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Spotlight on: Trading Spaces

Oct 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

When you see carloads of screaming fans parked outside the house of your television star, you’ve got a hit. When your star is a home designer, you’ve got a bizarre phenomenon.
What the screaming is all about is TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” launched in fall 2000. It was originally intended to be the bridge from the network’s early-afternoon female viewership to a larger male audience later in the day.
The former fringe show vaulted to a Saturday night prime-time position in October 2001 and has driven the network’s recent ratings success. “It’s a huge help and it’s boosted our ratings in almost every category and demo,” said Roger Marmet, acting general manager and VP, programming, for TLC. “It gives great momentum to the rest of the schedule.”
The show succeeds because of its simple and innovative format-two neighbors trade rooms in each other’s homes and spend $1,000 in 48 hours to redo the rooms. “It turned the [how-to] genre on its head. How-to programming was done in a very linear way,” he said. The success has inspired the network to launch another new lifestyle show in the first quarter of 2003 called “Faking It.”
`’Trading Spaces” has elements of a successful drama-distinct rules, strong characters and conflict, said Stephen Schwartz, executive producer for the show. In addition, it has benefited from the cocooning zeitgeist of the time. “I think it touched on a lot of things, with people spending more time at home, and the general instinct is to make your nest a little better,” he said.
While the show is a cable success, it probably wouldn’t make it on broadcast, Mr. Schwartz said. “It’s a risky thing because it is unusual and not too many things are that different on broadcast TV. Cable is a more accepting place,” he said.