August 07, 2008

One More Hour for Flannery

I realize the book mentioned at right has been up there some time. This is because 1) I have a few going at the moment, which breaks the reading up considerably, and 2) this tome is heavier than a shih-tzu—seriously; I hefted one in each hand last night for comparison, very ‘scales of justice’ performance art (which the Bullwinkle boxers might’ve tipped into absurdism). It’s also a bit unwieldy to transport; Flannery does not go gentle into that good backpack, so my usual reading venue, the bus, has seen more Marthas than lit. On the upside, I am enjoying the reading—really enjoying versus slogging through—and as the word suggests, it needs contemplation before digestion.

So it is with mixed feelings that I greet the extra hour of free time when Project Runway is auf the air, because sincerely, I just can’t take it anymore. PR has been sold to Lifetime, where its current iteration firmly belongs—and when it goes, I will not be going with it.

The full whining and pining can be seen on better sites, so I’ll keep it short: This was, originally, a fashion-based competitive reality show. It featured talented unknowns who needed a break, and who were tossed a number of hoops before the goal mostly for the sake of drama. Whether you loved or hated them personally, they managed to create—whether crap or couture, the end result was a creation. This year…

The decline is just painful. Less painful than Gilmore Girls, but a skosh more than The West Wing (the latter at least came to germane ending; GG suffered schizophrenia until there was no airtime left to mend the storyline, so we “settled” for an ambiguous, happyish ending). For scale: pick your favorite cancelled television show and watch a first season episode, then immediately follow it with a shark-jumper. It hurts. It’s not even the same show; it's become a parody of itself.* If the first three seasons of PR were Oscar Wilde, this season is Carrot Top.**

Where are the Jays, the Santinos and the Christian Sirianos? The ‘loose cannons’ this year are missing the edge of those previous; their clothes, when wearable, are not anything special. The others had personalities, but also strong points of view that were well-executed—whereas these people are personalities. They’re not designers on a reality show; they’re reality show people on a design program. Camera “interviews” are used mostly to pitch their own spin-offs; throwing lazy catchprases and “kooky” personas at the camera to see what sticks. I realize that it’s crucial to distinguish yourself from the crowd, but you might want to let your fashion speak for yourself—especially if you have nothing informative to say.

Even the strong designers are not shown to have any personality. Editing may be to blame, and sweet baby Jesus I hope so, because the current crop are either cardboard clowns or completely boring individuals, and I don’t want either to be 100% true. But I want to know! I want to know the backstory on Terri and Korto—so why am I seeing endless male sternum (guys: carbs or undershirts. I don’t care which) instead of some insightful views on, oh… fashion? In lieu of that, why am I not seeing more smack talk about other designers? In lieu of that, why am I seeing contestants torturing Tim Gunn with phrases like “holla atcha boy?” Has the competition changed? “You must make a completely compostable garment out of these Styrofoam peanuts, but you can win immunity if you get Tim to throw a gang sign.” It’s like distracting yourself from your homework by poking the cat.

We’re only four episodes deep, and I have seen good things here, but I feel terrible for the eight designers out there who could have replaced a lot of the chaff this season. Perhaps they didn’t have any catchphrases in pocket. Perhaps they didn’t whine about having to make clothes from non-fabric materials, or deviated from speaking in reality clich├ęs, or refused to refer to themselves in third-person. Perhaps they wanted to make clothes. I wish them better luck in LA.

* literally, in Blayne’s case
** uncannily literally, in Blayne’s case

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