Saturday, November 14, 2009

Guilty Pleasure by guest blogger Steven Head

I can't think of a darn thing to say, except, thanks for the confession, Steve. I can name more than a handful of closeted Project Runway watchers. Truthfully, the subject often comes up at our book discussion meetings. Mary is a die-hard fan, and yup, I catch it when I can. But, I gotta say, the week they made clothes out of paper...just too silly! And now it's back to singing along with Ricky Ricardo to get my day going.

And now...Here's Stevie!

As part of a possible rehabilitation I must make a confession. It pains me to admit it but I am a regular follower of the former Bravo and now Lifetime program 'Project Runway'. It all started so innocently while cycling on my recumbent exercise bike, surfing the TV, and finding a PR marathon. During a 45 minute session of rpm's I watched the end of one episode and the start of another. Of course, I had to see how it ended and then bang, there was another. Before I knew it, my Thursday night schedule revolved around the new episodes. Guess this is how addictions start.

For those unfamiliar with this program, 16 fashion designer want-to-be's are assembled and given a challenge along with a small budget and a set time period to design and make a garment. In each episode, at least one contestant gets eliminated while another is declared the challenge winner, and maybe immunity for the next challenge. The challenges can get strange, like designing a costume for female wrestlers, or making a new dress from the wedding dress of a divorcee. The final 3 contestants each do a 12 piece runway show with the winner getting prizes, like money to start their own line and a Saturn car (at least in the past) and Elle magazine coverage. The only constants from one season to the next are model Heidi Klum and fashion guru Tim Gunn. And Heidi's repetitive sound bites like "In fashion, one day you're in and the next day you're out".

One thing that has allowed me to maintain interest in this show is a female friend with an knowledge of fashion and sewing and her willingness to talk about the show. We disagree about some parts of the show but are usually in sync on the contestants and our approval or disapproval of the weekly winner and loser. The other is the discovery of Una LeMarche at and her play-by-play recap along with photos.

This season, which started late in the summer after a long hiatus, marked the move not only from Bravo to Lifetime, but from New York City to Los Angeles. This move meant the other constant, judges Nina Garcia of Elle Magazine, and designer Michael Kors, missed a number of challenges. So each week it was a case of musical judges. Show representatives are blaming the loss of Kors and Garcia as the reason the show has lost one third of the viewers from the Bravo period. Maybe so, maybe not.

The judging this season has been questionable. Even Tim Gunn was moved a time or two to openly question the decision of the judges. My friend thinks the problem is not the ever changing judges but that the show is running out of quality contestants. She contends the best of the current crop are merely dress makers and not designers.

This week is the season finale with the runway show at Bryant Park in New York City during fashion week. In reality, this was filmed months ago but the winner is still a secret except to the contestants and the show staff. In the old days I would have either hosted or found a finale party to attend. But this time I will either mix up some hot chocolate or dish up some ice cream, hoping it all hasn't been a waste of time.

Let me note the next season has already been filmed in which Heidi had to be pregnant for most of it. The show will return to New York City and there are hopes Garcia and Kors can restore the lost viewers. But the real question for me is, are the contestants worthy of my time. By the end of every season there have been whiners, egotists, opportunists, and people you would want to avoid. But all of that can be overlooked, for an hour a week, if they design and make great clothes. For me the burning questions will be, are there any more designers out there?
COMMERCIAL...if you're up for a fun night, stop at Time Out on Wednesday. Our Heart-A-Rama friends, Chad, Jen, and Andy run a fun trivial game show. For three dollars, you can put you name in the contestant pool. You can win a "way to go," high-five, pat on the back, or a box of Rice-A-Roni. The shows are played for various charities, and this week, money collected will go to Heart-A-Rama. Fun starts at 6:00. People come and go throughout the night; no obligation to get there at the start or stay till the end. Maybe we'll see you there.

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