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TV Review: Project Jay

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How come someone as funny, unpredictable and uninhibited as Jay McCarroll only gets a one-hour special while the zombie humanoid clones of The Bachelor get hours and hours of airtime? Why does the incoherent train wreck that is Flavor Flav get an entire season of Flavor of Love while the wisecracking, creative McCarroll barely gets one episode?

McCarroll, the winner of the first season of Project Runway, is the subject of Bravo’s Project Jay. The cameras follow this country boy from a small, rural town in Pennsylvania as he deals with fame, moving to New York City, and putting together his first professional collection.

Unfortunately, as he puts it, he’s broke. It doesn’t help that he turned down Runway‘s $100,000 prize money in hopes of signing an exclusive licensing deal with an undetermined company.

But who needs money when you’re so full of witty one-liners? On watching himself on TV: “I have the world’s smallest mouth. No wonder why I can’t get laid, because they’re like ‘that mouth is so small.'”

On his financial woes: “I just pray that I get money from somewhere even if I have to, like, sell my sperm…or hook.”

On his self-image: “If I was born hot: a) I would’ve been dead of AIDS by now. And b) I would’ve just been so dumb, like those dumb hot people I’m so jealous of. Why am I so jealous of them?”

It’s too bad he doesn’t get more airtime because he always seems to have a lot going on in his life. Much of the episode is Jay scrambling to finish an Emmy dress requested by Runway‘s host, Heidi Klum, only to have her reject it at the last minute. Plus, a nagging back problem results in full-out surgery. Thankfully, there’s also time devoted to his creative process, where we learn how a friend’s mix tape can influence a whole collection or how he can spend six straight hours designing without even getting up to pee. As he puts it, “If you have passion, you should probably take advantage of it.”

The show also slyly reveals the incestuous nature of reality TV, as Jay gets his haircut from one of the stylists on Bravo’s own Blow Out and runs into previous Runway contestants Austin Scarlett, Kara Saun and – gasp! – Wendy Pepper (season one’s scheming villain).

I’ve been a fan of both seasons of Project Runway, and I’ve always admired Jay’s work. It’s colorful, funky and sometimes even glamorous, all from a rebellious outsider’s point of view. I understand how he’s a controversial figure, as he tends to bitch about things that don’t go his way. But most of the time, he’s a funny, talented, even charming guy.

Plus, how can you not root for someone who can be self-depracating, sarcastic, and arrogant all in one delicious sound-byte such as “physically, I hate myself. Mentally, I’m gorgeous”?

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About Don Baiocchi

  • chantal stone

    i loved his show, Don…and i didn’t even watch the 1st season of PR (*gasp* i know, plz don’t take my hag-card away), but his special was great. and i loved how the guy from BO did his hair…now THAT is a great reality show. did you see there’s going to be a Blow Out 3???

    now, Jonathan Antin….yummm

  • It really was a well-done documentary. Even though it was so fast-paced, the editing was fantastic. And yes, the scene with Jason from Blow Out was great. The way they juxtaposed Jason cutting Jay’s hair with Jay cutting together his dress was great.

    Jonathan Antin? Really? Interesting, Chantal. And a little bit disturbing (jk).

  • chantal stone

    we disagree on Jonathan?? i’m surprised….
    but yeah, you’re right, the editing and everything was fantastic, i would have loved to see more, at least more than just the one show.

  • Jonathan is just so slick and slimy and smug (yeah, alliteration!). He kind of grosses me out. Plus, he has a really big head on a narrow body, like Jude Law (although Jude is much more attractive). I’m not so into lollipops, ya know?

    The special was supposed to be eight episodes, but for some reason they condensed it into one.

  • Rob Tate

    Thanks for noticing the editing, Don. I tried to juxtapose several scenes in the cut. (The Heidi phonecall/sketching the dress/shopping for fabric; The Sage Stick/Moving in etc). No one’s mentioned it except you. It means a lot to me. Thanks.

