The winner of “Ellen’s Design Challenge” had a very short-lived victory Monday when it was quickly revealed that Tim McClellan had been disqualified from the HGTV show for presenting what was deemed an unoriginal piece in the grand finale.
The shamed contestant is a guest on Ellen DeGeneres‘ other show on Thursday, and in a preview of the interview he told the host what really happened while denying that he committed plagiarism.
“This was one of the hardest things in the world because everyone from the beginning of the challenge loved you,” DeGeneres told McClellan. “Your character, your talent … so I wanted you to talk about this and how this possibly could have happened.”
Clearly still shaken, McClellan said: “I doubt you’re more nervous than me. This whole experience has been extraordinarily exciting and rewarding for me overall, painful at times for sure, but how this could have happened. I have never heard of Simon (Schacht).”
Within a week of McLellan being crowned the winner, producers discovered that his seemingly unique sliding and hideaway table design already existed by European designer Schacht. Therefore, the runner-up to the reality competition, Katie Stout, was rewarded the top prize of $100,000 and a spread in HGTV magazine.
“I have never seen this piece of furniture before,” McLellan told Ellen, but he agreed that “the similarities of the two pieces are quite compelling and I understand the decision made and accept it and recognize Katie as the legitimate winner of the show.”
The designer explained that over the last 20 years he has looked at millions and millions of pieces of furniture and it is possible that one stuck in his memory. “I saw that stack of lumber … I had a flash of a piece of furniture that would be brilliant for the show and I owned it.
“It’s disappointing how this whole thing worked out and it’s been very taxing on me of course,” he said.
“Yes, of course because you were the winner for a while until there was an anonymous tip and this came to our attention,” DeGeneres said sympathetically. “Most furniture is a derivate of something. Maybe something starts it, but chairs, tables, everything — it’s similar.
“I know you as a person would not have purposefully done that. And I’ve said this to you privately and I’ll say it publicly — I want to work with you again,” she tells him. “I want to create something for you, I think you’re talented and I want to do something with you.”
While the scandal was a big blow for McLellan, the show produced by DeGeneres’ production company, A Very Good Production, A. Smith and Co. and Telepictures, marked a huge hit for HGTV.
According to the cable network, the reality competition is one of its highest-rated shows. It averages a .83 in the cable’s key demographic, Adults 25-54. It also improved 48 percent over the channel’s 13 week average prior to the show’s premiere.