STUDIO: Miramax Home Entertainment
MSRP: $39.95
RUNNING TIME: 751 minutes
• "Wear Are They Now?" reunion featurette
• Tim Gunn’s blog
• Outtakes
• Audition tapes
• Extended scenes

The Pitch

want to test contestants’ creativity, instead of their physical prowess."

sounds dumb."

Klum will host."

order a million episodes."

The Humans

Ms. Klum,
plus a diminishing cast of interesting and uninteresting contestants.

The Nutshell

A reality
show contest in which those vying for the grand prize are forced to create,
from scratch, wearable and fashionable garments each week. Each week’s
challenge has something to distinguish itself from others. One week,
contestants have to create a garment from items found in a garden shop, for
example. The winner gets to create his or her own fashion line, and gets a
couple opportunities to break into the business, but doesn’t get the
satisfaction of Ms. Klum kissing him or her on both cheeks with a sultry,
whispered "Auf wiedersehen."

Sofa king dents.

The Lowdown

We have a
single TV in our house, because my wife and I tend to enjoy the same shows.
When our tastes differ, I usually end up losing out and getting exiled to the
study to play on the computer. That usually happens when my wife switches over
to HGTV, American Idol, or So You Think You Can Dance. It took
me the entire first season of the latter to beat Half-Life 2. (I’m a very deliberate

So, along
comes Project Runway. When my wife discovered it, I had just gotten
my PSP with Lumines, so I was content to sit on the couch with headphones
on. It wasn’t long, though, before I turned down the sound and had to ask the
redhead: "Why are they all wearing postal uniforms?" Turned out the contestants
had to create a stylish uniform for mail carriers. If that’s not a challenge, I
don’t know what is. That was during the first season of the show. For this
second season, I was a regular viewer during first airings.

Moral of
the story? Goddamnit, I still can’t get to 999,999 in Lumines.

moral: challenges that rely on skill and creativity, rather than luck and
physical prowess, can make for some compelling television. The creators of Project
hit upon a compelling formula that can be admired even by
someone as out of touch with the fashion world as I am. Set attainable goals
that require contestants exercise their imaginations within imposed restraints
and have physical and easily-judged results. Sounds simple, interesting, and a hell
of a better display of creativity than, say, a reality show about writers or
painters. (How about Bob Ross’ Happy Cloud vs. Happy Tree?)

Difference between a stripper and a runway model? The eyes.

all junk that applies to the show as a whole, though, first, second, and
current third seasons. What separates the seasons are the specific challenges
and, of course, the contestants. Since the first season beat ratings
expectations, the producers were able to drum up some more unusual challenges,
sponsors, and guest judges to add star power. The added bustle and spectacle
are nice, but each episode has its center on the contestants’ time in the
sewing room, with both their talents and personalities on display.

are canny creatures, you know. Every show gets its weirdo, its villain, it
primadonna, and whatever other archetypes are important. Project Runway doesn’t
try to blaze any new trails in that regard. Some of the contestants here are as
campy as Boy George, others are competition driven, and just about all of them
are indistinct. That’s one of the harshest blows against this season: to the
fashion layperson, the individual styles of the contestants aren’t enough to
distinguish them, and their personalities certainly aren’t.

There are
exceptions. There’s the eccentric, Santino, who manages to plow his way through
almost to the end on the strength of his unusual designs and childish
insistence on getting his own way. There’s Daniel V., the soft-spoken
professional with a plain talent, who racks up more individual challenge wins
than you might think possible, while still not winning the competition as a
whole. There are a couple other individual personalities, but even four out of
sixteen ain’t so hot a percentage. And out of those four, one doesn’t even
garner any sympathy.

Quit hitting yourself. Quit hitting yourself.

Why do we
even need to have the sort of archetype-clashing that the less memorable
characters fall into, anyway? Project Runway falters because of
its concessions to reality show conventions: the forced inter-group politics,
the underdeveloped side-game involving the designers’ models, the critically
useless remarks of the judges during the runway showings. There is enough
tension simply with competitors working in close quarters under extreme
pressure that these needless injections of fake drama end up dispelling the
mood more than contributing to it.

The most
compelling aspect of the show is the designers’ struggles against and with
their own creative forces. It doesn’t get enough of the air time, in my
opinion, but as the core around which the other crap revolves it’s solid. The
show has built up quite a following and, regardless of what draws individual
audience members, it’s well-deserved.

I can’t
wait for the episode where they make the designers use materials obtained
solely from adult novelty stores.

"But mom! Jane and I really love each other!"

The Package

episodes (including the "contestant selection" show and the two-part
finale) spread across four discs, with bonus features all the way. Several
episodes are extended from what was shown on Bravo — extending arguments
between judges and farewell speeches from disheartened contestants.

fourth disc has most of the bonus features, including a number of outtakes
(unscripted, my ass,) audition tapes from the contestants, co-host Tim Gunn’s
blog, and a special short reunion episode featuring the season’s cast. It’s not
a lot in the way of bonuses, and even less in the way of content given by those
bonuses. The only one that’s interesting is Gunn’s journal: he’s erudite,
professional, and does a fair amount in the name of legitimizing fashion to
potential audience members who think it might be a stupid and ostentatious

ostentatious it might be, but stupid doesn’t follow.

7.6 out of 10