Shaking Up "Trading Spaces"
by Joal Ryan
Jul 2, 2003, 8:25 AM PT
Meet the next remodel candidate for Trading Spaces: Trading Spaces.
The Learning Channel is looking to "reinvent" its signature reality series as ratings for the nail gun-wielding home makeover show fall through the roof.
"We've got to reinvent the show, and clearly we should've done it a little bit sooner," TLC executive Roger Marmont said in Daily Variety this week.
No details from the cable network on exactly how the show will be tweaked--or "evolve[d]" in TVspeak--in time for its fifth season, kicking off in October. TLC spokesman Dan Halcombe did allow that more cast members likely will be added to the show's ranks of designers, carpenters and all-around handy people.
The changes come as ratings for Trading Spaces were off some 50 percent from April-June as compared to the same time period last year, per Variety. The drop dropped TLC from the ninth-most watched basic cable network to the 16th.
TV historian Tim Brooks called the slide "pretty dramatic."
Trading Spaces, the American-ized version of British TV's Changing Rooms, premiered on TLC in October 2000, offering its first set of neighbors $1,000 and two days to go crazy with each other's respective domiciles.
While Trading Spaces has been oft-imitated, inspiring everything from unofficial knockoffs such as ABC Family's teen-oriented Knock First to official franchisees such as NBC's kid-oriented Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls, Brooks said it's unusual for the original breakout show to fall so hard, so fast.
"It's the clones that start to fall apart," said Brooks, coauthor of The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows.
Brooks thinks something else is plaguing Trading Spaces: overexposure.
According to Variety, TLC "went bananas" with its hit show, airing 250 episodes over the course of the last three months. That's up from the 156 it ran for the same time last year, and the 50 that Brooks said is a doable number for a 13-week period.
"You can repeat it, but you can't repeat it like that," said Brooks of the 250-episode stat.
TLC's Halcombe said there is no plan for the network to wean itself off of mega-doses of Trading Spaces.
"We felt we responded to viewer demand," Halcombe said.
For now, all systems are go at Trading central. Shooting on the fourth season wrapped June 17. New episodes should continue to air through July.
Perky host Paige Davis is using her summer hiatus to get out of the house and onto Broadway in Chicago. (She began her run June 22.) Halcombe said she'll be back for season five. Designer Vern Yip won't. Much as Trading carpenter Ty Pennington traded up for a broadcast network gig with ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Yip has nailed a deal with NBC to host a show called Design Intervention.
Brooks doesn't think Trading's revolving cast door will harm the show, nor does he think its eroded ratings are beyond repair.
"The name Trading Spaces signifies something because it was the first," Brooks said. "My guess is that people don't dislike it, but that it's not the hot thing anymore."
Sort of like shag carpet.