Genius Products // 2007 // 630 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // November 19th, 2008
"Designers, I'm afraid I'm here to tell you you're screwed, there's nothing
you can do to fix what you're working on...carry on!"
-- Steven doing an impersonation of Tim Gunn
Project Runway: The Complete Fourth Season gathers together 13 episodes of the reality series plus the "reunion special" that aired right before the finale all on four discs housed in a single plastic case. Project Runway is easily the classiest of reality television shows. It's a distinction akin to being named the most sophisticated and well-read first grader, yet an honor nonetheless. The show charms because the contestants and judges take their craft seriously, but don't seem too deadly myopic not to call something out when it's silly or not right. It's fun to watch creative people do what they do best, and if there's some drama along the way even better. The fourth year was an interesting season with a strong group of designers and more talent on display than bitchiness. Oh don't worry, fans of the puerile, there were plenty of cat fights and one liners flung around the workroom over the course of the competition. It's just those diversions never derailed the series from showcasing what it's all about -- the cutting edge fashion of 15 designers who whip up outfits in hours with little sleep while all living together in a New York apartment. Can they "make it work"?
Project Runway is a fashion competition where aspiring designers are asked to compete against each other in theme assignments such as create a look for Sarah Jessica Parker's clothing line, update outdated fashion trends, design an outfit for women who have lost a lot of weight, or make disco spandex wrestling outfits for the WWE Divas. Host Heidi Klum says "auf Wiedersehen" to whoever loses and comes in last, and mentor Tim Gunn encourages everyone to "make it work." At the runway shows ending the episodes, Klum heads up a panel with American fashion designer Michael Kors, Elle alumna Nina Garcia, and usually a guest judge who knows something about what they are trying to do. They all aim to be among the final three contestants who get to do a fashion show at Bryant Park's famous Fashion Week where a winner is named. The first place winner receives prizes including: an editorial feature in Elle, $100,000 from TRESemme to start their own line, the opportunity to sell a fashion line on Bluefly.com, and a 2008 Saturn Astra automobile.
The 15 contestants* for the season were:
* Simone LeBlanc, 32, from Lawrenceville, Georgia
* Marion Lee, 39, from Tyler, Texas
* Carmen Webber, 39, from Charlotte, North Carolina
* Jack Mackenroth, 38, from New York, New York
* Steven Rosengard, 30,from Chicago, Illinois
* Elisa Jimenez, 42, from El Paso, Texas
* Kevin Christiana, 31,from Fairfield, New Jersey
* Christina "Kit Pistol" Scarbo, 26, from Los Angeles, California
* Victorya Hong, 34,from Winchester, Virginia
* Ricky Lizalde, 35, from Escondido, California
* Kathleen "Sweet P" Vaughn, 46, from Los Angeles, California
* Chris March, 44, from San Francisco, California
* Jillian Lewis, 26, from Selden, New York
* Rami Kashou, 31, from Ramallah, West Bank
* Christian Siriano, 21, from Annapolis, Maryland
*Ages are designers' ages at the time the show was taped in summer 2007.
Project Runway has become a cultural icon people reference constantly, and this year sparked a lot of talk about the combination of strong personalities and talent. Saturday Night Live had a blast skewering it particularly with its portrayal of young contestant Christian Siriano. He stood out thanks to his whacky asymmetrical haircut and catch phrases like "fierce" and "tranny mess," but the kid could sew quicker than anyone else and proved himself a powerful competitor. Other standouts included: Chris March's hearty laugh, Carmen Webber's tough smoky voice, Steven Rosegard's dry subtle wit, Eilsa Jimenez's outright insane earth goddess techniques, Kevin Christiana's "straight boy caught amongst queens" routine, Ricky Lizdale's constant crying, Jack Mackenroth's spellbinding good looks, Sweet P's natural goodness, Jillian Lewis's smart takes on everything, and Rami Kashou's utter addiction to draping anything and everything in sight. The producers hit the jackpot with the cast, although they did seem to get along better than most groups from previous years with only minor drama between contestants here and there. The only thing about the cast that sparked a lot of controversy was quite a few of them were not perceived as amateurs by any definition. There seemed to be a ringer or two who had their own successful brands already established, but luckily this didn't seem to affect the results too terribly much.
The DVD set is a standard package with a little extra thrown in. Transfers for the set look like high-end cable delivery without any hint of high definition. Colors are bright and the picture is clear which makes it visually nice. The series is full screen; although, they kind of trick you in to thinking otherwise by making some sequences letter boxed to give a more cinematic impression. Sometimes we get pixels from plaids, but otherwise there are no digital artifacts of note to ruin the experience. Sound is delivered in the basic two channel you'd expect for a dialogue heavy reality program. The main attraction of Season Four on DVD is it offers extended episodes that have sequences not aired on Bravo integrated somewhat seamlessly. They only pad the running time between a minute to seven minutes for each episode, but it is a nice touch to make you want to watch Project Runway again even if you've sat through it before. Attentive viewers will be able to tell what's been put back in because the quality of the footage is not as slick as the original production and foul language is not bleeped. Mostly what gets thrown back in are confessional interviews, but we do get some extra challenge material for a handful of episodes.
The supplements include two featurettes that truly don't amount up to much. There are five or six minutes chatting with the winner, and seeing raw footage from the Elle photo shoot of the collection they came up with. It is a fun little look at life after Project Runway, but it doesn't have much substance or depth beyond some gushing about how wonderful it is to win the competition. Also included are a collection of half a dozen makeup tips from L'oreal who sponsors the show. The tips are good, but the whole thing reeks of commercial endorsement rather than extra. Fans who have collected all the seasons may notice audition tapes and bios are missing, and it seems this fourth season only offers the extended episodes as anything considered making a purchase worth it.
Project Runway: The Complete Fourth Season mixes together a lovable cast, a fierce fashion competition, and the extended episodes on DVD to make the whole thing work. The extras are kind of a tranny mess, but in the end it all seems worth it. The show itself is as addictive and fun to watch as ever, and you can easily slip in to a Project Runway marathon with little effort or planning. Spending time with Heidi, the designers, and Tim Gunn is always a treat. Now more than ever this set seems like a must own since legal battles may slow down or even halt the series from continuing. You can only say one thing in response to that news. Carry on, Project Runway. Please, carry on.
Guilty of being a must-see reality show that makes sewing hip.
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* Full Frame
* 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 630 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Episodes
* WEAR is He/She Now?
* Makeup Tips
* Official Site
* Project Rungay - Blog for the Series
* Feast of Fools Interview with Contestant Christian Siriano
* Blogging Project Runway - Blog and Podcast About the Show