British television is primarily known in the states for its comedies and historical costume dramas. But there is another genre of show that the British have invented and succeeded in exporting to the US: the do-it-yourself challenge show. Programs like Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars in the US) and Ground Force challenge a group of people to complete a task in a given amount of time. While there is no doubt that the task will be completed, how they go about doing it is where the fun comes in.
Another show along these lines is Changing Rooms.¹ This show selects two pairs of volunteers who each have a room in their house that they would like to have redecorated. Each pair is given a professional decorator, a budget of £500, and two days to redo the room in the other pair's home. At the end of the time, the host lets each couple see what has been created in their house. Sometime they love it, often times they hate it, but the show is always enjoyable.
Unfortunately, this DVD does not contain full episodes of Changing Rooms. This program, which runs a little over an hour, is a special clip show containing short scenes from the show's six year history. The show's regular host, Carol Smillie, introduces the segments. Each of the show's six designers gets a section which shows some of their best, and worst, creations.
The show has a good selection of clips. They include some very funny segments along with some entertaining spats between the designers and participants. The rooms that are created run the gamut from horrid to wonderful. (Particularly unpleasant was the bedroom that contained a canopy bed which had sculpted naked women as posts.) One heartbreaking clip that is on this DVD involves a woman's collection of antique teapots. The designer created a free hanging bookcase; several boards suspended from the ceiling by wires. The teapots were displayed on it and that night the whole structure fell destroying the entire collection.
While these are entertaining clips, it is not a good episode. As someone who enjoys Changing Rooms, I felt that this special wasn't able to capture the entertainment that of the regular show. The fun of the show is seeing the entire process, from planning the decorating, to the execution, and the owner's final reaction. In this case, the trip is more fun than getting to the destination. But this program eliminates most of the journey. We see a snippette from the middle and then it cuts to the finished room. Just seeing the end product isn't what the show is about. If I wanted that, I'd just flip through a magazine devoted to interior decorating.
This DVD would also make a very poor blind buy. This show assumes you are familiar with the program, so they never explain the concept behind the show; the 'trading' of rooms, the budget, or the time factor. They often mention these constraints during the show, but never give details. The show was also hard to follow in parts. Several times I wasn't sure if the clip I was watching was releated to the previous one, or if we had moved on to another project.
A good program in its half hour format, this special sucks all the fun out of the show. I would have preferred that they stuck with that tried and true formula and given us several episodes instead.
The two channel mono audio track was well suited to the show. There wasn't a lot of bass in the occasional crashes and bangs, but the dialog was clear. There are wasn't any hiss or other major audio defects. There are English subtitles.
The video quality was adequate. This TV show was shot on video, but still looks fine. There was some aliasing, but the lines were fairly tight. The colors looked good, with no over-saturating or bleeding.
There were a couple of extras on this disc, which just reinforced my opinion that the creators approached this DVD in the wrong way. The first bonus is Designers and Their Rooms. In this featurette, each designer talks about a room they helped create, and then they show the owners reaction when they are brought it. This was a waste of disc space. It was like showing the last five minutes of a movie, you don't know what went on up to that moment, so you can't appreciate the climax. As I said in the body of the review, the end result isn't the reason that people watch this show.
There are also six minutes of out-takes. While some of these were slightly amusing, I would have appreciated them a lot more if I had seen the show that they were culled from.
While Changing Rooms is a fun show to watch, don't be fooled into thinking that this DVD has the show on it. This is an hour-long clip show that presents some moments from the show's past. Unfortunately this format does not do justice to the show, and we end up with a confusing conglomeration of clips that fails in capturing the interest and enjoyment that the regular show has. Skip it.
1) There is an American version of this show now. Instead of keeping the clever pun "Changing Rooms" as the show's name, they changed it to the decidedly unclever "Trading Spaces." The less said about the American version the better.