Last Thursday, the finale of Project Runway season six aired.
A big deal was made of the show's switch this year from airing on Bravo to Lifetime, the "entertainment for women" network. You'd think it wouldn't matter, but this season accordingly fell flat. Other than DirecTV not offering Lifetime in high definition, which left the picture out-of-proportion and blurry on a big screen, the titling, music and tempo all felt on par with seasons one through five. I read blogs blaming a new production company and a lack of quality judges, which are valid observations, but I say the season's major letdown was less-than-charismatic contestants.
If you've never watched, 16 aspiring fashion designers live together while competing in design-then-construct-clothing challenges. When the contestant roster is pared down to three or four, the finalists spend several months designing a 12-piece runway collection to be shown at Bryant Park's Fashion Week, the Super Bowl of textiles.
This type of reality game show is highly dependent on the personalities of its players. Supermodel/host Heidi Klum is never exciting, but she champions catch phrases --"I'm sorry, but you are out. Auf Wiedersehen."--so stewardship of the show's "soul" falls to mentor Tim Gunn. He shows up to outline challenges and visits the workroom each episode, offering feedback and encouragement. He's an odd mixture of immaculately dressed and teddy bear-huggable and consistently the best thing from season to season.
The show's contestant pools are known for larger-than-life personas, divas and goofballs. This year, no such luck. A single space cadet was eliminated first, leaving a bunch of temperate women, tearfully effeminate men and one raging bitch--eventual winner Irina Shabayeva.
It was no surprise to see 27-year-old New York City designer Shabayeva win since her execution had been a step ahead of the competition, but what a downer when a villain emerges victorious. She spent the better part of the show mocking others' designs and accusing them of copying her.
In prior years, Project Runway has been a decent show for both sexes. Clearly, the channels on which it's aired suggest women enjoy it, but the competitive nature and allure of weekly cuts have assured that I, a manly man, will continue to be addicted.
With season six complete, it's back over to Bravo on Wednesday nights to catch the last few episodes of the Project Runway of cooking shows: Top Chef, another of my reality favorites. Or, it became a favorite after I discovered that Survivor's new subtitle each season--as in, Survivor: Gabon--means I'm never able to properly set my DVR to record it. So, sorry, CBS; it's fashion and food for me from here on out.