Consider “American Idol” finalists and how anyone who ranks in the top few usually has a great voice. Then consider who won and how many you can name.
After the first year, it sometimes becomes a trivia contest, but there are memorable contestants from each season. The lesson here is that runners-up generally make for good TV.
HGTV applies that lesson with the six-episode “Design Star All Stars,” premiering Tuesday, July 31. Drawing from its talent contest “Design Star,” it features David Bromstad, the Season 1 winner, as host and mentor.
“It is one of those really fun type of shows taking the people who didn’t win on the regular season of ‘Design Star’ and offer a personality that more people want to see,” Bromstad tells Zap2it. “If you didn’t get enough of Tom or Kellie, Sparkle is definitely hilarious.”
He refers to Tom Vecchione of Season 5, Kellie Clements of Season 6 and Sparkle Josh Johnson of Season 2. They’re competing against Dan Vickery of Season 4, Leslie Ezell of Season 6 and current “Design Star” competitor Hilari Younger.
The first episode proves that two of the women do not suffer from low self-esteem.
“I was amazing before,” Younger says. “Now I am unstoppable.”
Clements is certain she is much better than everyone else and brags about it.
When designers reflect on what their toughest challenges had been during the course of the show, Johnson, whose hair is spectacularly styled, says, “My greatest challenge was just getting ready in the morning. The second time around it would be lovely to get the crown and gown.”
The winner of the “All Stars” competition receives $25,000 and an appearance on an unspecified HGTV show. Some could, potentially, launch an entire career, as Bromstad did. Before competing in the first season, Bromstad was an artist.
“I was an artist going in, and I had never done design before,” he says from his Miami home. “My style has changed quite a bit. I have grown a lot. I knew enough to win the competition and get by. That was the introduction, and the challenge was to have a client and do different styles and color combinations. Every time I do one I learn more about design and more about myself. I used to just love modern design with a lot of color. Now I love an eclectic mix of everything, something country and baroque and super-kitschy midcentury.”
To win this competition, the designer needs to meet a variety of goals, and some are intangible. Sure, he or she needs to create fast and wow judges Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder and each week’s guest judge. But it’s not all about design, Bromstad notes. A part of being chosen winner is the amorphous quality of how much an audience wants to watch the designer.
“On ‘Project Runway’ they could not care less if you are a mean person or a bad person,” Bromstad says of the burgeoning fashion designers, who are picked on talent alone. “This is all about being on television and likability and something that the network does not have.”
In the first episode, the designers are let loose in the Pacific Design Center, which would be a dream realized for most home decorators. They had two days to make a room and could create whatever room they wanted. Each designer was assigned a handyman or handywoman to help execute the designer’s visions.
Carpenter picks colors that seem to deliberately not go together. Ezell paints a last-minute modern painting to hang as a centerpiece for her room.
“Homemade art isn’t necessary,” Yip tells her.
In the first episode, actress Emily Procter, who has decorated and clearly has an understanding of what the designers are doing, is the guest judge.
As mentor and host, Bromstad completely gets what designers are trying to do and sometimes feels the need to interject.
“As a mentor I can say whatever I need to say, but I am there to help encourage them and make them more of a success,” he says. “I don’t want to freak them out. If you have an idea, you want to make sure that you go with that idea. Going with the first instinct is really important.”
Over the course of the six challenges, contestants will turn shipping containers, those metal rectangles stacked up at ports, into interesting rooms. On the Aug. 13 segment, look for Mindy Cohn from “The Facts of Life” when she is a guest judge and the designers replicate the set from her 1979-88 hit sitcom.
Though the challenges vary, one constant is how fast designers work to complete a room. In the opening episode, Vickery realizes his room is a little empty because he did not acquire enough accessories to fill it. Vecchione’s room is classic, and he manages to make it both spotless yet lived in. Johnson lives up to his sparkle, and Younger names a lush green sofa Antoinette.
As the contest continues through the summer, Bromstad says the audience is “going to see the designers have a little bit more fun. You are seeing the best of the best, and you are seeing these designers do everything they should have done back in their own season. They are pulling from their wheelhouse instead of trying to do something innovative at that moment.”