Thursday, August 31, 2006


Carry on, make it work

Is Project Runway getting... boring?

It's hard to know whether it's the show or me, but in the two weeks following the wrong-headed elimination of Alison, it seems like the show's engines just suddenly conked out and it's just drifting.

Let's gather the facts. For the last four weeks, it has been a consistent Michael love fest: he either wins, or nearly wins, and he's so obviously talented and destined for the final three that they might as well just give him advanced placement. He's like the Mets wrapping up the division by August.

Uli and Laura are talented too, but the judges keep letting them get away with making the same things over and over. Their designs are getting boring.

Vincent, who started out as an obnoxious jerk who made consistently ugly stuff, has mellowed himself out into a soporiphic nebbish whose last two designs have been way too safe. This week he got by "designing" a charcoal v-neck pullover and baggy slacks, which he could easily have picked up at Target. That he survived the judging -- the challenge was to make a "jet set" outfit for the designer himself/herself -- shows a high tolerance for boring, despite last week's elimination of the aggressively dull Robert.

Kayne, too, is falling into a design rut: his stuff is becoming consistently tacky, as this week he made himself an Elvis costume for the "jet setting" challenge.

Jeffrey seemed more interesting after last week -- the momathon, in which the designers had to make outfits for their competitors' mostly fat moms or sisters -- when we learned that his mother loves him and that he is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. But he's not that interesting, and his nasty little personality conflict with Angela -- this season's only conflict story line -- has dried out into an ordinary "co-worker from hell" humdrum.

And in any event, that's over, because they just kicked off Angela. You can't vehemently argue with the decision, since she's probably the least talented designer left other than Vincent. Angela has been making the same crap week after week -- always with the "rouching" and the florettes -- and the only question is whether the design challenge is one that lends itself to her style (in which case she does well) or not.

But that's the bigger problem. Last season, the challenges forced the contestants out of their comfort zones more regularly and systematically. This season, most of them have been doing their same thing week after week, and -- with the notable exception of Robert and the occasional reference to somebody's consistent style -- getting away with it in the judging.

Tim's signature line from last season "Make it work!" seems to have been adopted as a sort of official brand of the show. It's used in the promotional materials, and even Heidi has said it in commercial spots. Maybe that's way Tim has rolled out a new one for himself this season, "carry on!"

As he left the workroom after his weekly critique of the designs in progress, Tim deployed both catch phrases together: "Make it work! Carry on!" But he plainly lacked conviction: even this bit of fun seems to be growing threadbare.

Project Runway may be a victim of its own success. First, they have repeatedly said that applications were up exponentially this year and that a lot of established designers interviewed for the show. I can count at least four of the designers who have credentials in the industry who are on the show. What was great about the first couple of seasons is that you have relative unknowns trying to make it in the industry and make pieces for the challenges. In the challenges, you got many pieces that were absolutely horrible so it was a question of which one the judges thought was the worst. Also, I think that many of the contestants know that just being on the show will do wonders for their careers and don’t take it as seriously. Sure, they want to win but a place in the final six or seven will get them more exposure and more clients. Look at Kara from last year who bowed out at four is now and arguably the most successful from last season. As I understand it, she designs most of the stuff Heidi has been wearing on the show. So you have more competent designers, who are better constructionists, making better pieces and none of the drama, with the attitude is that they will go back to their already developed studios and clients and be able to charge 20% more because they were on the show.

I really hope they don’t go the route of created drama and trump a reason to axe Michael, though I can see that coming. They edit the show to build him up as the unstoppable force and then he gets jettisoned over someone like Vincent. That will keep the controversy up. So we know that Kayne and Vincent should go next. That leaves Jeffrey, Michael, Uli, and Laura. My guess is that either Uli or Laura draws the odd straw out as being too boring and same old same old. I think Laura stays so the battle is rock and roll vs. hip-hop vs. Ann Taylor in three way dance for all the marbles.

Tim’s role now reminds of the Simpson’s episode where Bart is the “I didn’t do it” boy. He just comes out and says his little lines and disappears. I thought the challenge was going to be to dress Tim, which would have been a lot more interesting. Then they could have Michael and Tim switch roles and Michael could come in and do the dishing on the outfits. That might be my best idea…..ever..
Brock -- I don't know about the "role switching," but I think that dressing Tim is the best idea for a challenge I've ever heard.
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