Ryder Richardson and Laura McCree
Carpenter: "Handy" Andy Kane
To anyone who watched the show that inspired TS, Changing Rooms (BBC, 1996-2004), when it ran on BBC America around the same time TS was prospering, you might want to check this disc out as well. It's just a broadcast clip show (67 minutes) plus an hour of bonus material, but it's better assembled than TVBoTS. If you liked the TS guest appearances of "Handy" Andy, Anna and Lawrence, you've got another rationalization for buying it. I remember enjoying CR (especially if the foxy Anna was on) as much as I did TS, and that made my getting a copy of this a no-brainer. It's also the sole CR DVD release, so don't wait too long before buying one because it, too, can now be had cheaply.

TOP SELECTIONS (listed in order of importance):
1) Viewers' Choice!
2) The Specials
3) Creative Home Decor with Designer Doug Wilson

Whether you get one or all three, you really can't go wrong with any of these.

Looking back, it could be said TLC screwed up on reissuing TS on DVD. Many have said they should've put out full season box sets. Because of the unique setup of the series, however, I believe a quagmire of rights and clearances (with regards to the participating families and major advertisers) is preventing such a occurrence from becoming reality. Besides, I don't even think there's enough interest in TS this will make it to an "on demand" DVD-R release. It's best to live with what did get released, or if you are one of those who filled several videotapes with nothing but TS, transfer those suckers to DVDs before VCRs become obsolete!

As for Paige, we at Cobweb TV! wish her continued success on HMS; so far, six months after her premiere, she's still around.


Keeping it trivial....


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