With regards to shark-jumping, Project Runway skated right up to that tank last night and almost...almost made the jump before pulling away.
Last night's episode encapsulated everything we feared about Season 4. It's a standard rule with most television shows - and definitely with most reality television shows - that the more popular a show gets, the harder it is for the show to sustain a certain level of quality over time. Things get too self-referential or self-congratulatory (witness the designers bursting into applause during episode 1 when Tim said "Make it work." for the first time of the season. Lorenzo threatened to vomit on the couch over that one).
Maybe it wouldn't have been so groan-inducing if we hadn't just come off a really great episode with one of the best guest judges the show ever had. Going from dream judge Sarah Jessica Parker directly to Tiki Barber of all people, was more than a little bit of a letdown. Ignoring the comedy of watching a bunch of fashion designers trying to feign shock and awe over two guests in whom they had zero interest ("*gasp!* It's ... some Black guy!" "*gasp!* It's ... some Asian woman!"), the fact of the matter is, designing an outfit for ANYONE on the Today Show is ...whatever word is appropriate to denote the complete opposite of "fabulous."
By its very nature, the Today Show is meant to appeal to the broadest possible demographic, which means the people who populate these shows tend toward bland personalities in bland clothing. To ask the designers to design something to be worn by such a person is basically handing them an assignment that says "Boil it down to the lowest common denominator you can." And let's face it, it showed in the judges' pick for the winner. Jack did a nice enough job, but it wasn't anything you wouldn't see on a well-dressed high school algebra teacher. The more interesting looks were shuffled off the runway quickly and never even referred to by the judges so that all the time could be spent bitching at the designers who don't have menswear skills or praising the designers who made your standard Suburban-Dad-on-Sunday uniform. Given their propensity for normally raking any designer over the coals for being "safe" and for spewing their moistness at any designer who shows a "point of view," it just stinks of "sellout" to us.
It's not like the show has ever been - or even needs to be - cutting edge. It's just that even designing a dress for the supreme blandness that is Nancy O'Dell to wear on the red carpet is more interesting to watch and yielded more telegenic results than the walking JC Penney catalog we got last night.
And then there's the whole menswear issue. Sorry, but while it may be fun to watch the designers struggle mightily in a near-impossible challenge, so is watching them mud wrestle. Sure, the show touched on menswear a couple times in the past when the designers had to design for themselves or each other, but basing an entire challenge on menswear when it's such a specific skillset, and when said skillset isn't really a criterion for gaining entry into the competition, it just felt like deliberate rug-pulling on the producers' parts. Of course so many of the looks sucked. That was the whole point. To make the designers run around like crazy and make shit-ugly clothes in the process. Or, as Sweet P put it "I'm embarrassed in front of my peers." We love watching the designers being put through their paces. We didn't really love watching them freak out like headless chickens over a challenge they had no reason to expect.
On the other hand, cute boys. So it all balances out in the end.
[Screencaps: Project RunGay]
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