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TV Review: Project Runway

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Last night, December 7, 2005, the second season of Project Runway debuted. Now I am truly happy.

In case some of you don’t know, the show’s first season became a ratings hit for the Bravo network (which was airing Manhunt and Queer Eye at the time and was/is the gayest network ever. Take that, Logo network). Executive produced and hosted by Heidi Klum (now Klum Seal after marrying…Seal), the show pitted twelve designers against each other, giving them outrageous challenges each week. The first week they had twelve hours to make sexy evening gowns made exclusively with materials found at a grocery store (a corn husk dress won, but the lawn chair-and-placemat dress was a close second). Another week they had five hours to make swimsuits that could also be worn to a cocktail party (because, as we all have done ourselves, so many people climb out of a pool, jump in their car, and head on over to a swanky cocktail party). One designer was eliminated each week, and the final three got to show a collection at New York Fashion Week. Funny man Jay McCarroll was finally chosen as the winner.

Now it’s back and literally bigger than before. The first hour they had sixteen designers, which is way too many for even the most devoted viewer to keep track of. Luckily, two of them were cut at the end of the first, ho-hum challenge (they had a week before arriving in New York to design a dress that reflected them as a designer…yawn). Arrogant Santino (“I have a hard time making something that’s mediocre”) was crowned the winner with his green baby-doll dress, although my favorite was Nick’s cinnamon suit with a single feather jutting out from the lapel.

As the fourteen remaining designers assembled at a party, they were told that the second challenge was to create an entire outfit with only the clothes they were wearing. Well, you can just imagine the horror. Asking a designer to cut up their favorite leather jacket is like asking Courtney Love to give up being insane. This time cute little Chloe won with a simple (I would say too simple) clean blue and black dress with pockets (a nice touch).

While the robotic Klum gets to be host (thankfully she only appears at the beginning and end of each episode), she also judges the creations with designer Michael Kors (fair yet sometimes bitchy with great one-liners: “It’s a little too Garanimals for me”) and the fashion director at Elle magazine, Nina Garcia (much harsher yet will also lavish praise when deserved). Each week they usually have a guest judge as well, like tonight’s “legendary” Diane Von Furstenburg.

Although it’s still early to really know the contestants, we already had one nervous breakdown courtesy of Andrae, who started bawling and yelling at the ceiling when asked to defend his shredded denim dress (apparently it represented something symbolic to him…although no one could understand what the hell he was talking about). And vapid L.A. designer Daniel Franco is back after having been the first contestant eliminated from season one. But Mr. “Follow Your Bliss” is said to have had one of the strongest showings at season two’s auditions, so therefore his presence isn’t some kind of gimmick.

With teasers of the upcoming season complete with tears, fighting and some crazy-ass dresses, hopefully the editors will remember that, no matter what crazy/bitchy/funny things the designers say or do, it’s focusing on the creative process that sets this show apart from the Survivors and Fear Factors. The viewers don’t cheer for or against people – with last season’s villainous Wendy Pepper as the exception – they cheer for or against the dresses. Rating works of art or laughing at gaudy pieces of crap is the truly fun part.

I don’t read fashion magazines or follow the latest trends or even watch reality TV shows, but Project Runway has me hooked. I don’t have the new Project Runway magazine and I might not go so far as to post on Bravo’s message board – I swear I don’t do that – but I will be tuning in every Wednesday night with scorecard in hand. ed/pub:ak

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About Don Baiocchi

  • Great review, and I agree. With one exception: Wendy Pepper was not villanous, just willing to be disliked in pursuit of victory.

    I’ll take GAF over two-faced kiss-kiss (stab) any day! Wendy simply did not care what the other contestants thought. That’s not villainy, that’s ambition.

  • Watch Santini for the same kind of thing this season – did you notice his outright snickers as Daniel Franco and Wade whatsit were called on the carpet for their efforts?

    Not cool – but he (like Wendy) obviously doesn’t much care what his competitors think.

  • Dr. Pat, are you kidding? Wendy would be nice to someone’s face and then talk smack about them on the runway to the judges. She told her roommates on the first episode that since she’s a mother she’s going to help them take care of each other, then later confessed to the camera that she’s going to use her “mother” status to get ahead. That’s more “two-faced kiss-kiss” than any other contestant. That’s villainy and ambition.

    And yeah, Santino is on his way to becoming the assh— of the show. Although at least he has talent to back up his arrogance, unlike Wendy. And Zulema doesn’t seem to be making any friends, either.