Jersey Shore: South Laurel Drive

November 11, 2003 AD*

(*Date of rant, not episode. Offer not valid in Topeka.)

It's all in the wrist. Paige, wearing a Miss America-style sash (that reads "Miss Trading Spaces" - wait 'til the judges find out she's married) is sitting in the back of a car, waving to a nonexistent throng of parade watchers. Okay, so she's doing a beauty queen impersonation....

Except her frumpy dress, wrist-only wave, and British driver remind me more of the Queen of England. Okay, so she's doing a queen regnant impersonation. Beauty queen regnant? I'm confused. (A regular state of affairs.)

British driver, you ask? Yep, because it's Handy Andy, carpenter from Trading Spaces' British parent - yes, Laurie, parent - Changing Rooms. Diva Doug and Handy Andy. This'll be a fun episode.

You've gotta love Handy Andy. If only just for the name. He's even listed in the credits like that!

Parade of homeowners: Steve and Joanne want their (unmemorable) sunroom/kitchenette more unified - there's an island (affixed to the wall) in the middle that cuts the room off something nasty. They also want it made more elegant. Hope you're not getting Frank, then.

Rick and Cindy want their kitchen improved. I suggest dynamite. It has the ugliest hodgepodge of brown items that I've ever seen. Ugly brown backsplash that looks like chipboard with delusions of grandeur, uglier brown carpet that looks like a Chex factory exploded.... Ewwww.

Parade of Horrors: Doug and Frank are introduced taking a cute and mildly unsettling little ride in a pushcart thingy, presumably one of the more touristy things to do in Atlantic City that doesn't involve losing your life savings. The person pushing it doesn't look thrilled with the effort it takes to push a couple of designers instead of a young couple. Though the real horror comes when Paige refers to Doug as "Mr. Congeniality" and Frank as "our favorite swimsuit competitor". Oh, man, I want to drive a hot poker into my mind's eye now.

Let the gags begin! During the key swap, the designers appear and bemoan their lack of a carpenter. As if summoned by the words, Handy Andy zooms onto the scene and Frank says "He's driving on the wrong side of the street!" Funny British accent comment in 5... 4... 3... 2...

After Andy's first line, Paige asks: "What did he say?"

Dougblatter Beast: Never one to let a gag die a graceful death, Doug asks Andy what Andy's Great Design Vision for the room is. Andy, rather reasonably, doesn't have one. He says so. Doug responds with "English please, what did you say?" Doug seems to forget that it was, quite literally, English.

(I'm reminded of the joke response to the question "Do you speak English?": English, yes! American, no!)

Doug follows this up by speaking slowly, overpronouncing his words as if it's Andy who can't understand Doug, not vice versa.

Excuse me, I need to consult my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, conveniently placed under this towel. (Reads.) Did you know that the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is so stupid that if you can't see it, it thinks it can't see you?

So I guess that means that Doug's either part Bugblatter Beast or, well, part stupid. Your votes, please.

Handy Andy, not one to be patronized, fakes punching Doug in the face. Throngs of audience members wish he didn't fake it.

Further proving that he's going to be the manliest man on the set, Andy grabs hold of the built-in island and begins to rip it out.

Same page, different books. Joanne, when asked by Frank what her Great Design Vision is, parrots what Rick and Cindy said in the opening - Mediterranean. Frank claims they're on the same page, then says he's taking the ugliest elements of the room - the Evil Chex carpet and the psycho pseudo chipboard backsplash - and building the room around it. So I guess the Mediterranean is a lot of ugly shades of brown these days.

Forgive me, a peon ignorant in the ways of design, but if you design a room around two ugly elements, aren't you gonna end up with an ugly room?

Tell it to Laurie: Frank talks about how "eclectic" is a catch-all word designers use meaning whatever the designer wants it to. That explains Laurie "elegant but eclectic" Smith pretty well.

Queen Paige I survives an assassination attempt: As Doug and his entourage remove the tile flooring, Paige walks in. Her sandal likes the subfloor so much that it stays there while she keeps going. She recovers without stumbling too badly, though, so no harm done. I'll hand it to the previous builders, they used glue that lasted.

Doug, incidentally, is really turning the screws on his homeowners (Rick and Cindy). He keeps mentioning their kitchen and Frank's plans repeatedly, though he never goes so far as to explain what the plans are. Man, before this is over Cindy might well regret her "I can't wait to work with Doug." comment just after the key swap. Doug is evil.

Oh, I get it. Editing. Frank does his paint reveal. Orangey, brown, and orangey-brown. Oh, ewwww. Frank explains how all those colors are in the psycho Chex carpet.

Through the magic of editing, we cut to Paige talking to the carpet's owners about how ugly it is. I think Paige knows what's going on and is rubbing it in, getting their hopes up for the reveal, all in an attempt to wrest the title of Evilest Cast Member of the Episode from Doug.

Doug then says he'd keep the backsplash and carpet if it were him, which is exactly what Frank's doing! The reaction from the homeowners is suitably poor. And with a few simple words, Doug snatches back his Evilest Cast Member crown from Paige's feeble clutches.

