Nate Berkus breaks out of design box with new reality show

Openly gay interior designer Nate Berkus has been tapped to host an upcoming ABC reality series, Oprah’s Big Give. This is newsworthy because it will be the first time ever that an out gay man will host a network reality show. And not just any reality show, but one where things, big things, are "given away!"

Nate’s role on this upcoming series sounds like it might be roughly equivalent to Ty Pennington‘s role on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – it’s a great thing to have a gay man cast in the benevolent/positive role of making dreams come true. And the fact that Oprah Winfrey is involved is just icing on the cake. Practically everything she touches turns to gold. I’m a big fan of Berkus, and I’m thrilled that Oprah is offering him this opportunity. So thrilled that I can almost forgive the woman for foisting Dr. Phil off on the American public.

Just in case you’re not that familiar with the Nate Berkus, here’s a little background info on the man. He opened his Chicago design firm, Nate Berkus Associates, in 1995 at the tender age of 24. The firm quickly grew and landed high profile commercial projects such as Spago, Barney’s of New York and W hotels.

In 2001 Nate was invited to make over a small space for an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was a big hit with the audience (and with Oprah) and would go on to become a featured design expert for the show.

In early 2005, Nate appeared on Oprah for one of the most watched episodes of that year. He was there to talk about surviving the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. He and his partner Fernando Bengoechea, were vacationing at a beach resort in SriLanka when the tsunami hit. While Berkus survived, Bengoechea is still missing and presumed dead.

Berkus still makes regular appearances on Oprah’s show to talk about design. He also regularly contributes to O at Home magazine, has a line of merchandise at Linens ‘n Things, and has authored a design book, Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live into a Place You’ll Love.

As for Oprah’s Big Give – The series follows 10 people who “criss-cross the country, giving away hundreds ofthousands of dollars to unsuspecting people who are in for the surprise oftheir lives.”

The contestants will be given a challenge in each city, and then the judges (chef Jamie Oliver, NFL player Tony Gonzalez, and Chris Rock’s wife Malaak Compton-Rock.) will eliminate one contestant – ultimately awarding “the biggest giver” the show’s prize.

Is it just me, or does this show sound like a cross between The Apprentice and the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes?

Big Give debuts March 2 and will run for eight episodes. According to the press release, Oprah herself will “[make] multiple special appearances throughout the eight episodes,” and “some of the biggest names in Hollywood join Oprah’s Big Give, bringing their own passion for giving big and delivering surprising twists that raise the stakes at every turn.”

Me, I’m not so keen on reality shows that promise “surprising twists” (Anyone remember the “surprising twist” on Boy Meets Boy?) But I will be tuning in for Berkus. Hosting this show proves that he’s now breaking out from being strictly a “design expert.” And hey, even if the show tanks no doubt Berkus will go on to bigger and better things. I mean, hosting Celebrity Mole didn’t seem to hurt Anderson Cooper, did it?

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