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10 Revealing Facts About Trading Spaces

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In 2017, TLC announced that it was reviving the show that put the network on the map: Trading Spaces. The home improvement show was a ratings juggernaut for the network from 2000 to 2008, netting 9 million viewers per episode at its peak.

It succeeded with a simple premise: Two couples would trade houses, each helping an interior designer redecorate a room in the swapped home. They had just 48 hours and a $1000 budget. Then, the new room would be revealed to the homeowners. Some jumped with joy, others cried loudly offscreen. Now, all that drama is set to return this weekend. But before Ty Pennington dusts off his toolbelt, here are 10 fast facts about the original series.

1. IT WAS BASED ON A BBC SHOW.

Trading Spaces shook up both TLC and reality television when it premiered on October 13, 2000. But its concept wasn’t all that revolutionary. It was actually borrowed from the BBC show Changing Rooms, which ran from 1996 through 2004. On Changing Rooms, two couples also swapped homes to complete a quick interior redesign. There was even a breakout carpenter. Ty Pennington’s UK equivalent was “Handy” Andy Kane, who went on to record a super cheesy cover of “If I Had a Hammer.”

2. PAIGE DAVIS WAS NOT THE FIRST HOST.

Although she’s probably the person most associated with Trading Spaces, Paige Davis was not the show’s original host. Alex McLeod hosted the first 40 episodes and earned a Daytime Emmy for her work. But she quit the DIY series to pursue other projects, including Joe Millionaire.

3. THERE WAS A SECRET CARPENTER.

Amy Wynn Pastor and Ty Pennington arrive at the 29th annual Daytime Emmy Awards Creative Arts Presentation May 11, 2002
Sebastian Artz, Getty Images

Besides Davis and its stable of designers, Trading Spaces boasted two other personalities: the carpenters. The originals were Pennington and Amy Wynn Pastor, but the pair weren’t churning out all that woodwork themselves. There was actually a third unseen carpenter, Eddie Barnard. According to Salon, he handled some of the more intensive projects but was billed only as “prop master” in the credits. Pastor felt super guilty about taking credit for his work when she first joined the show. “Every single day at the end of the shoot, I’d say, ‘I’m sorry,’” she recalled.

4. THEY WERE SERIOUS ABOUT KEEPING THE DESIGNS SECRET.

Since Trading Spaces relied on genuine reactions (be they positive or otherwise), the crew took great pains to hide any clues that might tip off the contestants. Good Housekeeping reported that sheets were hung from the windows so no one could sneak a peek inside, and any paint splotches on clothing were covered with duct tape before a producer or crew member went over to the other house.

5. COUPLES WERE ALLOWED TO DESIGNATE “PROTECTED” AREAS.

Although countless angry couples would probably dispute this, executive producer Denise Cramsey told San Francisco Gate that their liability release forms included space to list “protected” areas. That obviously didn’t mean the entire room, but if you specified a door or piece of furniture, the designers allegedly wouldn’t touch it. If the form was blank, all your stuff was fair game.

6. THERE WERE THREE WAYS TO GET DISQUALIFIED.

At the height of its popularity, Trading Spaces got an average of 100 to 200 submissions daily. That meant the producers could afford to be a little choosy, but according to a former contestant, there were only three grounds for disqualification. The first was if the show’s tractor-trailer couldn’t pull up to the house or there wasn’t sufficient space outside for the carpentry. The second was if the owners refused to let the designers alter “many household items like the curtains, cabinets, flooring, or furniture.” The third was if it was more than a two-minute walk between the houses. The crew was constantly doing quick runs between the locations, so if your best friends lived the next neighborhood over, you weren’t getting onto the show.

7. FANS DISCUSSED THE SHOW ON MESSAGE BOARDS AND MADE A DRINKING GAME.

Trading Spaces was popular fodder on the emerging message boards of the early internet. Fans would post about their favorite episodes or defend their preferred designers. They also created a drinking game that included rules to take a drink every time “Ty climbs into cabinetry” or “someone mentions Genevieve’s bare feet.”

8. UNHAPPY COUPLES REDID THEIR ROOMS ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

There’s a whole YouTube category of Trading Spaces “fails” or “hate it reveals” and, unsurprisingly, the homeowners in those clips did not keep their new rooms. Some couldn’t even wait 24 hours. In 2003, The Washington Post reported that Elaine and Bernie Burke ripped the burlap curtain in their redesigned bedroom off the next morning, throwing it in their yard to protect flowers from frost. April Kilstrom and Leslie Hoover had a much harder time: They were the miserable recipients of Hildi Santo-Tomas’s infamous hay room. The designer completely covered the walls of their living room, a space they shared with a toddler and baby, with strands of straw. According to San Francisco Gate, it took the partners and three other adults 17 hours just to strip all the glue.

9. SOME OF THE DESIGNERS STAYED ON TV.

After Trading Spaces ended in 2008, some designers (like Santo-Tomas) faded into relative obscurity. But a few stayed onscreen through new home decorating shows. Vern Yip appeared on HGTV’s Deserving Design and also served as a judge on the same network’s Design Star. Doug Wilson stayed on TLC as the host of Moving Up. Genevieve Gorder became a regular HGTV all-star, with credits including Dear Genevieve, Design Star, and Genevieve’s Renovation under her belt. She’s now a frequent contributor to The Rachael Ray Show.

