Thursday, August 22, 2013

Project Runway: S12 E06: “Let's Get Glamping”

One of the challenges every show faces is the question of how to stay fresh. This is an odd thing when it comes to Reality TV competition shows. Scripted television is about telling a story, and with any great story the narrative and the characters change over time. In Reality TV, the characters change, but the story stays the same, so how do you mix it up and keep audiences coming back? You change the game in some drastic, but hopefully not distracting manner. Project Runway has changed its game a bit over the last few years. It's changed networks, added an hour, then subtracted thirty minutes, went to all teams all the time for a season, injected some new blood into the judging panel, and then flipped everything with a “blind” runway show, the contestant in charge of their own money, and giving Tim Gunn way more power and influence than ever before. It's stumbled its way through the redefinition process with a lot of its changes being for the worse, but I'm happy to say that the edits it's made this season have been for the better.

First off, there's the 90 minute run time. Just last season, I was still lamenting the extra half hour as being a misstep. So how does the show fix it? Well first of all, with far more interesting challenge elements. This week, the designers go on a Glamping trip for inspiration. You can tell a reality show has “made it” when they've started making up their own words, and if Glamping somehow finds its way into the everyday lexicon, I think we can all at least be happy to say we were there at its inception.

Tim goes ahead of the designers to the camping site in order to program Seona Skwara who is a robot from Resource Natural Spring Water. When the designers arrive, Tim flips her on with a well placed touch to the biometric response panel on her back, and she delivers, in a perfect monotone, a commercial for Spring Water. If you watch closely, you can almost see the robot “breathing.” Such new age technology. After such shameless product placement, the designers are told to use nature as inspiration for a high end Fashion (notice the capital F, very important) look that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with camping, campers, or even nature. No I didn't get it either, but they needed a way to tie Resource Natural Spring Water into a fashion show and this was the best the producers could do. Cut them a little slack why don't ya?

After Tim and Seona Skwara (points for the commenter who can figure out what her name is an acronym for. I mean, there's no way it's a real name right?) leave, the designers are left to their own devices. At first, I was certain that this was going to be the episode in which Project Runway would jump genre. “Take a bunch of spoiled fashion designers and leave them in the woods for 24 hours and watch as they fight for their own survival” the trailer would say, and we would be treated to the sights of some well dressed people running around the forest engaged in some Hunger Games type of activities as they fight for the last piece of fabric in the world. But alas, they just do a lot of camping things. There's rafting, and sketching, and zip lining, and sketching, and s'mores, and sketching. I make fun, but in all honesty it's exactly what I would think a group of artists going camping would look like. I know if I were to go camping I'd do a lot of reading and writing and....who am I kidding, there's no set of circumstances on earth that could get me to go camping. In the end, the entire trip is nothing more than an impromptu vacation for the designers, and I must say that after so many years of watching this show, I honestly didn't mind. The competition is truly grueling, and taking a minute to recharge the batteries and get the creative juices flowing is actually a good idea. 

One thing Project Runway still hasn't gotten too good at is not tipping its hand about who's going home on any given week. Anytime a contestant gets spotlit more often than usual, it's a dead giveaway that they aren't long for this world. Enter Justin, who's been a steadily safe designer for the past six weeks. Justin is a casting producers wet dream given his extremely likable personality and his disability which automatically make him catnip to viewers prone to getting a bit teary eyed, so it's surprising that he hasn't had more screen time prior to now. At least in the workroom you'd think they'd go to him a bit more often. Well this week he gets his due: opening up about how hard it is for him to listen and work at the same time in the workroom and how this rec time allows him to finally connect with his fellow designers, teaching those crazy kids a little ASL and just generally being the highlight of everything. And then the designers go to Mood (where everyone has a suggested budget of $300) and we hear Justin telling Tim he wants to make his own lace out of glue from a hot glue gun. I could hear the Drums of Doom playing in the back of my head at this point, but I kept my fingers crossed; I've been fooled before.

On to the workroom where ToKen kicks things off by calling Alexandria a tiger, which I think he meant as an insult but totally could have been a compliment. Dance Beard spends all of his time creating this weird textile with string that, as Tim points out later on, looks like a child scribbled coloring pencil all over the thing. And RedHead Drew Berrymore makes a muumuu. Tim comes in and tells her it's a boring muumuu and she says she plans on dying it. I'm not sure how changing the color makes it less of a muumuu, but I guess we'll just have to wait for the runway show to find out.

Speaking of Tim Gunn being in the workroom, this is the other place where the show seems to be getting the maximum potential out of its 90 minute run time. Tim's critiques still aren't hitting all of the designers, which is really smart as it adds a slight air of mystery around what some of the final looks will be, but they still feel longer and more substantive than in the past. In addition to Dance Beard and RHDB, Tim stops in to talk to Drums of Doom Justin who is going forward with his lace from glue idea (I'm pretty sure turning glue into lace was one of the miracles Jesus performed, I'll have to look that up later to be sure). And, to my surprise, it actually looks beautiful. Tim mentions how pleased he is that Justin is finally taking a chance instead of playing it safe and expresses how impressed he is with the look thus far. And all is well in the world, and sweet kind Justin will finally find himself in the top three... Right?.... Right? Moving on. The day winds to a close with most of the designers nearing done. By most, I mean everyone except Dance Beard who still has nothing more than a kid's coloring penciled collar.

