When it comes to the whole "velvet vs. velour" debate, Judge Ian Visser declares himself neutral.
Our reviews of Project Runway: The Complete Second Season (published June 27th, 2006), Project Runway: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 19th, 2008), and Project Runway: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 27th, 2009) are also available.
High fashion. High drama.
"This is not fashion camp. This is a place where you have to hit the ground running."—Co-host and contestant mentor Tim Gunn.
Facts of the Case
A big hit for Bravo, Project Runway is now in its fourth season and shows no signs of slowing down. Hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum and fashion insider Tim Gunn, the show features a mix of designers, architects, artists, textile creators, and seamstresses all competing to become America's newest and hottest fashion designer. The concept is simple: in each episode a challenge is issued and the contestants (sometimes as teams) must complete a creation from scratch. The results are modeled for Klum, Gunn, and other guest judges, and the best designer is given immunity for the next challenge while the least-impressive designer is sent packing. Ultimately, three contestants out of fifteen will remain for the final challenge, but only one will be chosen as El Designer Supremo.
Bravo presents Project Runway: The Complete Third Season on a four-disk set featuring fifteen episodes extended with additional content. Does the set strut its stuff on the catwalk, or is it left hanging on the discount rack at JC Penney?
I'm not really a fashion kind of guy. Aside for making sure my shirts are ironed and my belt matches, I'm pretty content to leave trends to younger folks. Certainly I like to look good, but overall I have fallen into the usual pattern of many married men: my wife buys my clothes. As such, a show like Project Runway: The Complete Third Season wouldn't normally appeal to me. I haven't touched a sewing machine since home-economics class (I made Mom a clothes-pin apron) and don't pay much attention to world of couture (well, apart from the models). So imagine my surprise when I found myself not only enjoying this fashion-based show, but ranking it among the better examples of the genre.
The reliance on skill and ability is what makes Project Runway: The Complete Third Season so interesting to watch. Every competitor is out there on their own and the make-or-break style of the show puts everything on the line week after week. Making a dress out of garbage or the materials found in a hotel room isn't easy (especially only in two days), and seeing the results demonstrates how talented many of these people are. While dapper co-host Tim Gunn is on-hand to offer suggestions or criticism, ultimately it is the designer's own vision that must be realized. The show is also pleasantly free of the typical "game" elements found on so many other shows; there can be no conniving or maneuvering in order to save one's self on Project Runway. If you don't have the skills to impress, you're gone.
Many of the usual reality-show tricks are still present in Project Runway: The Complete Third Season, however. Contestants are forced to room en masse with one another, are placed under stressful conditions, and are subject to editing suggesting conflict or reactions where none may actually exist. And like other shows of the same ilk, as much emphasis is placed on personality as skill when casting the contestants. The cast runs the gamut from the sporty jock girl to the flamboyant queen with all flavors in-between, some of whom have significant personal issues that still need to be worked out. Many of the cast possess enormous egos, but just as many are humble and grateful for the exposure the show provides for them. This combination results in a lively mix of personalities that can swing from supportive to vicious, depending on the stakes.
On the talent side, supermodel Heidi Klum is around to…well, do whatever it is she does. Klum is by no mean offensive to watch, but her duties are relegated to standing around and telling contestants what is going to happen, what is happening, and what just happened. No heavy lifting is required of her, and one suspects that there is any number of pretty faces who could fill these shoes without much trouble. The real gem here is Tim Gunn, who is given co-host/mentor status but actually does most of the work. His comments to the designers are often cutting, but they are never cruel and are tempered with real advice and solid insight into fashion. He's like a friendlier version of American Idol host Simon Cowell, minus the mean streak and ribbed t-shirts.
Here is where I take a big snip out of the fabric that is Project Runway: The Complete Third Season. Imagine my surprise when I turned over the DVD case to see the following dreaded passage:
"This film has been modified as follows from its original version: it has been formatted to fit your screen."
Now, I didn't see this show during its original broadcast, so I can't say if it was presented in widescreen format or not. But if the people at Bravo have altered the episodes to full-frame, why take such a step backwards? Why not allow fans to see the episodes the way they were originally aired? The existing image is good quality, presenting its many colors with a bold palette and appearing free of defects. But what's the point when it's hampered by an unnecessary full-screen ratio? Audio is the 2-channel Dolby Digital offering that is typical with this kind of release; at least they didn't cut that down to just the vowels.
Bravo has seen fit to include a number of special features with Project Runway: The Complete Third Season. These include:
Wear Are They Now?: a brief recap of contestants Jeffrey Sebelia, Michael Knight, and Laura Bennett, their creations during the show, and an examination of where each is today.
Wear Was He Then? Tim Gunn, "Making It Work": co-host Tim Gunn sits for an interview. Gunn details his personal and professional histories, his path to fashion and design, and his involvement in the show.
Exclusive Outtakes: a collection of humorous clips spliced together into a ten-minute gag reel.
Tim Gunn's Season 3 Blog: sourced from the show's website during it's broadcast, this is a collection of online entries by Tim Gunn which provides fans with a closer look at show's events. It's text-based, which means a lot of scrolling left-to-right, but it provides a deeper examination into each show with Gunn's unique insight.
And finally, props for including the should-be-mandatory "play all" feature on each disk. Bravo, Bravo!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
We've become accustomed to the influx of product placements in television of late, especially amongst reality shows. The Biggest Loser plugs Nabisco snacks, The Apprentice features corporate-sponsored tasks, and so on. But Project Runway: The Complete Third Season really ups the ante. Featured products in the first episode alone include Olympus cameras, Saturn cars, Tab energy drinks, Moet champagne, the Atlas Hotel in New York, Elle magazine, L'Oreal cosmetics, TreSemme hair products, Macy's, and a variety of talent agencies and fashion schools. None of this is done in a subtle manner, and the constant barrage of advertising gets tiring. Whatever happened to putting the names of sponsors at the end of the show in the credits?
If you have a problem with flamboyant personalities and no tolerance for cutting-edge fashion, Project Runway: The Complete Third Season may not be your cup of tea. But those viewers who revel in the fashion experience and enjoy seeing spontaneous creations come to life should consider adding this to their collection.
Bravo is found guilty of tampering with evidence for releasing the show in a full-frame ratio. Should further evidence surface to indicate no malfeasance on the part of the defendant, it will be released with the court's apologies. In a separate trial, the court orders Project Runway: The Complete Third Season acquitted on all charges.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Wear Are They Now? featurette
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