Feeling much more like a Bravo show than something destined to rock NBC’s house, “American Dream Builders” represents a hodgepodge of reality concepts, mixing the feel-good uplift of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” with the cutthroat elimination politicking of “The Apprentice” or “Project Runway.” The modest conceit is that two teams of C-list designers — at least, to those unlikely to swoon at the names Vanessa Deleon or Darren Moore — vie to turn around a home remodel in record time, with one of the losers jettisoned each week. Not surprisingly, there’s lots of boastful bravado and sniping, but even a smidgen of originality, alas, isn’t part of the floor plan.
Hosted by Nate Berkus, the premiere immediately splits the dozen designers and home-builders before setting off at a breakneck pace — redesigning two houses on the same street, where the multiple generations living there have outgrown the space. Frantic from the get-go, the participants spend about half the time racing against the clock and the rest talking to the camera about how fabulous they are.
Beyond Berkus, there are two judges, Monica Pedersen and Eddie George, the latter a former NFL star who (conveniently) now runs a landscaping business. But the actual decision on who “wins” — in a move intended to elicit gasps, apparently — falls to the extended neighborhood, in a sort of “It takes a village to decide if that vanity goes with the tile” flourish.
If there’s one clear miscalculation, it would seem to be the fact the participants are all ostensibly established in their field. This suggests they don’t necessarily need to win to, say, launch their careers, but neither do they possess the built-in name-recognition that would provide any sort of “wow” factor in seeing them in this kind of take-no-prisoners competition.
Notably, NBC is putting the show in the timeslot “Extreme Makeover” once occupied (followed by a couple of new dramas), perhaps hoping viewers won’t notice the difference.
Obviously, there’s a core audience for this genre, but even with NBC’s modest expectations, it would appear to be a longshot to expect “American Dream Builders” to add much to that foundation.
Of course, the designers would no doubt judge a contemporary harshly if he or she proposed a remodeling scheme that exhibited zero imagination. Yet as for assessing their TV show, well, there’s an adage about people who live in glass houses.