By Steve Rogers and Christopher Rocchio, 11/15/2007
Two days after reports of her return first emerged, TLC has confirmed that Paige Davis will return to Trading Spacesas part of a new revamp of the network's once high-flying flagship series.
Trading Spaces' new Davis-hosted season will begin filming this month. TLC plans to debut the revamped room-makeover show's new season in late January.
"Trading Spaces was always like a family to me so this seems like a great big family reunion," said Davis, who apparently doesn't hold a grudge against TLC for firing her nearly three years ago. "I'm excited to hit the road again and return to the show that put home improvement -- and TLC -- on the map."
Davis took overTrading Spaces' hosting duties from first-season host Alex McLeod in 2001, and she helmed the show -- which has traditionally featured pairs of neighbors redecorating rooms in each other's homes with the help of show-supplied designers and carpenters -- for the next four years. However in January 2005, TLC announced it had fired Davis and decided to take Trading Spaces into a new creative direction that would feature a "host-less" format.
After leaving Trading Spaces, Davis signed a development deal with King World Productions, which was considering having Davis co-star in a new syndicated daytime program that would have also featured interior designer Nate Berkus. However nothing ever came of the King World deal and Davis, whose pre-Trading Spaces theatrical work included spending two-and-a-half years playing Babette in the national tour of Beauty and the Beast, eventually returned to Broadway and starred in the musical Chicago.
Most recently, Davis appeared in the national tour for the Broadway show Sweet Charity, which came to a close over the summer, and also premiered her solo cabaret show.
"Trading Spaces was at its very best when Paige Davis was at the helm and the fans still miss her... we're thrilled to welcome her home," said TLC president and general manager Angela Shapiro-Mathes.
However according to TLC, Davis' return is only part of its Trading Spaces revamp strategy.
"Paige is the heart of this series and with her return we'll reinvigorate and re-energize the original format, adding an emotional hook to every angle," said Shapiro-Mathes, a former Fox Television Studios executive who joined TLC in April.
In addition to Davis, several other former cast members will be rejoining the show, including Doug Wilson, Laurie Hickson-Smith, Frank Bielec, and Hildi Santo-Thomas. More recent cast members like carpenter Faber Dewar and designer Edward Walker will also be part of the new season. Davis is still "working with the network" to finalize the new season's cast of faces, including some new ones, according to TLC.
However despite the production change, A. Smith & Co. co-founder Arthur Smith -- who will executive produce the new season along with Kent Weed and Frank Sinton -- says Trading Spaces won't change that much.
"We want to protect the things that made the show popular in the first place," Smith, whose company has also produced tamer fare like A Hero's Welcome, a CBS special about heroes and the selfless acts they'd performed, told Daily Variety. "It'll still be heartwarming."
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Trading Spaces' core concept -- two teams swapping homes and performing single-room makeovers on a $1,000 budget -- will remain the same. What will change is the types of teams that will be doing the swapping.
"The big difference will be in the casting," Smith, citing "a divorced couple" or "dueling mothers-in-law" as potential swap examples, told Variety. "People want to be more vested in the people they're seeing. The couples may not be next-door neighbors all the time. You might have a little more conflict and drama than you had before."
Despite the Trading Spaces production change, TLC plans to continue working with Banyan on other projects.
"They did an incredible job keeping the show on the air for so long," Shapiro-Mathes, who says reviving Trading Spaces has been one of her top priorities since joining TLC, told Variety.
During its ratings heyday, Trading Spaces was the No. 1 cable show on Saturday nights. In October 2003, a Sunday night broadcast of a Trading Spaces $100 Grand special that featured two pairs of homeowners performing $50,000 makeovers drew 9.1 million total viewers -- which was more viewers than either ABC or NBC drew in the same time period.
"When you say TLC to anybody, Trading Spaces is still the show most people connect with (the network), because it was so huge," Shapiro-Mathes told Variety.
Shapiro-Mathes blames Trading Spaces' ratings decline on a combination of factors, including TLC's decision to over-expose the show's original edition, the decision to launch multiple spinoffs, the decision to drop Davis, and the fact that other competing networks eventually launched similar programming.
"It was no longer unique, it didn't have a clean format and it didn't have a host that said Trading Spaces to the audience," Shapiro-Mathes told Variety.