Project Runway is back … on Lifetime

by Ruth Anne Boulet

It’s baaaaacccckkk…

I’ll admit it. I was concerned that with the move to Lifetime, the show I know and love would go in the crapper. But after watching the All-Star Challenge, I’m a bit reassured that the new producers & network won’t go messing with the Project Runway we all know & love.

First off — a surprising lack of ‘Lifetime-y’ commercials at the start of the three-and-a half hour block of Runway. No ‘I Lost My Kid’ movie of the night or feminine itching commercials. Ok, there was the, ahem, trimmer commercial (wow, those trees are nicely shaped!), but that was about it. Those commercials were also saved for the second half of the evening. It almost seemed like they planned this progression with the commercials to ease the viewers into being on Lifetime.

My only real commercial break quibble were the ‘ordinary women’ saying ‘Project Runway!’ Ok, Lifetime, let’s acknowledge the fan base. Yes, there are a lot of women watching the show. There’s also a heapin’ helpin’ of gay guys watching. I’d have a lot more respect for the network if they would get a gay best friend to exclaim ‘Project Runway!’ Those gays are watching Lifetime every day anyway — embrace them!

Lifetime also had stars from Army Wives & Drop Dead Diva ‘welcoming’ Tim and Heidi to Lifetime. One of these welcomers was Margaret Cho who’s in Drop Dead Diva. It’s not a bad show. It’s predictable, but you should try it some time. However, she sounds way too chipper on her welcome to Tim & Heidi. I want to hear it in the voice of her mother. ‘Moraaaaaaaaan!’ ‘Tim and Heidiiiiiiiiiiiii!’

Back to the actual content of the show: The All-Star designs are kind of underwhelming to me. But then again, I know absolutely nothing about fashion. To me, a lot of stuff looks like dresses that would be sold at Sears. I’m surprised by who is in the top 4. First off, Uli and Chris March, once again, were robbed. But Daniel won. I love him, but I though his collection was blech. He was totally the odds-on favorite.

The All-Star episode did have its moments. Heidi talking about a model not wearing a bra: “When I see boobs going all over the place, I get dizzy.” Classic Project Runway. Almost as good as Michael Kors saying, “That crotch is insane” or “That looks like Applachian Barbie.”

The new episode is kind of like a time capsule. I know that it was filmed almost a year ago. Tim is introducing the first challenge on the Emmy runway. Last year’s Emmy runway.

We’re at the beginning of the season, so there aren’t too many standouts yet. We’ve got the Project Runway standards — really gay guys, crunchy granola girls, the weepy boy, a straight guy, and a sassy black woman. It’s too early to see who will actually be relevant to this season.

What I find interesting is the absolute adherence to the Project Runway model. There’s absolutely no innovation here — Lifetime knows what works, and they’re not going to deviate from that. I can understand the rationale. Lifetime didn’t fight for this show because they wanted to innovate. Lifetime fought for Project Runway for the ratings. Tomorrow morning will tell all of us if the gamble paid off.

What was a bit more like the Lifetime I’m used to was Models of the Runway. Models talking about what a role model Heidi is. Models talking about what the prize money would do for their families. But at the end of the day, when models win a challenge, they get toys and models love toys.

Models did make me relate more to the women who walk. I think that short show is more telling about where Project Runway will go in the future. That’s the show Lifetime can experiment with & try new things on without driving Project Runway fans crazy. We’ll see if they succeed.

Granted, as a fan of the show I didn’t want to see it change. But I’m surprised nothing changed. Perhaps we just need to get through this transitional season — there are almost more producers listed at the end of the show than designers. It’ll be interesting to see how this season progresses. It’ll be even more interesting to see how next season progresses.

Next week, we’ll leave network drama behind and get back to bitchy designers.