Everywhere I Look There’s HGTV Interior Designers With Three First Names

Hello future friends and fellow GAGs! This is Ashlyn, first of her name, podcast producer extraordinaire, and silencer of on-air vape hits. To protect the precious little sanity Joan and Matt still have, they asked me to also watch and review a few shows in Magnolia’s lineup.

Did I survive? Technically. But Chip and Joanna: I will see you in Hell.

The Lost Kitchen; S1E1, “Welcome to the Lost Kitchen” 

I was definitely prepared to hate this one, but it was the most compelling of the series I watched. The restaurant, the titular Lost Kitchen owned and operated by Erin French in Freedom, Maine–population 711–is only open from May to October.. Better yet, the town website was lovingly created in the mid-90s by a one Frances Walker, and is still maintained by her on a volunteer basis to this day!

The report linked to a scanned newspaper column from 1998. *(Note: Literally as I was in the process of writing this blog, they updated the website?? It may not be run by Ms. Walker anymore and I hope she’s well!)

While the restaurant itself captures a picture perfect 2014 jangly folk rock Instagram cabincore aesthetic, I have read enough Stephen King novels to know I have no business visiting some tiny town in Maine with fewer residents than my high school.

Getting a reservation at the Lost Kitchen isn’t easy, either. It does kind of toe the line of Portlandia parody here, in that reservations can only be made via postcard lottery. But Ms. French and her all-women staff (plus one dude named TJ) have clearly worked incredibly hard and take pride in their business; they’re driven by “heart, passion, and a Maine girl’s work ethic” according to one of the employees. I found myself invested in whether or not Erin was going to find the right soup that excited her! I’m even looking forward to seeing the small town drama unfold, and just how Erin and her lady team will handle COVID from the season previews. 

Hope they make it!

Mind For Design; S1E1, “The 70/30 Rule”: 

Ah, the elusive 4th Property Brother. No, he isn’t one of the Scotts for real, but he might as well be. From the first second this man popped up on screen he was already my enemy. “I’m just some guy who’s making things up and it seems to be working” is how he introduces himself. Host Brian Patrick Flynn also reveals that he too went to film school, which is what I assume triggered my Betta fish-like fighting response. The film-school-to-interior designer/real estate agent pipeline is real. Someone should figure out what the hell is going on there, but I digress!

It’s not technically Millennial Face because he was born in 1976

The programming of the Magnolia Network seems prime for the lobby of a luxury apartment building; something you might catch while you drop-off a rich person’s Uber Eats delivery. But of the shows that I’ve watched so far, this is the most standard HGTV fare, complete with clients who have job titles that make you go “And you were able to buy a house? In this economy?” (This episode being a husband and wife pair: a graphic designer and an “entrepreneur”).

I did end up enjoying the final design! It was fun and colorful and genuinely seemed to fit the family well. It’s just watching this man’s manic golden retriever energy…rough.

[Ed. note: Hi! Joan here. Did you know this man was married on a GLACIER?]

For the Love of Kitchens; S1E1, “A Kitchen Fit for a Castle”: 

If The Lost Kitchen is like drinking a mug of hot chocolate in a Pinterest-perfect rustic cabin, For the Love of Kitchens is taking half a Xan and melting into a hot bubble bath in your antique clawfoot tub.

Maybe that has to do with the whimsical-ass nature of the episode. The series starts off strong with a couple, Frieda and Javvy, who are looking to remodel their 11th century castle’s kitchen. That’s right: a goddamn castle! Magnolia Network wants me to think I didn’t see one  of their kids put corn on a pizza at the beginning. I shudder to think what else they’ll get up to in their new kitchen that probably cost more than I’ve ever made in an entire year.

I am ardently pro-pineapple and anti-corn; I dare you to change my mind.

The only thing I did find slightly distracting was the narration. It is…so similar to the old VH1 narrator voice. Please tell me you know the one. But there are no celebrities or jokes here! Just gorgeous, gorgeous kitchens, a castle that once housed pirated Spanish treasure, and a global staff page that has more recently deceased (may they rest in peace) staff members than staff members of color that I can see. It’s Black History Month, ok! I’m sensitive.

Rental Redo: S1E1 “Coastal Kitchen and Baths”: I don’t know how else to say it… but I’m drawing the race card from my deck and playing it face up in attack position. After watching the glossy, high budget The Lost Kitchen, I know the money is there to hire diverse talent, beyond Rental Redo’s Keyanna Bowen! And a quick glance through the 50+ other shows in Magnolia’s roster, I could only find one other series headed by a Black woman (Homegrown with Jamila Norman).

So tell me why this is the only series I can see that only has one episode! This woman is out here fighting for her life on Instagram.

Let her make her episodes!!

As a lifelong apartment dweller, I can appreciate a show aimed at us common people just trying to make sure we get our security deposits back. As much as I can genuinely admire an $85,000 luxury kitchen, it’s nice to see some programming that’s more DIY and affordable. There are plenty of the former; Magnolia can give viewers more of the latter!

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