Thursday, July 28, 2011

And So It Begins Once Again: Project Runway

WARNING This blogpost has been overrun by a teal deer.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw the Glamour with Heidi Klum on the cover and it mentioned that Project Runway would be starting up again this summer. Then, a few nights ago, I thought I'd check the internet and find out when, exactly, it might be starting. Lo and behold, it started tonight.
I know, we are so over it, right? I mean, after last season (not to mention the whole Lifetime switch) I have seriously wondered if the producers of the show still cared and if they did, were they capable of demonstrating they had a clue. Could I maintain an interest in this beast to watch it all the way through?
Which led me to have the great idea of blogging this thing.
Except.
"Are we really back here again?" Heidi asks us.
It really doesn't bode well for a show when its host seems bored by it all before it has even started.
Sure, it started off interesting with the inclusion of the audition process. Heidi and Tim Gunn explained that they invited 20 designers to have their best work judged by Heidi, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Tim (YAY for Tim being a judge, btw) and how they would choose the sixteen who would get to take part in the show. It certainly felt like we were getting to see a side of the judges we do not normally see (especially the moment when Heidi started singing. Girls got some pipes on her).
This first half hour served as a good reminder that the actual fashion presented is only part of what the judges are looking for, that they are also evaluating the designers' appearance and personality, as well as how much drama they would bring to the show (Let's remember, for a moment, how craptastic the editing has been since the show moved to Liftime, how all the drama has not only seemed painfully manufactured, but how they seemed to go out of their way to get the audience to hate the eventual winner. Clearly, this is a reality show that needs less pretend conflict and more of the real stuff). Some people were so obviously in it was almost painful to watch. Miss Trinidad and Tobago revealed she only just learned to sew a few weeks ago and when the other judges who were concerned she lacked the skills the competition required Heidi might as well have said, "But she is a former beauty queen and her inability to sew will make for great television!" The beautiful boy who was too short to be a model. The old guy who worked for Halston and Bill Blass in the seventies who dropped out of fashion and descended into alcoholism when friends and lovers started dying of AIDS, how could they resist that story? The fact that he is twice as old as everyone else will also serve to teach us all a very special lesson about age discrimination (the fact that we barely saw the clothes he showed the judges, which were deemed as too safe and dull, only served to remind us how beside the point the fashion was). Slightly punkish grunge guy who told us he was both a survivor of testicular cancer AND color blind (to clinch it, Heidi wanted to steal his scarf).
And then there were all the Project Runway types we have come to know and love: the edgy alternagirls who already feel they have to let us know how cool and edgy their designs are, the token blonde from the heartland, there to confirm every negative stereotype people in New York and LA hold about people from the flyover states, the man of color who was positive that he made sexy clothes because they were tighter, the guy who looked like Carl from Phineas and Ferb, the girl who looked like Carl from Phineas and Ferb, the people who sniffed that the judges are not avant garde enough to to get them. Really, at this point, can anyone be bothered to learn their names?
So people got auffed, people move in and the producers try to convince us that we are interested in who is bunking with whom, then we see them "go to sleep." Next thing we (and they) know, Tim is standing above them like the Ghost of Fabulous Mentor Present instructing them to bring a bed sheet and meet him in the lobby, and, no, you can't put on a bra. When confronted by such visitations, be they flesh or spirit, even the person who is not a contestant on a reality TV show would be a fool to ignore such a command. After what must have been a slightly awkward walk through the empty streets of New York in little more than skivvies, they all arrive at Parsons where Tim tells them, QUELLE SURPRISE, their challenge is to fashion something awesome from their night clothes and the sheet. I can't understand why they are so shocked by this, have any of these people ever watched this show? At least they are getting dyes and trimmings to help bridge the gap between sleepytime and runway ready.
In an effort to get us interested in the people, the producers have, as per usual, included way too much footage of the designers talking about how hard it all is, but precious little time actually showing us the clothes. The best part is when Tim comes by to critique the designs, but we (and from what we can tell he) doesn't get to see much. I am not sure if this was because they actually were all not very far along when he visited or if the producers are now deliberately withholding the fashion from us. I can almost see them all sitting in a meeting and saying, "But if the audience sees almost nothing, they will not be bored by the runway show." Which is absolutely true. Unfortunately, by showing me almost nothing, you have guaranteed that I was bored up until the runway show. And, let's remember, the runway show is rarely boring.
Finally, after all the product placements have been reiterated, it is runway time. Heidi introduces the judges (Michael and Nina who everyone knows, but she is contractually obligated to read their CV every episode, and guest judge Christina Ricci). You can go see the designs here. Like the designers, there were just too many of them to really make an impression on me, I would think I saw something I thought was interesting, but then it was washed away when the next wave crashed. Even the voiceovers from the designers, wherein invariably the poor little bunny proclaims a statement filled with hubris and delusion as to the quality of the design and effect it has on the judges, failed to leave much of an impression given the sheer number of designs. The top three were Miss Trinidad and Tobago, the old recovering alcoholic, and the colorblind cancer survivor (as if to prove to us that not only do they make for great television, they make for great fashion). The bottom three were fairly unmemorable, even in their badness (except for the "sexy clothes" guy who seemed to be trying to channel both Christian Siriano from Season 4 and Casanova from last season). Overall, I had no real impression of the judges except they seemed pretty blunt this time around. Christina Ricci was incredibly kind and found something nice and truthful to say to each of the designers in the bottom three. Other than that, it all seemed really flat, as if they too felt that they just want to get this pack down to a manageable number before whipping out the witty bon mots. The only spark was when MK suggested that an oddly placed pocket on one pair of pants might be an "I like myself pocket." Heidi made a point of saying she always knew there was more to Anya despite her only just having learned to sew (apparently she is a savant. However, given the amount of time given to thsi topic, I sense it will figure heavily in future episodes) and Nina made noises that she, too, had always wanted Miss T&T to be a part of the show (Nina apparently is unaware that video records your words and actions for posterity. Next Nina will be telling us she voted for Mondo to win last season). So when they bring the designers back out, it was no real surprise that the skills learned at Halston and Bill Blass meant victory for Bert and, alas, Mr. Sexypants was booted. Project Runway strikes a blow against age discrimination!
Scenes from future episodes were then shown to us in the hopes that we would be teased to return: Tim declaring that they are doing things they've never done before, arguing in the work room, judges being harsh, designers throwing one another under the bus. Yes, it looks pretty familiar, pretty much like every single teaser for Project Runway, ever. However, if we do come back next time, which PR will we get? We can only hope we will see flashes of the one we grew to love many years ago, where the confluence of some serious bitchery and poorly conceived contest rules made Wendy Pepper the villain who got to Bryant Park despite her own questionable design skills, but I fear we will just see another iteration of pretend villains and somewhat boring winners. I will admit, my interest is piqued just enough to keep watching.
I am not sure, however, that I am interested enough to do any more recaps. Like the judges, I can't muster the energy to come up with clever witticisms. At least I can't right now. Maybe as the season progresses, I will feel more invested in all the goings on and I will be excited enough to talk about it. I promise, you'll be the first to know.

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