Top Design

When it comes to Reality TV competitions, it helps having an end-point.

Australian Idol‘s winner went on to recording contracts, Australia’s Next Top Model wins representation, MasterChef wins a publishing deal and The Biggest Loser champ gets a new body. Others such as Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Block, Beauty and the Geek really don’t win much more than cash.

I’m still trying to work out what you get for winning Dancing with Stars -a new show on Channel Seven perhaps? And let’s not even talk about Australia’s Perfect Couple.

For Top Design the winner gets $100,000, and presumably elevates their profile for career opportunities.

Based on a US format, Top Design brings together a group of 10 creative types of varying backgrounds: interior design, architecture, art, graphic design, fashion and more. Unlike some Nine series, the ten selected bring some diversity: three of them are aged over the aged of 40 and yes, one has an Asian background.

Host Jamie Durie talks up the series in his opening introduction in front of the Sydney Opera House. Every phrase. Has a new angle. Even before. He finishes his sentence.

Gee, this must be important.

The 10 are assembled in a shipping yard where they learn their first challenge is to turn a barren shipping container into a home. Durie even tells us they can double as “innovative and affordable housing.” For who, people smugglers?

Mack trucks transport them to Middle Head where empty containers await them before a more picturesque (and very windy) Sydney Harbour backdrop. The teams dream up all sorts of wild concoctions of how to turn a dull steel box into something warm and inviting.

Along the way we see the obligatory product placement when one member from the team goes shopping and phones their partner back on site (maybe they should call the guys at The Block?), and there are monologues to camera to highlight their reactions, as part of the storytelling. The more the show goes on, the more it feels like it has borrowed a little from every other renovation or Reality show that is out there.

It remains to be seen whether following on from The Block works for or against the show. At this stage it doesn’t feel like there is enough point of difference in either its aspiration or storytelling to justify sitting through back to back shows. In some ways I wish I could restore Nine’s universe and just put Jamie back on The Block where he fitted snugly into a good format.

The Block also has the advantage of reflecting the audience’s lifestyle. It’s about renovating property. Top Design aspires to extreme challenges rather than suburban dreams.

There are two judges joining Durie, Design Critic Amanda Talbot and Architect Nick Tobias, who grill the contestants. The interior set used for the elimination sequence could do with a makeover itself. We may have a contender for the cheapest set on telly.

No matter how inventive these transformations are (and to be fair, they are inventive), it’s hard not see them as mutton dressed up as lamb. Who would live in these shipping containers? They don’t even have a bathroom.

On the other hand, if Jamie had shouted “Surprise, you’re on Candid Camera” at them after it was all over I would have totally bought it.

Top Design airs 8pm Wednesday on Nine.


  1. This was the most boring program I have ever seen in my life, well almost! Jamie Durie or is that monotone king, please Jamie put some life into your pieces to camera and your narration, it sounds like you are bored to be doing the gig and therefore I was bored also. The winners of the challenge didn’t even know they had won it, there was no build up, no nothing, please producers, liven this up before next weeks episode.

  2. KC: Yes you have the right to disagree with me. But your attack, submitted anonymously without your full name, is better when you stick to disagreeing with the content of my review rather than getting personal (how do you know how boring I am or am not?).

    If there are incorrect facts I am happy for you to point them out. I noted one contestant of Asian appearance, I didn’t reference other reality shows in this context, so the ‘fact’ isn’t incorrect, it just isn’t couched in the way you would have preferred. For the record it was a positive comment, given there had been questions about diversity on The Block.

    Top Design’s first episode didn’t grab me but at the end of the day I am but one opinion. . And me not creative? I could point you to a rather glowing review of my creativity in Variety (and several other publications of note) but let’s not go there. I’m glad you enjoyed the show

  3. I seriously don’t think you know what you are talking about, top design is inventive clever and different. Everyone on this planet is different and has different taste, not everyone is as boring as you and want the same boring design. Your article is very arrogant and has no depth because you probably don’t know what design is. You probably have no talent or creative aspect in you at all, so seriously if you have the rights to criticise, i have the right to criticise your article. And that is why you are here writing these cheap articles, while the real journalist are out there doing big story. Your comment about the asian finally appear on channel is pretty lame and show how clueless you are, if you have watched home made on channel Nine and other show they have asian in there, so get your fact right before you make a statement like that.

  4. With it being a once a week show, I will give the first night a look and decide after that. Nightly ones like The Block and The Renovators don’t interest me.

  5. @MuchoTB:
    lol 🙂

    Actually when I saw they had to renovate a shipping container I Googled some fantastic designs in Europe. Probably the best was by the Dutch in Keetwonen. They’ve created thousands of comfortable self contained units for students, all with polished hard wood floors (as the containers already have hard wood floors) a private bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and private balcony! Unfortunately, this show doesn’t look anywhere near that innovative.

  6. Of course people should still give it a go, why should 1 persons review stop you from watching a show? I realise David is smart but hes not necessarily right, just like the many film reviewers that right off decent movies.

  7. great report David

    nine wont learn will they top gear 2.5 men the big bang theory and now they have having 2 renovation shows on if they had any sense at all they would have put this on later in the year afer the block had finished

  8. “The 10 are assembled in a shipping yard where they learn their first challenge is to turn a barren shipping container into a home. Durie even tells us they can double as “innovative and affordable housing.” For who, people smugglers?”


  9. Haha! Good review and it made me laugh. I won’t be able to watch this as it clashes with Masterchef and at the moment I can’t see a repeat of Top Design on a Sunday or on GEM which is a shame as I would of watched it then.

    I do think they should of rested Top Design and wait for The Block to finish.

  10. So are there just two shipping containers and the contestants split into two teams? But each contestant has to ‘leave their mark’ on the container? If not, it’s already marginally better than every other interior design ‘reality’ show around.

    From US Top Design to Mark Burnett’s disaster, noone has yet managed to get the interior design show right.

  11. Hey David…you don’t sound too impressed with this show. As a stand alone show in the first half of the year it may well have been ok. But to follow on from the Block on a Wednesday night, not long before The Renovators starts, well thats just lacking in imagination or intelligence. The ch9 programmers strike again!!!!

  12. OMG how many more of these damn “renovation” shows does Nine expect people to love? Doesn’t anyone at Nine have an original idea these days? I know, let’s do a cooking contest.

  13. A least the shipping container challenge seems to have some disgn and renovation skill, the first week challenge in the block some contestants seemed to win by painting a wall and buying a completed bedroom set off the showroom floor

  14. Richard Kimble

    I’m pretty sure there are quite a few places that use shipping containers for housing…and I’m pretty sure Jamie actually mentions them during the episode.

    And some of the containers look way better than what the Block participants passed off as finished rooms last night…

  15. “The interior set used for the elimination sequence could do with a makeover itself. We may have a contender for the cheapest set on telly”

    Oh, sh*t! That’s kinda ironic considering the show is Top Design. Maybe one week the challenge can be to make over the set.

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