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Who are TV's ultimate design duos? A (not) definitive dissection. Plus, 'The Walking Dead' returns

Let’s spring into this week’s TV OT.

Designing women (and men)

The home improvement programming boom may have started with the likes of the Property Brothers and shiplap savants Chip and Joanna Gaines, but there seems to be more faces than ever who are aiming to be the next kings and queens of renovation nation. The question: Is there any pair worthy of unseating our reigning design duos?
Since a good ole fashion cage match seems out of the question, we’ll have to discuss this like civilized people with some totally unscientific rankings unilaterally decided by someone whose design aesthetic is best described as “this slightly broken thing I found at Home Goods.” So, an expert.
  • This is not an exhaustive list in that not every design duo on TV is listed, and I have not seen every episode of the shows featured below. Who has that kind of time? I’ve settled on the arbitrary number eight.
  • This list only includes people who appear on shows as a duo, which is why you don’t see my beloved Bobby Berk on this list.
  • Power rankings subject to change whenever I feel like it, and no one’s appearance on this list should be considered an endorsement of them personally. (You never know who’s going to be problematic next.)
8) Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack (“Flip or Flop”) – Separate the art from the artist, some people say. Those people are not me. The ratings for this long-running show might indicate people are very into decoding the drama between these exes on screen and to each their own. Me? Reading about toxic behavior off-screen makes me sad, and I watch these shows to lean into a happy escape. I much prefer Haack’s solo show.
7) Mina Starsiak Hawk and Karen E. Laine (“Good Bones”) – This mother-daughter duo tend to remake smaller homes — as opposed to Southern mini-mansions — and I so appreciate that. Minor demotion on this list for occasional questionable design choices. They once used a bunch of mismatched doors as a wall and the result was more “Monsters Inc.” than chic.
6) Ben and Erin Napier (“Home Town”) – I wish this sweet-seeming, folksy pair were my neighbors — but they wouldn’t necessarily be my choice renovators. Our styles just don’t match up, and that’s ok. I just remember an episode made me so irate, I looked it up later online, screengrabbed all the things that annoyed me (e.g a white spray-painted wrought iron chandelier) and texted them to my sisters. (Clearly, this Petty LaBelle was drinking a hater-ade cocktail that night.) Look, I am not always my best self.
5) Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis (“Unsellable Houses”) – Thanks to my mom for reminding me this show exists, and we enjoy it. I admittedly haven’t watched this pair as much as I’ve seen some the others, but what I have seen, I liked. They have a lot of range in their style offerings.
4) Jonathan and Drew Scott (“Property Brothers,” “Celebrity I.O.U.”) – It’s hard to rank these home improvement OGs any lower than this because you must respect those who helped build a genre. That said, one of my pet peeves is when homes for families are styled with furniture that is not family friendly — things with sharp corners or impossible-to-clean textures. (Enjoy your suede couch for the five minutes it’ll be clean.) It just sets everyone up for disappointment. Sometimes, these well-meaning dudes miss the details.
April Brown and Sarah Sklash from "Motel Makeover" assess the work ahead in an episode of the Netflix show.April Brown and Sarah Sklash from "Motel Makeover" assess the work ahead in an episode of the Netflix show.
3) April Brown and Sarah Sklash (“Motel Makeover”) – These ladies aren’t remaking homes on their new Netflix series but my guess it’s only a matter of time until the women I’m now dubbing the Terracotta Motel Warriors (when you watch, you’ll understand why) enter that phase. This show, premiering August 25, follows them as they put life back into a motel — much like they did with their very popular June Motel — using neon signs, sunset paint colors and a lot of grit as the contend with the start of the pandemic. I watched it one sitting and can’t want to see more from these female entrepreneurs. Also, someone needs to immediately greenlight a spin-off with their man-of-few-words contractor, Rick, who is low-key hilarious. (One of the best lines was his review of his first-ever glass of rosé. “That’s freakin’ horrible.”)
2) Dave and Jenny Marrs (“Fixer to Fabulous”) – Nothing kills me more than when renovators take an older house with character and turn it into an all-white asylum. This couple does a good job of keeping the unique aspects of older homes intact while renovating, and my gut tells me they’d do even more if they didn’t often have modern-leaning clients to answer to.
1) Chip and Joanna Gaines (Magnolia Network) – Did you really think I was going to unseat the king and queen of aspirational alley? Never. Yes, I’m as over the modern farmhouse look as everyone else, but if you’ve watched their new show, “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home,” you’d know this pair has evolved a lot since that 2017 repeat you watched the other day. The brand seems to have entered a new era that trends away from the grey boxes and plays much more with textures and tones. Oh, but this era still has shiplap. You gotta have shiplap.

