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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 3, 2003

Home improvement has redecorated TV

 •  It's not too late to seek help at home show

By David Bauder
Associated Press Television Writer

A poll conducted last year for HGTV revealed that viewers considered "Trading Spaces" one of their favorite shows on the cable channel.

One problem: It's on The Learning Channel, not Home and Garden TV.

"Trading Spaces," the remodeling show where neighbors impose their decorating tastes on neighbors, was the most popular show on basic cable last week, eclipsing professional wrestling and "SpongeBob SquarePants."

It has spawned imitators and transformed home improvement television.

Nowhere is that more evident than at HGTV, a network built on home design that somehow missed out on the biggest home design sensation on television.

Two programs debuting on HGTV this year clearly show the influence of "Trading Spaces."

One, already on the air, is "Design on a Dime," which applies the TLC show's concept of strict spending limits in inviting designers to remodel homes.

The second, coming in March, is "Ground Rules!" — which, HGTV says, "challenges homeowners to redesign and install their landscaping in friendly competition with their neighbors within a limited budget and time frame."

Sound familiar?

To be fair, HGTV shows like "Designing for the Sexes" and "Designers' Challenge" predated "Trading Spaces." But in developing new programs, they've ramped up the energy level.

"Some of the shows we have are absolutely adding an element of entertainment," said Burton Jablin, HGTV's chief executive. "Yes, we do look at the competition, but fundamentally we believe we have the strength in our product. We believe in developing programs that build the relationship between viewers and HGTV as opposed to developing a hit mentality."

HGTV had a chance to air "Trading Spaces," but passed. The show is an American version of a British show, "Changing Rooms," which has become a lot more visible on BBC America since its offspring took off.

HGTV was offered a chance to lease the concept for American television but, at the time, it wanted to own its own programming outright, Jablin said. He said he's not kicking himself, but it's worth noting that HGTV's ownership policy has since changed.

TLC has already successfully nicked its own concept with "While You Were Out," where a spouse is coaxed out of the house to give designers time to transform it.

The transformation theme is also evident in TLC's upcoming "What Not to Wear," which trains hidden cameras on a fashion catastrophe then sends designers in to transform the wardrobe. The ABC special, "Extreme Makeover," transformed physical features instead of just clothes. It's soon to be a series.