Judge Brett Cullum isn't "girlicious," but he makes it work!
Our reviews of Project Runway: The Complete Second Season (published June 27th, 2006), Project Runway: The Complete Third Season (published November 28th, 2007), and Project Runway: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 19th, 2008) are also available.
"It looks like it's a pterodactyl out of a gay Jurassic Park."—Tim Gunn, on a designer's garment
After four seasons, Project Runway had proven to be a reliable fashion contest with a rabid fan base, designer dos and duds, and plenty of quotable moments. I've loved the show from the first year, because it's so much fun to see what the fashionistas come up with in less than a day when they are given ridiculous challenges like "tear this car apart and make a dress out of the wreckage." This fifth year of the show felt a little long in the tooth, since many of the projects were recycled from previous years, but the stable of whacked-out designers more than made up for any feelings of déjà vu. Somehow Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, and the usual suspects found a way to "make it work."
Facts of the Case
It's all very predictable by now. You take sixteen aspiring fashion designers, and lock them in a room at Parsons School of Design. Make sure they don't get enough sleep, and force them to live together with cameras in their face every minute. Then start demanding they make full garments in less than a day based on theme challenges that have little to do with fashion and more to do with making sponsors and the audience happy. Make sure the queens get bitchy, the straight guys get flustered, the women cry at some point, and the models give dead vacant looks the whole time. Blitz it all out in the finale with a fashion show at Bryant Park's Fashion Week, and name a winner who the world will only cheer until the next season debuts.
The fifth season of Project Runway was interesting for what was happening behind the scenes, in addition to the dress design contest. The Weinsteins, who produced the show, were shopping the series around to other cable channels, and Bravo was mounting lawsuits against them leaving. There was a real question as to whether or not the show would have a future there for a bit. Bravo didn't promote the program as much as they did in previous years, because they knew Project Runway was heading to Lifetime.
It seemed the production was running through the motions biding its time until the flip to a new station. The first challenge was a callback to season one where contestants had to find material in the same grocery store the original designers found themselves in. Later on we saw contestants trying to get inspiration from New York City, the Olympics, Brooke Shields, drag queens, Saturn cars, and even their astrological sign.
The contestants were pretty memorable even when their challenges weren't, and the cast made the year feel better than it had any right to. This year we got to see:
• Jerry Tam from Butte, Montana—a somewhat established
designer who should have costumed for American Psycho.
You got a lot of drama with this season, probably culminating with "Kenley-gate" (thank you Tom & Lorenzo) where one designer flipped attitude at both Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia. And of course we were supplied the usual near nervous breakdowns, crying tantrums, and gay gasps to fill it all out. Along the way we get to see Sandra Bernhard, RuPaul, Natalie Portman, Apolo Anton Ohno, Brooke Shields, and LL Cool J as celebrity guest judges. Unfortunately Jennifer Lopez backed out of the finale episode at the last minute, but she was replaced by the far more logical choice of Tim Gunn. All in all it was a fun season, and certainly one worth revisiting on DVD.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Where Project Runway: Season Five fails to generate excitement is in the lackluster supplements offered. The front cover promises "never-before-seen extended episodes" which made me curious if this content was any better than what they've promised for previous seasons. This was done for season four as well, and what you get are brief scenes added in to the episodes that include some reactions or a few seconds here and there. Only the most savvy viewer will even notice, as the cut scenes offer little revelation or interest. Also included is a super brief "Wear Are They Now?" featurette which interviews the winner seconds after the title is bestowed. It fails to let us know what happens to the career of the chosen designer. The real problem is we don't even get the bonus episodes that were aired on Bravo. Nowhere to be found is the reunion special, and there are no behind the scenes looks at anything. There's just not much to entice people to want this DVD other than to have episodes anybody could catch with cable and a programmed DVR.
Bravo has always shown the program in full screen with certain sequences cropped to look like it is a wide aspect ratio. The transfers are basic cable in nature, appearing as if you chose the non-HD version and settled for standard broadcast quality. It looks decidedly low-tech, and won't impress too many people. The audio is simple stereo, and does fine with the dialogue and music. Included in all the episodes are the "previously on" and "coming up" segments. It can be distracting when it happens at a commercial break, but fun to see how they tease what's about to happen.
Project Runway: Season Five is simply more of the same, but that formula is pretty fabulous in and of itself. The competition is a cut above most reality shows in that there is true artistry on display coupled with the creative personalities that make it fun to watch. American Idol was never this bitchy, and we even get scary "dead eye" models tromping down a runway to climax each episode. What's not to love? Unfortunately the DVD set doesn't offer much in the way of extras. Episodes are extended by mere seconds, and the interview with the winner is dry and short, plus the reunion special is missing. Truly, the saving grace is that the season itself worked just fine on its own merits.
Guilty of only offering the basics, Project Runway: Season Five would be cut from its own competition for being too plain. Luckily the personalities save it.
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