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‘Home Edition’ families surprised, but ready

Plus: Where can the "Project Runway" Barbie be purchased? What's up with "Skating with Celebrities"?
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Sure, the reality shows are quiet now, but just wait. "Apprentice," "Apprentice: Martha Stewart," "Amazing Race" and "Survivor" have all ended, but a whole new crop of contestants is just waiting in the wings.

Summer hit "Dancing with the Stars" will return to ABC Jan. 5, and what seems like a weird knock-off of that show, Fox's "Skating with Celebrities," will hit center ice on Jan. 18. Granddaddy dating show "The Bachelor" will start a new season in Paris on Jan. 9, followed by the return of "Beauty and the Geek" on Jan. 12.

But the monster of all reality is lumbering forward, too. "American Idol" returns for its fifth season on Jan. 17.

We're filing our past questions and answers , so check there before sending in a question — you may find your answer right away.

Q: On "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the first few minutes of the show Ty & the Design Team surprising the family. Every week Ty says “they don’t even know that we’re coming”, yet the family is fully dressed every time at 7 am. Is this staged? Or do they have the family on stand-by, telling them that they may have been chosen, so wait around?    —Donna, New Jersey

A: For each episode, families are told that they’re one of three finalists, so they know to be home and be dressed and ready.

That’s why it never seems like the design team has caught someone off-guard. But the families are genuinely surprised when Ty shows up, as that’s when they know for sure that they’re about to be living life with plasma TVs and new appliances from Sears, never mind a whole new house.

Whether or not there are two families sitting in their houses, crying, isn’t as clear. That’s because to prepare, the design team and construction workers must plan weeks in advance, so the family is selected weeks in advance.

If you remain skeptical, Builder Magazine went and watched as one of the show’s episodes was produced. The magazine confirms both that “the family really doesn’t know they’ve been selected until the design team shows up with their bus and their bullhorn to give them the news” and that “the house really is built and decorated in a week.”    —A.D.

Q:I loved the winning design on the Barbie episode of “Project Runway.” When and where will I be able to buy the Barbie that Nick designed? Thanks!    —Katie, California

A: The Dec. 14 episode of "Project Runway" featured an especially engaging challenge. The competitors had to design an outfit for Mattel's My Scene Barbie, and create it both for a human model and a Barbie doll to wear. Nick Verreos won that particular challenge, with an especially colorful and bright design. As part of his victory, Mattel will be releasing a doll clad in his outfit.

The doll and outfit are $25, and you can . It won't be available to be shipped until Jan. 20, however. At the "Runway" store, you can also buy other designs created by the various competitors, as well as place auction bids on clothing they designed for the show.  —G.F.C.

Q: Am I crazy, or did I see a promo for a new show similar to Dancing With the Stars, but with ice skating? Can you please tell me the name of the show and which network it will air on?    —Theresa, Florida

A: You're not crazy, unless you're crazy like a FOX. In what certainly seems like a naked attempt to copy the success of "Dancing with the Stars," FOX will premiere on Jan. 18 at 9 p.m. The show will run for just six episodes.

"Celebrities" who will take to the ice, paired with pro skaters, include Deborah ("No longer Debbie!") Gibson, Kristy Swanson, Bruce Jenner, Jillian Barberie, Dave Coulier, and Todd Bridges from "Diff'rent Strokes." Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?

Other shows we expect to see soon include "Luging with the Wannabes," "Bobsledding with the B-Listers and "Hokey Pokeying With the Stand-Ins."    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.