10. GENEVIEVE GORDER ALSO DESIGNED HER OWN QVC LINE.

Gorder also debuted a QVC bedding line back in 2010. It’s currently unavailable, but you can still find her rugs at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

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NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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Star Wars Premiered 41 Years Ago … and the Reviews Weren’t Always Kind
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

A long time ago (41 years, to be exact) in a galaxy just like this one, George Lucas was about to make cinematic history—whether he knew it or not. On May 25, 1977, moviegoers got their first glimpse of Star Wars, Lucas’s long-simmering space opera that would help define the concept of the Hollywood “blockbuster.” While we're still talking about the film today, and its many sequels and spinoffs (hello, Solo), not every film critic would have guessed just how ingrained into the pop culture fabric Star Wars would become. While it charmed plenty of critics, some of the movie’s original reviews were less than glowing. Here are a few of our favorites (the good, the bad, and the Wookiee):

"Star Wars is a fairy tale, a fantasy, a legend, finding its roots in some of our most popular fictions. The golden robot, lion-faced space pilot, and insecure little computer on wheels must have been suggested by the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. The journey from one end of the galaxy to another is out of countless thousands of space operas. The hardware is from Flash Gordon out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chivalry is from Robin Hood, the heroes are from Westerns and the villains are a cross between Nazis and sorcerers. Star Wars taps the pulp fantasies buried in our memories, and because it's done so brilliantly, it reactivates old thrills, fears, and exhilarations we thought we'd abandoned when we read our last copy of Amazing Stories."

—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Star Wars is not a great movie in that it describes the human condition. It simply is a fun picture that will appeal to those who enjoy Buck Rogers-style adventures. What places it a sizable cut about the routine is its spectacular visual effects, the best since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001Star Wars is a battle between good and evil. The bad guys (led by Peter Cushing and an assistant who looks like a black vinyl-coated frog) control the universe with their dreaded Death Star."

—Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

Star Wars is like getting a box of Cracker Jack which is all prizes. This is the writer-director George Lucas’s own film, subject to no business interference, yet it’s a film that’s totally uninterested in anything that doesn’t connect with the mass audience. There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus. An hour into it, children say that they’re ready to see it again; that’s because it’s an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip. “Star Wars” may be the only movie in which the first time around the surprises are reassuring…. It’s an epic without a dream. But it’s probably the absence of wonder that accounts for the film’s special, huge success. The excitement of those who call it the film of the year goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood."

—Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

"The only way that Star Wars could have been interesting was through its visual imagination and special effects. Both are unexceptional ... I kept looking for an 'edge,' to peer around the corny, solemn comic-book strophes; he was facing them frontally and full. This picture was made for those (particularly males) who carry a portable shrine within them of their adolescence, a chalice of a Self that was Better Then, before the world's affairs or—in any complex way—sex intruded."

—Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

“There’s something depressing about seeing all these impressive cinematic gifts and all this extraordinary technological skills lavished on such puerile materials. Perhaps more important is what this seems to accomplish: the canonization of comic book culture which in turn becomes the triumph of the standardized, the simplistic, mass-produced commercial artifacts of our time. It’s the triumph of camp—that sentiment which takes delight in the awful simply because it’s awful. We enjoyed such stuff as children, but one would think there would come a time when we might put away childish things.”

—Joy Gould Boyum, The Wall Street Journal

Star Wars … is the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made. It’s both an apotheosis of Flash Gordon serials and a witty critique that makes associations with a variety of literature that is nothing if not eclectic: Quo Vadis?, Buck Rogers, Ivanhoe, Superman, The Wizard of Oz, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table … The way definitely not to approach Star Wars, though, is to expect a film of cosmic implications or to footnote it with so many references that one anticipates it as if it were a literary duty. It’s fun and funny.”

—Vincent Canby, The New York Times

"Viewed dispassionately—and of course that’s desperately difficult at this point in time—Star Wars is not an improvement on Mr Lucas’ previous work, except in box-office terms. It isn’t the best film of the year, it isn’t the best science fiction ever to be translated to the screen, it isn’t a number of other things either that sweating critics have tried to turn it into when faced with finding some plausible explanation for its huge and slightly sinister success considering a contracting market. But it is, on the other hand, enormous and exhilarating fun for those who are prepared to settle down in their seats and let it all wash over them.”

—Derek Malcolm, The Guardian

“Strip Star Wars of its often striking images and its high-falutin scientific jargon, and you get a story, characters, and dialogue of overwhelming banality, without even a ‘future’ cast to them. Human beings, anthropoids, or robots, you could probably find them all, more or less like that, in downtown Los Angeles today. Certainly the mentality and values of the movie can be duplicated in third-rate non-science fiction of any place or period. O dull new world!”

—John Simon, New York Magazine

"Star Wars is somewhat grounded by a malfunctioning script and hopelessly infantile dialogue, but from a technical standpoint, it is an absolutely breathtaking achievement. The special effects experts who put Lucas' far-out fantasies on film—everything from a gigantic galactic war machine to a stunningly spectacular World War II imitation dogfight—are Oscar-worthy wizards of the first order. And, for his own part, Lucas displays an incredibly fertile imagination—an almost Fellini-like fascination with bizarre creatures.”

—Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News

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