  • Congrats! Your article has been placed on Advance.net

  • Rob, so were you the editor for Project Jay? Maybe it’s obvious from your comment, but I just wanted to confirm.

    Yes, I loved the editing. I was hoping to find more room for it in my actual review. The whole show looked much more stylish and artistic than almost anything on TV. Between the lighting, the camera angles and the overlapping images, I now wish that all shows looked like this one. Great job!

  • Rob Tate

    Thanks again. Yes, I edited it.

    Actually, I was trying to edit the way Jay designs… as a quilt. Different pieces of cloth are cut together to make something greater than the sum of the parts. The Heidi dress had different shades of red. The scene about the Heidi dress had different aspects of its design (discussion, design/sketching, choosing fabric) all cut together to tell the final story.

    As to the look. The main shooter in the field was Chris Walters — who managed to both catch the scene, as well as the little details that make it interesting (nervous sugar pouring into a cup of coffee, freshly cut hair falling to the floor). Leading him was producer/director Michael Selditch, who wanted it to look cinematic, lots of foreground, not over-lit. He also wanted it to NOT look like a reality show, but more of a verite documentary. He did a great job in making sure we actually CAPTURED the story, thus not relying on Jay to just TELL the story (in voice over).

    Contrary to anything you may have read, we never expected it to be a series. We were, at one point, hoping for two hours (which is 90-min without commercials), but Bravo never gave us the go-ahead.

    I would have liked to allow SOME of the scenes to play out more — a definite time issue. For example, when Jay goes to F&S Fabric in Los Angeles to buy extra fabric for the dress, he had this beautiful scene with the sales woman. What did they talk about? Their love of fabric. It was truly lovely, but ultimately had to go (didn’t forward plot, per se; she was not a “main” character).

    I think people are thinking the resulting hour was cut down from 8 episodes. That’s simply not the case…

    Anyway, I’m pontificating. It’s not often I get to talk about editing in any depth. Thanks for indulging me.

    All my best,

  • chantal stone

    Rob—- hearing an artist pontificate about his work is hardly a chore. i’m always interested in how artists approach their work, and to learn of their goal, in comparison to the actual outcome. from you stated, i feel that your goal has been achieved.

    it’s unfortunate that scenes such as the one you mentioned (the fabric conversation) had to be left out. it’s moments such as those which can sometimes speak volumes as to the character of the main person involved. moments such as those share glimpses of ones inner thoughts, and that is what i find most interesting, but alas, do not always make for good drama.

  • Rob, I echo Chantal. It’s never boring to hear how these things are done, especially since it’s people to take the details you mention for granted.

    It’s too bad they didn’t want it to be longer. Even a two-hour special would have made more sense. It seemed like there was so much material there (they never even followed up with his surgery) and Jay could read a phone book and make it interesting (and I meant that literally).

    What’s your next project? Would love to hear more.

  • Rob Tate

    True. But we did manage to keep things in that might have gone by the wayside in other shows:
    Jay’s designing with his dog,
    The arm-wrestle between Jay and his publicist,
    even the scene about his self-image was never planned… It was a series of interview cuts and pieces the camera just happen to catch, and it became one of the focal points of the show.


  • And all those scenes were great. Especially his self-image comments…it opened up a whole new side of him, making him even more sympathetic. Plus, he had some interesting things to say about it, like would he choose to look different if he had the choice? Even though he physically hates himself, it seems his answer is “no.” That’s a very strong message to send.

  • ChrisMac

    I am with you Dan, Jay McCarroll should have his own show. It has been one of the most refreshing, raw and real things on Television.

    I have found it frustrating that I can’t find out for sure if they aren’t doing anymore Project Jay’s. THe show sucked you in totally then left you hanging regarding Jay; is he recovering from surgery, is he still broke, has he gotten a licensing contract, has Project Runway/ Heidi blacklisted him. I know now that he is showing in the fall, but that took me weeks to find out.

    I love the creative person that Jay is, he has the same pull on me that I haven’t felt since Kurt Cobain. The once in a generation creative, truly from a core level expression of something tapped into that is bigger….

