As the regular TV season winds down, a desperate scramble begins, a race toward the upper edges of the dial, to seek out alternative programming to keep us entertained. Fearing that we may be forced to read a book if we can't find anything, every channel is scoured, no network stone left unturned. Our discovery last night — Tuesday's covered, guys! — was a new HGTV series called The White Room Challenge.
No, the show has nothing to do with British acid house music. It's vaguely related to the show Design Star, which uses a similar white room conceit on occasion. Basically if Design Star is Top Chef, then The White Room Challenge is Chopped. Every week four new people will show up and will have to turn a bare white cube of a room, with simple furniture provided, and turn it into something marvelous based on the particular episode's theme. One person wins, receiving $10,000, the others go home in disgrace. Unfortunately The White Room Challenge doesn't have the same kind of sequential eliminations that make Chopped so well-paced, all but one are dumped at the end with the hilariously blunt send-off line "You may leave the studio," but the show still works.
Last night's challenge was to take the white room and to make it into a kid's space using candy as decorative accents. It was kind of a cloying challenge — this "Use food!" design show thing has been tired since Project Runway first used it — but it gave the four contestants plenty of room to be innovative, or to hang themselves with their own Red Vines. One dope just threw candy all over the floor in the hopes that it would seem funky and fun instead of messy and lazy, and another made a creepy dark insect lair and claimed it was a little girl's dream haven. If that little girl was a young Lydia Deetz, maybe. So it was that kind of fun silliness that is perfectly pleasant to watch for an hour, and the single-episode format promises we'll get closure at the end of every hour. No huge investment, no results drawn out over weeks. It's just a little mini competition delivered to us every Tuesday.
White Room Challenge is hosted by Design Star winner David Bromstad, who, with his square-jawed sass and barely contained ego, has always been one of HGTV's least appealing personalities. (On his main show, the obnoxiously titled Color Splash, he nearly always insists on creating an original artwork for the room, making sure to sign his name in big letters and to then point them out to the lucky recipient.) But he's not too intrusive on this, plus one of his fellow judges is Dina frickin' Manzo, best known for being on the first season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, but now a respectable-ish TV personality who hosts HGTV's pretty silly but completely harmless Dina's Party. And there are two other judges but I can't really remember who they were and it doesn't really matter. Not when Dina's there! She pulls focus, in a good way.
So yeah, The White Room Challenge. Not a bad Tuesday night replacement for... Well, actually, there was never really anything on Tuesdays at nine that we were watching. But still, Glee will soon be over (yes, we're still watching, for scientific purposes only) and Justified is long gone, so it's good to have at least one consistent thing waiting for us on the DVR when we get back from jogging along the river or strolling in the park or whatever it is we're pretending we're going to spend our summer evenings doing. Design on, friends!