November 30, 2004 --
Tomorrow night at 10 on Bravo
EVEN though most real ity shows have be come as boring as six-hour community board meetings, occasionally one can still break the cycle by, well, copying the best of them. Bravo's new show about struggling fashion designers, "Project Runway," is that one.
For example, wannabe moguls using creativity to earn their keep or face getting canned is cribbed from "The Apprentice;" the concept of supermodel-as-host is swiped from "America's Next Top Model;" people living together in a shared space is a rip-off of "The Real World;" the right to earn immunity is stolen from "Survivor;" the talent elimination is stolen from "American Idol" (which stole it from every talent show); and the over-the-top annoying queeny-men-in-terrible-outfits concept is taken from "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy."
Somehow the show still works. And it works despite the unpersonality of supermodel Heidi Klum, whose delivery is flatter than Kate Moss' chest. Good looks can only go so far — which is why they never give Vanna White a big speaking part.
But it's not about the host — despite her big name. What makes "Project Runway" a winner is the contestants themselves. They have just the right mix of humility, arrogance, talent, lack of it, need, greed, drive and creativity to make their quests riveting.
The deal is that every week the contestants — all amateur clothing designers — must create a specific fashion in a limited amount of time using only the materials allowed. The worst design — and its creator — get eliminated.
But before the geniuses can create anything, they will have their own eliminating to do. Yes, in a preview of their own fates, each one must pick one model out of 12 in an elimination based on everyone's worst fourth-grade fear — choosing sides. It's like being the kid who gets picked last for kickball.
But it's important to pick the right one — because a design on the runway is only as good as the model strutting your stuff — or something.
After this cringe-inducing segment, contestants are given their first elimination challenge — to create a glamorous evening outfit. Only problem is they only have $50 to spend on supplies and fabric — and the materials they use must be bought in the supermarket.
This is where the wheat literally is separated from the chaff.
Despite the L.A. contestant's pronouncement that, "all of these materials have their own spiritual quality," lawn chairs and tacos just aren't all that attractive in a gown — not to mention they must be hard as hell to hem.
Anyway, after a night of tears, fears, unnecessary angst and inflated egos, the fashions are completed and must be shown, which gives Bravo ample excuse to show naked, skinny models getting dressed in trash bags and corn husks.
This week's judges, who include designers Michael Kors and Patricia Field, pick six contestants to go on. From those, the week's winner and loser are announced — the one who earned the fewest points and the one who earned the most. The winner gets immunity, the loser gets thrown out.
Good stuff, marginal clothes. Or is that margarine clothes?