Worst Season EVER?
Well, we’re out of dresses to make fun of so how about a little mid-season report card?
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have problems with the current season and (opinionated bitches that we are) we’ll happily outline them for you, but for the most part, Project Runway is what it’s always been: a reality television show nominally based on a fashion design competition.
Here’s the thing: is this season a little boring compared to previous ones? A little. But we think this charge is somewhat overblown. Season 3 saw the show reach new heights of popularity and you couldn’t swing a knockoff LV from Canal Street without hitting a magazine cover starring Heidi or Tim. Then there was the excruciatingly long wait between seasons. PR fans waited so long for season 4 to start that we suspect that nothing was ever going to live up to their expectations. Couple that with Sir Tim’s rather unwise over-the-top exclamation pre-season that this was the most talented group of designers in the history of the world and you have a recipe for disappointment.
The show for the most part is as it ever was: lock a bunch of designers in Parson’s basement, feed them bread and water, make them jump through flaming hoops performing tricks that have little to do with the real world of fashion, have Tim look concerned and then have the three judges sit with a representative from the real world of fashion and complain that the results look “rushed.” That’s the formula and that’s what it’s always been.
Now, one could argue that perhaps it’s time to switch up the formula a bit and we have to say, part of us likes the idea. Maybe the franchise needs a slight rethink before the inevitable Season 5 rolls around. On the other hand, these sorts of things don’t tend to work out well. More often than not, producing a successful TV show is a crap shoot and the producers themselves don’t always know why a show becomes a hit. Tweaking an already successful format could lead to disastrous results. As we said, part of us likes the idea but we have to conclude that it’s not worth the chance that it could ruin the show.
Why are so many online commenters proclaiming it the worst season ever? It’s not the format. And despite what some people have said, it’s not the challenges. The challenges this season have been pretty much in line with previous seasons: the producers put roadblocks in the way of the designers, whether they be material constraints or model constraints or time constraints, in order to heighten the tension and see who can produce something fabulous under such circumstances. Yeah, there are probably too many team challenges and we still say that designing something to be worn on the Today Show represented a low fabulosity point for the show. We’d rail against the over-the-top product placement of the Hershey’s challenge but in that instance, the results were fun so we can’t complain that much.
So if it’s not the format and it’s not the challenges, what is it? Well, we hate to say it but it’s the participants. There were rumors last year that the producers were having trouble finding worthy contestants. To their credit, they found a talented group of designers. Problem is, there’s a serious personality deficit going on here. We’re sure they’re all loaded with personality in person, but they’re all FAR too aware of how they want to come across on camera and since most of them have fairly well established careers already, no one’s going to make an ass out of themselves and the show is suffering because of it.
Fans always say “I don’t watch the show for drama” and we say in response “Honey? Bullshit.” We always used to say if it was an hour of professionals calmly stitching, the show would be boring. Guess what? A lot of S4 has been about professionals calmly stitching. Where are the hungry over-the-top personalities of yesteryear? The Kaynes and Santinos and Lauras and Jays and Ulis and Jeffreys and Andraes and even the Vincents and Angelas and Wendys? There’s a reason Christian’s become the breakout star of the season: he’s the only one willing to be himself one hundred percent on camera. The producers tried like crazy to make Elisa into the wacky one, but in the end she was just a quirky, gentle artist unsuitable for reality TV. Jack showed promise but unfortunately he had to leave and Chris’ aufing really sobered him up. He’s been quiet and businesslike since his return. We suspect the producers thought they had a goldmine in the tattoo’d biker chick persona of Sweet P only to have her wind up actually being sweet and more than a little befuddled by the whole thing. It was fun watching Ricky cry the first 30 times but it’s gotten old and Rami, VictorYA, Jillian, Kevin, Steven, Marion and Kit just didn’t want to put themselves out there too much.
If we had to offer the producers one bit of advice, it’s this: we, the fans of PR, don’t want to see mature, established professionals concerned with their self-image. We want to see raw, crazy talent unafraid to take chances, have fights and get drunk. Not only is it more entertaining, they tend to produce more interesting garments too.