    More Jay! how do we make this happen?

  • Chris, I think that show was a one-time deal. It really was more well made and better looking than any other reality show/documentary on TV right now, and he’s a great, funny star to follow around.

    I agree the show leaves us wanting to know a lot more, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen. Plus, he’s said in interviews that he doesn’t want to make himself too accessible, because maintain an air of mystery makes people more curious about him, which I can’t disagree with. It’s annoying when certain stars become over-saturated in the media.

    I hope his collection is amazing, especially since he’ll be including men’s wear in it.

  • beely

    Jay is hilarious and talented. I just wish he could reign in the comments about blow jobs. It could really hurt him in the long run.

  • Jay is a true original. Jay you ROCK!

  • Amy Shim

    I am so glad to find this article. I thought Project Jay was a new series, and I kept wondering why it wasn’t on Wednesday @ 10 central last night.
    Now I know, it was a one hit wonder.

    I had a thing for Jay during 1st season. He was my favey fave fave designer.

    And now, I want more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Beth

    Bravo would be completely stupid not to include a show with Jay McCarroll. He’s way more entertaining than the self-important, sniveling Jonathan Antin. The documentary did suck you in and I want more Jay!

  • Erika F

    Okay, I loved the truck pulling away to reveal Mood..the fabric reflected in the window with the street scene behind, the close-up of Jay’s designs as the mover-and-shaker went over “the shoe guy, the lingerie (sp?) guy” and the way one sweater pulled out into three and another sketch into millions Jay detailed how ginourmous this could get.

    I had to google the editor to find out more. GREAT JOB.

  • ChrisMac

    I get that Jay may not want to be too accessible, but as this was the best thing on television in a long time, I want more. And this is coming from a 55 year old grandma who is bored with the dumbing down of America and how that is reflected on TV. I want to know what is happening with Jay’s life! How’s Willow? Still designing? I have emailed Bravo at every location I could find. Snail mailed them and written to the Weinstein Bros. asking for more – if there are 200 hrs. of tape there could be more. It was so well done. Rob must be one of the best editors out there, as it really did come across as a quilted, crocheted view into a life!

    Whoever may have originally thought of 8 episodes was genious but maybe Jay doesn’t want this in his life. He doesn’t have a fancy interactive blog site like most of the other designers from both years. His website looks like it is hosted by Bravo, I signed up on his email list but nothing has happened.

    Jay if you read this LET US KNOW how you are! Can’t wait for the clothing line to come out. I want to buy a bag and t-shirt but don’t know if Jay gets the money from that or Bravo.??

    Frustrated at the Beach…

  • Hey Don,
    I have a new website I designed. It has 2 scenes from Project Jay on it… Let me know what you think. Rob

  • Hey Rob,

    Great site! The guy shooting the links with lightning is very cool and kind of funny, in a creepy way (if that makes any sense at all – you know, like Evil Dead). You definitely chose two strong segments from Project Jay that highlight your work.

    I don’t know much about computers, but I have a DSL connection and the flow of the site (like the lightning bolts) was little jerky. But otherwise, it’s very cool. Are you working on any new projects?

  • Yeah, the stickiness depends not on the speed of the connection, but the processing power devoted to the browser. It’s something I need to work on to get the site a little less byte heavy.

    I am working on some interesting projects — which I’d love to tell you about — but I’d rather it not be in such a public forum. Can you send me your email? This site won’t allow me to publish my email. Suffice to say, you can find it at my site at the top of the Resume page…


  • Rob Tate

    Hey Guys,
    Many of the sketches featured in Project Jay are now available on eBay. They’re all original, including the one for Heidi Klum’s Emmy dress. Jay’s raising money for the Humane Society as well as himself (he does still sleep on that futon after all!)

  • ChrisMac

    The sketches on ebay are really cool and sooo Jay! He has a nice letter if you drill into the descriptions about the sketches and his inspiration for them.

    Very cool, I hope to get a couple of them at least!!!