The Nutty Designer: TV's Flipping Out Scores High-Strung Laughs

By , Columnist

Flipping Out, which launched its fifth season on Bravo last week, casts perfectionist designer Jeff Lewis as workaholic Everyman coping with eternally vexing issues of loyalty, low standards, and wrist-slitting levels of traffic congestion,

Like all compelling artists, Lewis, who earns his living by flipping houses in Los Angeles, makes universal truths resonate through exceptionally vivid renderings of the particular.  

Lewis tries to run a tight ship out of his home office, staffed with the kookiest crew of sidekicks since Seinfeld

Flipping Out's "Elaine" equivalent is Julia Louis-Dreyfus-look alike Jenni Pulos, who plays, er, actually is Lewis' sassy personal assistant. When Jenni busts one of her insane dance moves in front of stunned clients, it's beyond ridiculous.  An aspiring actress -- surprise! -- Jenni last year put her theatrical training to work bycreating an obscenity-spewing alter ego named "Deb." Her specialty: brow-beating lazy contractors over the phone. 

Sardonic house-keeper Zoila Chavez muzzles frustrations with a cat-ate-the canary grin and sleepy eyes that only sparkle when she's complaining to her cleanliness-obsessed boss: "You no understand Jeffrey Lewis."

Ditzy project manager-in-training Sarah Berkman comes across as a sweet, blonde California Gurl who faces a big question: can she toughen up and ride herd on slacker carpenters paid to renovate Lewis' properties?

Anchoring the mayhem is Lewis himself.  Unlike most Reality TV stars, he demonstrates  genuine talent by transforming tired-looking properites into sleek, comfy homes. But this is not a makeover show. People tune in to watch the prickly designer torment his underlings, when he's not humbling himself before demanding millionaire clients.

Lewis has a new boyfriend Gage Edward, who doubles as business manager. In last week's season debut, Gage already managed to insult influential design mavens who hosted a talk by Lewis in San Francisco.

High drama, cool design, bad dancing, funny accents, freeway madness and insult humor - it's enough to make one high-strung control freak flip out. Stay tuned.

 Flipping Out airs at 9 p.m. / 8 Central, Tuesdays on Bravo.

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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