Pssst! Frank! You're not supposed to be able to understand him! Frank finds Handy Andy in wonder at the tools around. They have a long discussion, and understand each other perfectly.

Rebellion! Burn an effigy of Doug! Better yet, burn Doug! Cindy is convincing her hubby to help her dull down Doug's almost day-glow yellow paint choice for the walls. You'd hear the hissy fit from here.

On tonight's Real World: Atlantic City, Frank has issues with Doug being on the $100,000 episode: when Paige realizes, to her great disappointment, that Frank is keeping the carpet, she asks why. Frank says "Because we only have two days and a thousand dollars! I'm taking the least attractive elements in this room and doing the whole room around them."

It sounds even worse the second time around. Paige looks like she could only be less convinced of Frank's words if he had said "I'm Superman! I'm going to jump off the roof and fly!"

Then they show the ceiling, which Frank is also keeping. Someone I know, when she was a child, got the notion that the water stains on a ceiling were really caused by the decaying bodies of rats in the ceiling. This culminated in such events as saying, to her mom upon seeing a water stain, "Mommy! Another rat died!"

Well, she would've had a field day with the ceiling Frank's keeping. Looks like an NYC dumpster's worth of rats died in the ceiling.

Later, Paige sits on the other side of the waist-high partition between the kitchen and the solarium and puts on an impromptu puppet show in which she (her right hand) gets in an argument with Frank (her left hand) over the design. It ends with the two fighting and what looks like Frank consuming Paige's entire body. No wonder he's got a bit of a tummy.

Rebellion! Burn an effigy of Frank! Wait, why's Frank the one lighting it? Frank's homeowners want to swap the ugly orangey-brown paint for the brown paint, so the orangey is the wall color, not the highlight color, and vice-versa. It's a very civil rebellion, because Frank agrees with them.

Oh, I get it. More editing. Rick tells Cindy he wants new countertops. Cut to Frank, who's talking about new countertops. Paige mocks him for not changing the carpet, but changing the countertops. Paige's attempts at evil would be endearing if they weren't entirely lacking in evilness. That's probably why she goes back to "perky" and "silly" territory - her beloved homes - for the commercial bumper. She does the classic going-down-stairs-that-don't-exist behind-the-partition gag. Does it well, too.

Oh, I get it. More sight gags. In a similar vein, Paige trips over nothing when going back to the spot in Doug's room where lost her sandal before.

Doug has his charges sanding the adhesive off the floor. "We're not sanding the adhesive off, we're just sanding the grass and all the things that have stuck to it." I'd think that would require sanding off the adhesive.

The world's oldest point-and-click interface: Handy Andy introduces Joanne to a nail gun. She tries to use it repeatedly with Andy's patient tutelage and fails to trigger it. To confirm it's not broken, Andy tries it and succeeds, first shot. Six or so tries later, Joanne still can't do it. Andy admits his faith in Joanne was misplaced. He goes to find some painting for her to do.

The Joy of Franking: Frank and Steve are doing some artsy painting for the room. Ah, I remember Frank's days on TNN, back when it was The Nashville Network. He'd be on right before Crook and Chase, and him and some woman would paint plants and folksy wild creatures on stuff to their heart's content. And they'd do other craftish things. Ah, those were simpler days. Happier days. Though it's nice to see Frank's still painting stuff. Even if it's in other people's homes. It's not mine, he can do all the crafts he wants. Personally, I think the word "craft" appeared when someone's poor handwriting was misread and the "p" was turned into an "ft". Ah, the wonder of craft....

Gag. Gag. Gag. Doug and Andy have been clashing a good bit this episode (and for every scene like that, there's been one where Frank and Andy have been getting along famously), but now we have fun. Doug apparently didn't get enough wood to make the table he wants. Unable to respond to Andy's accusations of budgetary incompetence in any deep or methodical way, just makes fun of Andy's accent.

I wonder what the world would be like if JFK and Khrushchev had done that during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

During their dispute, we cut away a few times to see Frank and Steve discuss travelling and the wonders of good international relations.

Back at the argument, Andy deftly ripostes one of Doug's lamer comments and Doug rolls his eyes and sighs. Andy mimics Doug's sigh and says "It's going to be handbags in a minute, isn't it dear?" Doug, his evil nature appreciating the sharpness of the comment and filing it away for later use on a really effeminate homeowner, just laughs. If this were Jerry Springer, this would devolve into a fistfight around now.

I only mention Jerry Springer because I read a news article (of debatable veracity) where, seeing Jerry Springer as negative, prison officials stopped the prisoners with TVs from being able to tune it in. So they watched shows like Trading Spaces instead. For some reason this frightened the living daylights out of me; think of the disturbing fan mail and homeowner applications that are going to start coming in to TLC. "Me and my bitch just got out of the state pen, where we spent the last 10 years after committing several felonies each. We'd really like to be on your show, because our bedroom's gray and we're kinda sick of that color. We'll work with any designer, but if Doug and his 'Prison of Love' goes near our room we'll mail him back to you in fifty or so Ziploc baggies."

