Drawing Battle Lines on TV's "Craft Wars"

Tori Spelling, newly crowned Queen of All Things Craft.

Full Disclosure: While I admire the life skills Tori Spelling has used to make lemonade out of lemons, the many months my daughter forced me to watch "Tori and Dean" because she thought the kids were adorable, was enough Tori for me, for probably, oh a lifetime. 

So why review this show? Because "Craft Wars" calls crafting "a $30 billion industry that is shared by more than half of all American households." And it is into this brave new world, that Tori Spelling, 39, mother of three plus one on the way, is planting her flag, positioning herself as the Queen of All Things Craft. 

But isn't that title held by Martha Stewart? Hmm, maybe that's the War she's talking about. But I think you'll see, if you watch the show, that Tori's is a much more Hollywood-cum-5th-grade-glitter-and-glue-gun craft world than Martha's rural-Connecticut-I-have-roosters-in-my-backyard realm.

"With crafting, your limit is your creativity," said Spelling in an appearance on the "Today" show. "It’s individual, you can’t go wrong." Which is odd because there is a feature on the show's web site actually entitled Crafts Gone Wrong. In fact, the very premise of the show is that some crafts can, and will, go horribly wrong.

Describing herself as an avid crafter, Spelling launched her empire as the show premiered. She is selling a line of craft products, "The Tori Spelling Collection," a party planning book, CelebraTORI, and a DIY fashion jewelry line called {styled} by Tori Spelling. Jewelry components fit together and "there are no tools necessary to create many of the looks."

No tools?

 {styled} by Tori Spelling.

As a reader of this blog, it seems fair to assume you are interested in making things or finding lovely things someone else made, and I'm wondering, is "Craft Wars" your kind of show?

If you haven't seen it, here's the rundown: Spelling hosts and produces the "Project Runway"-style hour in which three contestants compete in two rounds of challenges. The one-hour Pop Craft challenge uses surprise materials and anything in the "Michaels Craft Closet." Michaels is a sponsor of the show and provides one of the judges.

“Michaels is my home away from home,” Spelling gushes. “When people say Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, I always disagree and say it’s Michaels.” 

The three judges eliminate one contestant in the Pop challenge, and the remaining two go head-to-head in what is called "the crafting challenge of a lifetime." 

In last week's episode, we met Brad, Pam and Amy, who each built a toy box made from toys for the Pop challenge. Pam and Amy created a pet mansion for the lifetime challenge. Early in the show, Amy looked straight into the camera and said: "I am super competitive and you know what? I will punch the competition in the face."  I wish I could tell you she was kidding.

"You're like Roman gladiators, but with more glitter," Spelling tells them. Who let that line get by in editing? Didn't gladiators fight wild animals in an arena? As soon as the crafting begins, you get the picture: there is insanity and chaos, which makes my stomach hurt. When Spelling barks out "You only have 30 minutes, crafters!" it makes them go crazy. I want a Xanax, and I don't really know what Xanax is. 

Like Tim Gunn on "Project Runway," Spelling visits each maker in the frenzy of creation. Amy is trying to finish her pet mansion, and is running out of time and patience. Tori sashays in, and frowns at Amy's poorly executed felt dog bones. "There are some great precision cutting machines here so why don't you use them?"

In a tone that's all back off Hollywood, Amy snipes, "You know, I've got to work with what I have." Spelling, perhaps remembering this is the woman who threatened to punch her competition, raises her eyebrows, turns on a heel and says: "I'll leave you on that note."

If it seems like this is not fun, it isn't fun, it's WAR, and the bounty is $10,000.

Time is up. The contestants explain how their creations will ensure world peace. You can't believe the stuff they say about the toy boxes they created. 

But the judges are just plain bitchy. They hate felt.

"Why doesn't anyone use paint?" whines one. When a contestant is told the best way to affix glitter is white glue and then doesn't follow that suggestion in her subsequent challenge, the judge takes it as a snub and yells at her. 

Another later snipes, "It's not brain surgery to use a stapler," adding the dis, "they spray paint everything!"

So far, TV critics are focusing on Spelling's celebrity rather than the program. A site called Television Without Pity claimed, "The show will probably be interesting for anyone who enjoys crafting or is looking to pick up some tips, but for anyone else, this Michaels-catalog-come-to-life may be the equivalent of watching paint dry." 

Ten episodes of "Craft Wars" will air Tuesdays at 10 pm on TLC. My advice as a viewer, and former TV producer? Skip this, and watch "Randy to the Rescue," which is actually heartwarming and fun.