A ‘Dead’ stop? Not so fast

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in 'The Walking Dead.'Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in 'The Walking Dead.'
CNN’s Brian Lowry has a dispatch on the final season of “The Walking Dead.” He reports:
“‘The Walking Dead’ kicks off its 11th and final season on Sunday, but if you’re thinking about what you’re going to wear to the finale party, don’t fret, there’s still plenty of time.
The super-sized season will actually consist of 24 episodes, offering a long time to build up toward some type of conclusion in 2022, even though it really won’t be, since various spinoffs continue and another one has already been announced by AMC.
The first two episodes don’t exhibit much sense yet of building toward anything major, though they do present a nice mix of the key characters, with much of the tension predicated on the relationship between Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who is pretty convinced that she’ll kill him the first chance she gets.
‘The Walking Dead’ has been such a staple of AMC’s lineup that it’s understandable the network wouldn’t be in any hurry to part with it. Still, for all the hoopla about this being the final season, like the show’s endless supply of zombies, it’s going to be a long, slow shamble toward the exit.”

All hail the King?

For the Stephen King completists, Lowry also had this to say on “Chapelwaite”:
“Having watched a seemingly endless stream of Stephen King adaptations — which understandably picked up after ‘It’ — there’s a certain fatigue built into the process. Yet even with that it’s hard to gin up much enthusiasm for ‘Chapelwaite,’ a series based on King’s ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ premiering Aug. 22 on Epix.
Set in the 1850s, Adrien Brody stars (and also produced the miniseries) as a widowed father of three who moves into the family’s creepy ancestral home, where expectedly creepy things begin to happen.
Exceptionally bleak, the show wins some points for its gothic look and atmosphere. But amid a glut of King adaptations that recently include Apple TV+’s ‘Lisey’s Story,’ and after previewing the first couple hours, if you have the courage for 10 episodes of this, you’re either a really big fan of the author or made of sterner stuff than I am.”

Non-fiction files

Spike LeeSpike Lee
One more from Lowry, who basically has a doctorate in watching documentaries:
“HBO has essentially given Spike Lee an open lane to riff on New York City and the unfolding crises that it has faced throughout this century in ‘NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½,’ a scattered portrait in its first two chapters of the Covid response and the Black Lives Matter movement, featuring interviews with a vast and varied assortment of New York residents. That list includes Mayor Bill de Blasio, who Lee presses about his relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Not surprisingly, Lee — who occasionally provides his own comments, in addition to conducting hundreds of interviews — works in blistering commentary about former President Trump (whom he refers to as ‘Agent Orange’), but Cuomo doesn’t fare much better. The politicos interviewed include former New York governors, among them George Pataki, who refers to the arc of Rudy Giuliani’s career as ‘sad.’
Premiering Sunday, the first two installments are frankly a little all over the place, as Lee tends to do with his documentaries, weaving in a dizzying assortment of (some peripherally related) topics. The third, by contrast, focuses squarely on the Sept. 11 attacks, with the last of the four two-hour chapters to play on the 20th anniversary of those events.”

Paw-somely uplifting

Cesar Millan, seen here attending the premiere party for his new National Geographic series, is back to his old tricks (of teaching tricks) in "Cesar Millan: Better Human Better Dog."Cesar Millan, seen here attending the premiere party for his new National Geographic series, is back to his old tricks (of teaching tricks) in "Cesar Millan: Better Human Better Dog."
This week, I attempted to treat my “White Lotus” hangover with the literal hair of the dog and watched Cesar Milan’s new show, “Better Human, Better Dog.” In the series Milan — known to many for his old program “Dog Whisperer” — attempts to draw a line between people’s own emotions and hang-ups and their misbehaving pets.
While admitting that this show marries my two favorite subjects — dogs and myself — I’ll say the series satisfies the hunger for something warm and fuzzy in the same way “Great British Bake-Off” or “Queer Eye” does. And just like those shows inspire you briefly to try something new or better yourself, this one will do the same — even though you’ll eventually go back to bribing your unsocialized pandemic pooch with Pringles to behave when visitors come over.

Should watch/Will watch

Sandra Oh in 'The Chair.'Sandra Oh in 'The Chair.'
It’s a dilemma I deal with every weekend so I’m sharing it with you:
I know I should watch “The Chair” because Twitter is going to be talking about it and ruin the best parts for me if I don’t zoom through it.
I’ll probably double feature “My Girl” and “My Girl 2,” which I didn’t realize were now streaming on Netflix, and your girl loves a good cry.
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