Oh, I get it. More damn editing. Okay, Cindy not wanting the cabinets painted while Frank is painting the cabinets. We... get... the... picture.

Water, water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink.... Andy and Steve are attempting to turn off the water so they can remove the sink so they can put the new countertop in. A task made more difficult by the lack of shutoff under the sink. So they check the hot water heater.

It's also not near the hot water heater.

Next stop: Under the house. Steve sees a "camel cricket". Handy Andy decides to get handy away from the crickets. Ah, now we know his weakness. Good thing this isn't a Florida-filmed episode. They have freakish flying roaches and giant waterbugs that occasionally carry off small children.

Under the house, there's no shutoff. Frank calls in the water company. He'd better mention the show, else they won't be there until Day 10.

Cindy takes on the reigning Evilest Cast Member: Joanne mentioned that Cindy was ready for Doug. She really was. She sees Doug's latest fabric creation, which looks like he ripped it from a semaphore flag set. "What is that? You didn't pay for that, did you?"

Doug: "No, I made it!"

Cindy gasps and says "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" Well, since everything Doug brought he either paid for or made, I can't see how she expected her comment to be anything but insulting. Good girl. You deserve a cookie.

Doug, in retaliation, talks of troubles in Frank's redesign work. Ah, a day with Doug not being a bastard is like a day without a rain of blood and fire.

Homework: Doug's slaves will be putting two coats of white paint on the floor, followed by touching up everything, and getting rid of the ceiling fan, of course.

Frank's people will be painting cabinets and glazing the ceiling.

Day 2 (of the Waterworks adventure): Doug greets his homeowners by showing them people digging up their yard.

Andy, watching Steve and Water Guy work on digging up the water line, mentions that this is ultimately a good thing because, if there was any watery problems in the house, they'd never get the line shut off.

Okay, so they dig the hole and turn off the water, right? Uhh, no. Water Guy, looking like he'd rather be somewhere far away from the Paige Cam, talks about how the roots of a nearby tree have grown over the pipe. Steve attacks the roots with a ball-peen hammer. Andy looks at the water line map Water Guy has, and reads off it: "Date tapped - Is that forty-seven? Yeah? - nineteen forty seven! It's good to see you guys are on the ball!"

Water Guy just says "Yep." with what sounds like discomfort. My stint at EDS Canada had me taking the brunt of responsibility for other people's screwups on a regular basis, so I feel his pain.

Then, they can't find the curb box they've been digging for. So they have to call for a machine. I feel more pain.

Frank and Andy decided to just stick the countertop in in two pieces. Not what they want, but it's the only option they have now.

Pneumatics declared superior to humans. Film at eleven: Frank (no experience) and Joanne (only bad experiences) are trapped with a nailgun. But the stars have moved out of alignment, and the gun now works for Joanne.

Elsewhere, Andy uses one with great skill, showing Rick how to nail some trim-like thing onto his carpentry work. He then exploits the stereotype and takes a break for tea. When he gets back, Rick nailed the stuff on... backwards. The great thing about technology is that it allows you to make more mistakes faster.

Frankie Goes to Craftywood: As if the water line root misadventure wasn't enough plant fun, Paige and Frank are drawing leaves and branches and vines on the ceiling.

Meanwhile, Doug tries his hand at doing some abstract paintings, a nice way of saying he can't even do folk art like Frank. He leaves Rick and Cindy to finish. Since they didn't screw with the wall paint color, they just screw with the painting paint color.

Chat, reveal, look and squeal: The best thing (in my opinion) about Frank's room is, as he said, that they know the water main cutoff is effectively nonexistent. Final price: $995.81.

Cindy and Rick love it, mostly for the parts they wanted - new hardware for the doors, new countertops, etc. Though they love the solarium, which they didn't seem to expect any work on, including the plant effect on the ceiling.

Doug, thanks to not using a rug he bought, is at $967.72. Of course, Doug gets in a comment on Handy Andy's accent.

Steve and Joanne act neutral. The missing island is their favorite part, it seems. Joanne keeps mentioning that the day glow room will grow on her. I wonder when I hear that phrase. Last thing that grew on me was malignant and had to be surgically removed.

Final Diagnosis: Keeping with my habit of hating everything done on this show....

I think Frank's room ended up just about like I figured it would. If you set out to design a room around its ugliest elements, you wind up with an ugly room. Granted, it was a more unified ugly once he was done with it, but that's like putting a paint job on an Edsel with a rusted-out engine and one tire. It might have some saving grace, but it's still an Edsel.

Doug's, well, looks like someone who wanted to make a set for a sailor movie, but whose main experience with sailors was seeing the kid on the Cracker Jack box. Yellow walls, semaphore pattern table covering, vertical yellow and horizontal blue stripes on the cushions.... Admittedly the floor and the rug, in and of themselves, don't look that bad. It's everything above that....

Go back! Back I say!

Beat a hasty retreat to the main page.
Run along home.

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