The ultimate Recap/Rethink
Not that we ever really did. It’s kind of hard to work up the necessary bile over a contestant in a reality show competition, but we basically always followed the accepted line that most viewers did: he was the Season 2 “villain,” in large part because he was bombastic and obnoxious but mostly because he wasn’t auf’d when Nick was, something many viewers considered the death knell for the show’s respectability.
Except it hasn’t worked out that way. After Season 3, the show’s been riding on a wave of respectability higher than previous seasons. Despite the attempts by the viewership to portray him as an evil mustache-twirling villain, in the long run, all he was was good television.
Now, put down the pitchforks, girls. We’re not excusing bad behavior and Santino said things that were simply indefensible. We have not a shred of doubt that he was a major pain in the ass to deal with day in and day out.
On the other hand, this is a reality show. And like all reality shows, it lives or dies based on the “performances” of its “characters.” Project Runway in particular among the genre has always been lauded for casting interesting, creative people, some of whom are intensely competitive (Wendy, Jeffrey), some of whom are crazy creatives (Jay, Austin), some of whom are ice cold professionals (Kara Saun, Emmett), some of whom are adorable little balls of fluff (Nick, Daniel V., Kayne) and some of whom are just…special (Lupe, Angela, Daniel Franco). All of these people are memorable for bringing their personalities to the table in full force, but no one did so more than and better than Santino.
For all the talk of his “villainy,” Santino was, to us, hellaciously funny most of the time. Not just the much-lauded Tim Gunn impressions, but also the singing and dancing, the amazing ease he had in front of the camera, the eye-rolling and laughing on the runway, and best of all, the cagematches with the judges, Nina especially. Oh sure, we can all boo-hoo that he was “disrespectful” to them, but they’re not royalty; they’re just judges on a reality show. Clearly, the judges enjoyed the backing and forthing just as much as he did, despite Nina’s stated fear that he was going to kill her.
Everyone always criticizes these shows for manufactured drama and we don’t disagree. Not totally. When the drama is too heavy-handed or when it has the producers’ fingerprints all over it, then we get annoyed. But simple drama arising out of strangers being forced to live and work together? Darlings, that’s what reality TV is for. You might as well complain that there are too many horses in a western. Sit back and enjoy it, we say. If the show consisted of 44 minutes of designers quietly sewing, none of us would watch it. Well, almost none of us.
What we’re trying to say in our roundabout not-enough-coffee way is, take away the drama of wondering who’s going to be auf’d next and Santino comes off a lot better. Once you don’t have a horse in the race, you notice just how funny and entertaining he can be. Again, we realize some of what he said was nasty but he admitted that he never really meant for any of it to be taken seriously. Certainly the argument could be made that he should take more responsibility for the things he says (and we agree), but it’s hard to stay mad when so many of the things he said were some of the funniest and most memorable moments in the show’s history.