DESIGNER GUYS on HGTV, Saturdays at 3 pm and other times. HOLMES ON HOMES on HGTV, Saturdays at 3:30 pm and other times. queer as folk? will and grace? martha stewart? The title of gayest hour on television doesn't belong to any of these high-profile programs but to a pair of locally filmed homo improvement shows. For those of you not obsessively glued to the tube Saturday afternoons, meet Mike Holmes and the Designer Guys.
Designer Guys Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman have perfected their bickering interior decorator shtick over three successful seasons on HGTV. Hyndman's the excitable one, prone to enthusiastic outbursts like "Tall! Sexy! Graphic! I love it!" while tossing a swag of chenille over his shoulder. Sabados plays the straight man, the reasonable dad who explains why Hyndman's often hare-brained ideas won't work.
Together they appoint posh Toronto spaces, as opposed to the faux-finishing and re-upholstering of Ikea couches perpetrated by Trading Spaces and its clones.
"There's a lot of drama with Steven. We do fight a lot. I don't want to be a diva pretending I'm flawless, 'cause I'm not," Hyndman jokes. "Steven's flawless. But that becomes boring."
The eligible bachelors have been business partners in their design firm for years. Do viewers ever mistake their platonic relationship for a romantic one?
"We work so closely together and know each other so well, people just assume we're a couple," laughs Hyndman. "But c'mon - would Steven Sabados ever date me? I wouldn't."
Hyndman agrees that Mike Holmes, the Toronto-born star of Holmes On Homes, is husband material. "He's fabulous!" gushes Hyndman. "We met him at a home show. He's going to be big."
Not that he isn't already. Imagine a muscle-bound 40-something crew-cut blond Marine drill sergeant dressed in work boots, wife-beater and body-hugging overalls accessorized with a low-slung tool belt like some beefy Sting. And after careful examination of several episodes, I can report that Mike does not sport a wedding ring.
"On my right arm it's the head of a bulldog. On the left a cobra."
Piercings? "I have a diamond earring in my left ear."
But it was one of the show's sponsors - Mr. Lube - that convinced me there's more homoerotic subtext to Holmes On Homes than caulking and nailing studs. Easily enough, I score an interview with TV's newest sex symbol, and after chatting about the nuts and bolts of his show - Mike fixes botched reno jobs like some white knight in a Dodge Charger - I ask about his provocative dress.
"I'm not trying to impress anybody," says the likeable lug. "I get to work and it's hot, and I wear the overalls really to protect myself. It's hot, that's how I dress."
No argument there. On his Web site (www.holmesonhomes.com) I notice he has sponsorship from Carrhart, the Canadian workwear brand.
"Since these are the clothes I already wear, the producers set up a deal," Holmes explains. "But next season I'd like to have a custom pair made to my specifications."
"Tighter?" I blush.
"No," he reasonably replies. "Ones with properly placed pockets for certain tools."