Rather than give us a new season of Celebrity Apprentice, NBC works with Nate Berkus on a renovation competition series American Dream Builders. It’s a nightmare.
American Dream Builders, which airs Sundays at 8pm on NBC. The first episode aired March 23.
Twelve designers/renovators are split into teams, each tasked with renovating similar spaces to address common concerns. In the premiere, each team had to renovate a tudor-style house to maximize space for the large family calling it home. This isn’t America’s Next Top Renovator as each contestant has already achieved notoriety in her/his field.
The structure of the show is similar to NBC’s The Apprentice, in that both teams have a task and a
Project Site Manager. Nate Berkus is a known quantity, having hosted a talk show spun-off from the Oprah empire a few years back. Also, the product placement for Southwest and Zillow is about as subtle as the shoutouts for Jennie-O on The Biggest Loser.
American Dream Builders is a renovation show at its core, so you get the joy of a reveal and the oohs and ahhs of seeing new backsplashes and granite countertops.
What Doesn’t Work
Design competitions have a pretty lousy track record (Top Design, HGTV’s Star1) and this show continues that trend. Part of the problem with the genre is that the designers have to take things outside of the clients’ interests into consideration, such as proving they deserve to be there or standing out for the judges. Sure the animal print sofa in the TV nook may be stylish and what’s in now, but is that really the best choice in a house with five kids under the age of 12?
Also, I get the sense that 99.9% of designers are mild-mannered individuals in real life. The dozen knuckleheads they cast for this show all seem to have graduated from one of those How to Be On a Reality Show workshops. Everything everyone says is screechy and fresh out of the reality TV quote generator.2 This is particularly shocking, given that this show has a credited writer prominently displayed in the show’s opening credits.3
American Dream Builders ends up being more about bickering and gamesmanship than renovations or perpetuating the myth of home ownership as the American dream to which everyone should be striving. The twist of having a “neighborhood council” of a hundred or so people evaluating the renovations sounds good on paper, but adds a weird Stepford quality to the proceedings. With all this window dressing, there is not enough time for the viewer to appreciate or evaluate the changes. Pass.