In season six, Design Star finally fixes its judging: hallelujah

The first episode of Design Star‘s sixth season ended with a surprise: the show has finally started showing the judges’ deliberation, so we know why they are making decisions. It’s a miracle!

That isn’t difficult, but the show has stubbornly refused to show us the judges’ deliberations for years, instead cutting between disconnected footage of the designers and judges’ comments about various designs. But now, new host Tanika Ray (she’s good, but I still miss Clive Pearse) moderates a discussion, asking the judges explicitly about certain designers. We then see footage of their spaces and footage of them while the judges make specific comments. Amazing!

The show has new producers: following the surprising firing of SallyAnn Salsano, producer Mark Burnett took over, but was replaced by Next Food Network Star producer Bob Kirsh and CBS Eye Too Productions. I’ve been saying for years that the show needs to model itself more like its sibling series, which has always been superior, and there’s no better way to make that happen than to hire its producers. The show has also returned to its roots, letting the designers make over their living space as the first challenge.

New mentor David Bromstad isn’t everyone’s favorite personality, but he did a good job of giving advice but not taking over, and seems like a good addition so far. And I’m excited about guest judges joining the panel in future weeks, including, Paula Deen, Nate Berkus, and Dina Manzo (!). If the old judges can loosen up a bit and be critical without being jerks–maybe study footage of Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson?–that will be even better. After one episode, though, the show seems on track to do the near-impossible: improved significantly late in its life.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.