Like most new BBC television programs, Design for Life takes its name from a 90s pop song. The Manics, durrr. Like ‘Life of Riley‘ and, erm, I’m sure there is something else… well unlike most Caroline Quentin vehicles, Design for Life isn’t shit.
As is the norm now for most new BBC television programs, it takes about 7 minutes to get started. Those first 7 minutes of the show are catching up, explaining what happened in the previous episode. In this day of Sky+, HDD recorders and (more importantly) iPlayer, is this necessary? I know it makes the show cheaper to make, but for crying out loud. Just make it a little shorter if you’re going to piss around so much.
It’s shot beautifully well and we get to see plenty of the beautiful bits of Paris, as apposed to the hours and hours of shots of that bloody Gerkin thing in London that anyone who watches the Apprentice has forced upon them. When talking about this show, I’m going to compare it to the Apprentice, because the similarities are obvious (and I’m lazy). It features a team of designers (business men?) who fight to show they are the best designer (most shouty business man?) to prove they can work with designer extraordinaire, Philipee Stark (Suralun?).
Participant Nebil is the most ‘Apprentice like’, because he patronizes everyone he gets to talk to. This probably is an attempt to look better than everyone else but at least he does know his shit. I’m sure that to anyone who actually has their design game-face on, his “let me just explain this too you, thicko” tone will probably make him look like a bit of a dick. Still, he gets a lot of screen time because he has a lot to say and even his dick-ishness is minor compared with the mega-cocks that rut around in any given episode of the Apprentice. He gets his come-upance tho, which is another reason why I love this show. It’s obvious that the shows producers set him off against the other stand-out, Ilsa, because she’s got a pretty good set of claws and will bite back.
I guess a large part of the show will boil down to “do you like Philipee Stark”. I do. Him and his bloody chairs, or whatever the hell he’s supposed to be most famous for. He’s pretentious, but y’know he’s a brilliant designer so he can afford to be and after all, this is design. You’re supposed to be pretentious. He also dismisses the participants easily, based on some seemingly whimsical idea he has. Again: he’s a designer. I’ve had designers happily shit on my ideas in the past and non of them were exactly Phillipee Stark. At least when he drops people he’s really nice about it. I’d love to be sacked by him. None of this catch-phrase “You’re fired” crap. I also like his attitude towards ‘wasteful’ design. He’s green without being sickly. Personally Alan Sugar really gets on my tits because turned Amstrad into crap (I love my old CPC6128) and I tire of his attitude and his stupid Labour ‘business-tzar’ beard.
Further contrasts to the Apprentice are easy to highlight. The participants are young, attractive and probably smell quite good. They are also very, very white. And middle class uni-graduates. They actually get very visibly nervous, which makes you feel a little more sympathetic. Hell, in the 2nd episode one of the participants has a genuinely great idea: Polly and her water-level meter. What have the Apprentice chimps ever done, but chuck crap at each other? Design for Life actually talks about design. Pitching, ideas, briefs, presentations and all the bullshit in-between. That’s some real genuine content from the BBC.
The show is at 9.00pm on BBC 2, Mondays but you can follow the show here, on iPlayer.
As an aside; it’s narrated by Adam ‘Adam + Joe’ Buxton. I look forward to the DVD release where Joe does a funny-man voice-over.