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Essay

In 'Spaces' Makeover, It's Curtains for Paige

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2005; Page C01

To think of all the many around-the-house tasks, circa 2002, that we managed to put off, thanks largely to the irresistible, superhuman chipperness of Paige Davis. (Used to be, oh, look, "Trading Spaces" is on. No, not just on -- a "Trading Spaces" marathon. Put down the car keys, blow off Home Depot and kiss an entire Sunday goodbye.)

Two days! Two neighbors! A thousand dollars! All guided by the perky antics of gamin Paige. Clutching your hand, giggling with that gawky, high-strung girliness of hers, giving you the all-clear: Open your eyes, and look at your room!


Paige Davis is still perky but no longer holding the keys to (TLC)

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Surprise! TLC, the Silver Spring-based network that converted America into a nation of attention-deficit-decorators, announced earlier this week that Paige Davis, the host of "Trading Spaces," has been let go.

Like a harbinger of yesterday's swift resignation of TLC's general manager and layoffs at parent company Discovery, Paige was canned on Monday. Fired, dumped, shown the door: "TLC is taking 'Trading Spaces' in a new creative direction, transitioning to a 'host-less' format this spring," the network explained in a press statement. The decision, the statement said, "will enable the show to be more spontaneous, focus more on the homeowners and designers. . . . Paige helped make 'Trading Spaces' a great success for the network and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors."

Say what you will ("God, I can't stannnnd that woman," blah blah blah), but some of us have a large soft spot for our beloved Paige, the princess of cable television's back 40.

Real name: Mindy Paige Davis Page. How does the Supreme Being know that a person christened "Mindy" at birth (with a fallback option of being called "Paige" in adulthood) will naturally grow up to become a song-and-dance gal on Broadway and possess an innate talent to not only host a home-improvement show but also define the genre? The Lord does work in mysterious ways, and that is why women all over exurbia began to sport Paige Davis-like hairdos. She caught on.

Paige, who is 35, came to represent everything about a modern homemaking era that is only now coming into the sharp focus of hindsight. Future anthro-pop-ologists will regard the 2000s as a time in which the middle class was perhaps overly fixated on the home, at levels not seen since the high Victorian age. We are a society obsessed with real estate -- trading spaces, trading up, trading down, Real Simple (but real hard), adding window treatments, fetishizing granite countertops and Ralph Lauren paint chips and sconces.

Paige was the embodiment of all that: You can do it! Look at this room! Quick, quick, quick! Hurry, hurry, hurry! It is important to note that Paige's contributions were strictly narrative and bothersome: She did not design the rooms of "Trading Spaces," nor build the furniture, nor sew the slipcovers. The perception was that she made the trains run on time (and helped with crafty things, like gluing beads to lampshades).

Then there are all these rumors that could ruin a perky person's day: Paige became one of those celebrities that people claimed to have naughty video of. Some gossip columnists have cultivated a strange loathing for her -- Page Six at the New York Post suggests she was fired because of weight gain. There was a flap over her appearance on the front of TV Guide strategically covered by two strips of wallpaper. There was talk about tabloid pictures from a fundraiser in New York last June where she playfully pretended to strip, and showed what some believed to be improper amounts of Paige. Attempts to reach her yesterday were unsuccessful; her agent said she would have no comment. But one of Paige's reps told the New York Daily News on Tuesday that all of this had nothing to do with her termination.

The perception on the show was that she cared, cared very much, cared perhaps too much on some episodes -- such was the way of Paige. She gushed about everything, once it was finished, even if she'd spent the episode needling and nagging.

Her ultimate palette was always sunshine yellows. On one episode, in Southern California, she accidentally whacked her noggin painfully against a rafter and worked very hard not to cry. She smile-cried, giggle-wept. (This is entirely different from the waterworks she freely displayed when homeowners got emotional during the show's climactic "reveals." And those tears were not dissimilar to the showy river of sentimental happy-tears that washed over the unwise decision to feature her nuptials on another TLC show, "A Wedding Story.")

But cry not for Paige, for last week Daily Variety reported that she is being considered for a new interior-design show with "Oprah" designer Nate Berkus, possibly to debut in 2006.

On her temporarily disabled Web site yesterday, there was this lone message from the Perky One herself: "I just wanted to take a minute to say goodbye. As you may have heard, TLC is taking 'Trading Spaces' in a new creative direction. . . . My last episode will premiere in March. . . . I love 'Trading Spaces' so much and I am very proud of what the cast and crew has brought to you. I have loved working with the amazingly talented cast. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting all our homeowners. . . . I am sure that 'Trading Spaces' will still be a fabulous and fun show for all of you to watch. I will certainly be watching and cheering them on."

See? See how sunny? See how can-do?

Meanwhile, the problems remain for the Paigeless show. Ratings have tumbled at "Trading Spaces." There's only so much paint the viewing public can watch dry. The "Trading Spaces" craze -- indeed, the craze for most home-design shows -- seems now like some faraway, faddish dream: Hildi Santo-Tomas in her stilettos. Ty Pennington buzz-sawing away at all that medium-density fiberboard, before he became the patron saint of tract-house charity on his own prime-time show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

TLC, do whatever you must to save your own hides, but when it comes to the firing of the incomparable, perhaps quasi-naughty Paige Davis, please: Open your eyes.


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