Judge Brett Cullum thinks that nervous breakdowns are simply fabulous, dah-ling.
Our reviews of Project Runway: The Complete Third Season (published November 28th, 2007), Project Runway: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 19th, 2008), and Project Runway: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 27th, 2009) are also available.
"Where the Hell is my chiffon?"—Andrae
Project Runway is easily the best fashion reality show ever created. It's bitchy, funny, and fiercely competitive. I don't know why it hasn't been snagged by a major network, but there it sits on the Bravo cable channel, daring you to watch it. It mixes Survivor's intense tribal contest with all the nuttiness of Zoolander's sense of the bizarre world of clothing design.
Facts of the Case
Sixteen hopeful fashion designers compete for a chance to be shown at New York's Olympus Fashion Week, and a chance to be funded. Every episode they are assigned a design task with a ridiculously short time frame to complete their looks. Meanwhile, even the runway models are competing with each other to hook on to the designer who will win so they can get a photo shoot spread in Elle magazine. Supermodel Heidi Klum presides over the proceedings and tells people whether they are "in or out." She let's contestants go with a passing "Aufwiedersehen," and a furtive glance before they are sent down the runway with tears in eyes and bags in hands. Meanwhile scissors fly, insults are flung, and Tim Gunn (the chair of the Department of Fashion at Parsons Design School) critiques the hopeful seamsters. In this season the contestants include: Andrae, Chloe, Daniel F., Daniel V., Diana. Emmett, Guadalupe, Heidi, John, Kara, Kirsten, Marla, Nick, Raymundo, Santino, and Zulema.
Project Runway trumps most other reality shows by having a wide spectrum of contestants including all age ranges, cultural backgrounds, and orientations. American Idol has always felt like kids singing karaoke tunes, but here is a show where people in their fifties compete side by side with students. The personalities are larger than life and messy in some cases, and mousey and precise in others. It's a brilliant microcosm of the world and the fashion industry. The ridiculous meets the sublime, and intelligence goes to war with creativity.
Project Runway: The Complete Second Season features thirteen episodes of the most addictive show in television. It's a real joy to see a reality television program where the contestants are doing things that are not demeaning, and looking to create a real career instead of simply winning bags of money or a potential spouse. They give these people bizarre tasks—design an outfit for a Barbie doll, take the clothes off your back and redesign them, whip up a party dress for a Hilton, or make an outfit out of flowers. The contestants and the judges take this all dreadfully seriously, and that is where the comedy comes in. Yet at the same time, each fashion show at the end of the episode is stunning in the amount of creativity on display. The end products are breathtaking every step of the way, and there's no denying this is one show where talent will actually save your ass from elimination.
The second season of Project Runway had some truly bizarre characters and outstanding moments that made brilliant television. Santino Rice had a maliciously out of control ego, Andrae broke down in to tears at least once an episode, Zulema seemed like a selfish bitch, and Chloe showed a strange Asian coolness throughout. Heidi Klum was pregnant, and we got to see a supermodel blow up to super size. There are outrageous moments in the apartment where the designers live, and strife in the studio every single time. Seems like someone is always teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It's fabulous!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The real question hanging over the DVD industry is how much mileage do these reality shows have as viable products? Most of the tension and anticipation are sucked out of the proceedings when you know who will ultimately win, and it's hard to imagine watching Project Runway: The Complete Second Season over and over again. Bravo seems up to the challenge by offering each episode in extended form, so that even if you've seen the series there will be some new material in a revisit. Also included are outtakes and bloopers, audition tapes, Tim Gunn's blog as a text feature, and a look at Season 3's casting call. Will this be enough to entice consumers to buy the set?
Fourteen episodes are spread out over four discs including the traditional series run, and a reunion special. The transfers are clean, and well presented in a traditional fullscreen digital format. The soundtrack is limited to a two channel English mode. Packaging is slick as the discs are housed in a slipcover, and inside is a two panel cardboard fold out with two discs on each side. I'm not overly fond of the way the discs overlap in the packaging, but it seems like they are in there securely enough to avoid scratching. Still, the whole thing is made out of cardboard which may not wear well over time. I suppose fashion is disposable, so why not?
This is wild addictive stuff made of the fabric of dreams. Project Runway is a must-see for anyone with a passion for fashion or who finds allure in couture. The real question is will it stay in your DVD player, or come out after one viewing? For fashion students the answer is easy, this is a must buy. But what about the rest of us? Certainly Project Runway: The Complete Second Season is a step in the right direction for adding value to a reality series. Extended episodes, outtakes, and Tim Gunn's blog should attract even the viewers who followed it religiously all season. Perhaps the reality DVD project should do what it inspires these contestants to do. Recut and reimagine the series enough to make it repeatable endlessly. Get the designers to do several commentary tracks, open up the vaults for hours of excised footage, and go further behind the scenes. If there is ever a genre that demands extra material, it's reality television. This is an attractive package with a respectable amount of extras. The show is definitely worth the investment, but once you know who made the final cut will it have the same impact? That's only a question true fans can answer. Are you in or out?
Project Runway is "in," definitely "in." It struts down the runway easily. But how many times can it work it?
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