After a ten-month wait, which in the reality show season cycle is equivalent to about four years, Project Runway finally returned last night, but on its new network, Lifetime. Project Runway’s former home, Bravo, sulked all night with back-to-back episodes of the Real Housewives.
You know who also sulked as he and Heidi Klum greeted the new contestants on a rooftop in L.A.? That’s right, Mr. Tim Gunn. With a forced smile and red face, he was clearly not smitten about the series’ relocation to America’s second (or perhaps third or fourth, depending on who you ask) fashion capital. But the show must go on.
The basic premise—-up and coming fashion designers competing via artistic vision and how well they manipulate material—-did survive the move. However, what’s definitely changed, is the “casting” of the contestants. This season there appears to be an abundance of shtick-y persona’s, inflated obnoxiousness, irritating glossiness. It felt more like Real World L.A. Goes to Fashion School than a group of disciplined and intuitive designers.
What has always set Project Runway apart, for me, is that with the exception of one or two provocative characters, personalities weren’t really the focus. The essence of the show is about the fashion; about being creative, innovative and producing under pressure, all the while trying to remain marketable and economical. In the cluttered world of reality TV, Project Runway somehow always seemed more dignified, sophisticated and organically dramatic and entertaining. However, last night”s premiere episode included exploitative drama, narrowing in on the near-breakdown of a former drug addict. I don’t necessarily mind the personal stories here and there, but due to bad editing/bad timing, the way this issue was handled was too much, too soon. It reminded me of an entirely different reality series, A&E’s Intervention.
Despite my early criticism I will still watch the show, it at least deserves a fair shot. That said, I am hoping that in Lifetime’s attempt to differentiate from Bravo’s legacy by peppering in elements of other reality shows, that the result isn’t a manufactured Project Runway knock-off. If that happens, then I’ll have to blow some air kisses and say “auf Wiedersehen.”