I've recapped a lot of shit at this point, but I never worked harder on any show than Project Runway, when I wrote about it during its second and third seasons. I remember one specific recap taking me over 10 hours to prepare and complete. What a stupid waste of time that was. (Although this did come out of it, and long after I stopped caring about Project Runway, I still look back on it fondly as one of my very best Photoshop jobs ever). The problem is that I never really bonded with Project Runway the way that I have almost everything else I cover. It was never outrageous enough for my taste, so I always felt the need to inject it with the amount of absurdity necessary to make it relevant to me. (I don't know why I had the weird sense of obligation to keep with it as long as I did. Blogs make you do weird things, I suppose.) As much as I grew tired of Tim Gunn and his shtick by my second season of covering this show (quick question: What's the difference between Tim Gunn and a talking Tim Gunn bobblehead? quick answer: A pulse.), I followed his advice. I made it work.
So I fell out for sheer lack of interest, but I've been wrong a million times and I enjoy surprises, so I thought that I'd check out the long-delayed sixth season premiere. From what I can tell, the show has only changed in its location on the dial (from Bravo to Lifetime) and in the country (from New York to Los Angeles). Yawn. Shrug. Auf wiederzzzzz.
I don't mean to piss on anyone's umbrella. I understand that many people disagree and have throbbing passion for this thing. Perhaps they care more about fashion than I do. I like to laugh at stupid shit, and I appreciate craftsmanship, but at the end of the day, I really don't care about what women wear unless it's over-the-top enough to become a costume (thank Edie Beale for that). For the most part, costumey is a no-no on ProjRun. Coming back to all that rushing and pin-sucking in the face of unrealistic time constraints to finish a garment felt routine, as though it'd been three days since I sat down and watched this show, not three years.
Project Runway has a reputation for being a high-brow reality show, probably because of its supposed investment in talent, its tempered contestants and its consistent pacing. I think assigning high- and low-culture status within the genre of reality TV is like assigning a hierarchy of pork products, from, say, belly to scrapple. In the end, it's all fucking pig. It's all so subjective, but to act like a reality show is of greater cultural value because it isn't as trashy as the genre typically is misses the point from where I'm sitting. You aren't coming away from this show changed or more knowledgeable. At best, Project Runway gives us a greater appreciation of diligent work. You can visit a construction site and, if you survive the cat calls, come away with the same level of enrichment.
I don't mean to hold its hype against it, and it's not like Project Runway ultimately does that great of a job in avoiding being what it is, anyway. People are not there to make friends, they throw each other under the bus, this isn't the last you've heard of them when they're bounced. As though sniffing out truffles, the casting agents fill the show with types. This season has a Southern blonde who's over-confident in her intelligence, a wacky foreigner ("If you give me a sheep, I can make you a sweater!"), a Diablo Cody lookalike (Diabalike) and an old dude (his oldest kid is 26, older than some contestants -- I mean, can you believe it?!?). There is an androgynous, aggressively coiffed pseudo-intellect who described his design as "ineffable," but was unfortunately incorrect as he didn't then shut up.
In response to the task of designing for the red carpet, this one also said "I don’t differentiate between different colored carpets," which, uh, yeah you do because you just called them "different." It was here that I was reminded of maybe the main reason I stopped watching this show: I find humorless snobs too excruciating to even laugh at, and as a fashion-design competition, pretension runs thick on Project Runway. It's not the show's fault, per se, it's just how it works out.
Then there was the former meth user, who within less than two minutes shared his addict status with his roommates and the rest of the world. Curious. When it came time to tackle the week's challenge, he broke down, attributing this to...
Everyone deals with addiction differently, and props to him for a) kicking and b) not being ashamed, but at this point, this is all we knew of his character. The addict thing began feeling like a card to play, both to introduce to and excuse himself from the show's plot. It was two-dimensional exhibitionism. Tim Gunn's cardboard counseling included a tender...
..."Make it work." I can't imagine a more appropriate situation for this phoned-in response. Bravo.
And then there was Ari, the weirdo who introduced herself by talking about previous designs that sounded like stillsuits from Dune sans the piss recycling, and who described her heinous challenge creation as being for someone attending "the VMAs, like, 2080. I want her to also go receive her Nobel Peace Prize on the same night."
Ari doesn't sketch, she meditates "on what the garment will be and who will be wearing it." Editing suggests that this is how she meditates:
I love that the Lifetime bug subverts her famewhoring. "That'll do, Ari," says the graphics deparment. Ari was kicked off the show for sucking, but also for being weird. Like sub-Project Runway-from-one-of-those-shows weird.
In the interest of fairness, I concede that Project Runway is a well-oiled machine. As a production, it is a class act, with editing so smooth and clean, it's as though the editors are combining soap bars in the shower. The fastest moving and most hilariously chopped part of the show is the final runway/judging portion, which flashes of hilarious mannerisms...
When Michael Kors said off-screen, "We want someone who's got an eye," as this shot of Nina ran...
...I almost fell out of bed.
Why is everyone lazy-eyed, by the way?
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. Plenty of very important people have been (like Thom Yorke and Biggie Smalls and Sandy Duncan). I just wonder why everyone is all of a sudden. Maybe it's in this season.
Judging alone has me tempted to keep up with this thing. We'll see. More up my alley is the half-hour spin-off, Models of the Runway, which follows the walking clothes hangers in their non-competition. Their elimination is determined entirely by the designers, and since the models are given so little to do, which hanger goes usually depends on how the cards fall (the designers pick their models every week gym-class style -- last one standing is the least wanted and must leave). Elimination has all the suspense and tenderness of a sniper attack. But despite that, Models manages to keep Project Runway's upscale feel and serve as more of a showcase of extreme human behavior. Said extremeness is generally coming in the form of dumbness. And admittedly so!
This one's designer won his challenge this week, and since she's the cleaning fish to his barracuda, she also rode to victory. She was given, I don't even know, a shopping spree ("Christmas for rich people and I’m not rich") and the other model she picked to accompany her she chose because, "She’s the only person who’s as dumb as me. And I mean that in the nicest way." It's a model compliment if ever there were.
The quotes were seriously incredible. "This is more suspenseful than on TV!" said one of the models as they watched the final stretches of elimination...
"It looks like a spacesuit from outer space!" is how Vanessa described Ari's shitty design.
That's not so much redundant as it is impossible. How could it be from outer space? Aren't physics different up there? Upon moving into their shared living space, Vanessa also said, "I’ve heard the worst rumors about model houses. Stealing, mean things are done to people’s food, I mean, I hope I don’t have to sleep with one eye open." Ha again with the eye motif! And also, she "heard" or she watched Cycle 3 of ANTM? Clean up your shit, Vanessa. And while you're at it, cut it, too.
My favorite thing said came via Kayln, who announced that she:
- Is 19
- Is originally from Lake Jackson, Texas
- Now lives in New York
And look at how happy she is to be in its midst. I am on serious pins and needles in anticipation of finding out her other favorite colors.
Of course, given that the girls have little say in their fate, this should be called Pawns of the Runway. I guess that would be too blunt. Honesty and reality rarely coexist, especially on television. Models' title is as meaningless as everything.