Runway Day finds Dance Beard scrambling to make a dress to go with his collar, Red Eyebrows weighing the train of his "Trees at Midnight" dress down with a lot of extra leather, and Once Drums of Doom but Now Totally Safe Justin adding even more glue gun lace to his dress. In keeping with our “More Efficient Use of Time” theme of the season, we've been spending a lot less time in pointless product placement AKA Hair and Makeup. We pop in for a montage that seems to have overdosed on diet pills (is that a tasteless joke given the fact that the show deals with models?), and get just enough information to let us know that the models will have their hair and makeup done before going on the runway.

The Runway: This week the guest judge is White Girl #3 from HBO's Girls.

Helen: After being inspired by the death throes of a moth that she waterboarded in the bathroom sink, Helen produces a look that is OK. I actually like the rough and unfinished look of the skirt and I love the model's hair, but the color and the bodice bore me.

Dance Beard: I'm willing to cut him some slack since I do like him as a designer, but this just wasn't up to par for him. I generally hate high waisted dresses, and this one is no exception. The cut isn't flattering to his model's figure, and for all of the fussing over the collar/back, it actually winds up being totally swallowed by the rest of the dress. The movement is nice, but the rest is a rare miss from the only designer with two wins thus far in the competition. He's lucky to find himself on the low end of safe.

Miranda: Oddly enough, I really like this dress. The fit is great, there's just enough detail in the bottom to make it stand out without feeling like she went over board, and I honestly love the little sash in the back. If I have one complaint, it's that the cut of the top just looks a little weird. I think a sleeker more simple top would have been the better way to go since the bottom works so well, but I like the look either way.

ToKen: No! No, no, no, no, no! Even when it was on the dress form I thought the fabric was 100% the wrong choice. He went mostly for something sexy and form fitting, but when you really look at it, even the fit seems to be off as it bunches up around the model's midsection. And don't even get me started on how unflattering the top is. Complete failure.

Alexandria: OK? When she first turns the corner, I shield my eyes and scream in terror. As I peak at the outfit through my fingers, I guess I don't hate it? The pants, which I was certain were going to be a horrible idea, actually don't look too bad, she does do separates which I initially said was totally not the way to go for a High End Fashion look, which is actually the same thing I said about her using denim, but somehow she manages to make it work, I guess? I can't ever be fully in love with it since I'm just not a fan of the back at all which looks oddly busy and distracting, but by the time the model is leaving the runway, I don't hate it as much either.

Red Eyebrows: I do actually love it. I don't think it photographed as well on the runway as it did in the work room, but when you get close up, I think it's just fabulous. Again we have a look that's well fitted, the hand painting adds a nice touch, and I neither like nor hate the leather at the bottom. I can see how this would be a divisive element, and I don't know that it “adds” anything to the overall look, but the rest of the dress is so strong that it doesn't matter.

Justin: Remember when I mentioned that Once Drums of Doom but Now Totally Safe Justin was adding a bit more glue gun lace to his dress? Well it just so happens that he put it all in front of the model's vagina. And by so doing, he took what was an interesting and well executed idea and turned it into a misstep. The sad thing about this misstep is that I actually really like the rest of the dress. I think he mixes hard and soft exceptionally well, the movement and sheer panels of the bottom were elements that I found to be exceptionally appealing. But then her vag exploded. And so the Drums of Doom sound once more.

Dom: Allow me to say that Dom is one of my favorites thus far, and I do really like her look this week, but I'm honestly starting to wonder if she's a one way monkey. Again we've got a dress that's nice but might rely a bit more on the textile than is totally necessary (ie would it be as nice if it were just black?), and a collar that really elevates the dress. It reminds me a lot of her bow tie look from a few weeks back to be honest. It's beautiful and very well made and I'm happy she's safe, but I'm going to have to keep an eye on her in the future to make sure she isn't just recreating the same look in different textiles.

RHDB: It turns out that dying a moo moo a different color actually doesn't make it any less of a moo moo. Who knew? I actually don't hate the belt buckle straps in theory, but they certainly don't go with this look. Boring and ugly and unflattering are a bad combination.

Kate: And it's a swing and a miss from the season's front runner. In a runway show that's being peppered with well fitted looks, Kate's is everything but. I actually don't think I would hate it so much if it were streamlined, but the puffyness and how the leather daddy harness that doesn't go at all with the rest of the dress makes this one a failure.

Jeremy: Oh. My. God. After being inspired by a love letter he was writing during the camping trip to his husband (whom I'm totally going to murder and steal his identity so Jeremy can be married to me and write me pretty letters and let me wake up to that handsome face every morning. Sorry that went to a weird place, I digress) Jeremy transcribes the letter onto his dress and creates something that's simply breathtaking. Jeremy has the quality that I've always loved from some of my favorite contestants in the past: he understands that the look has to stand on its own but should be enhanced by the story behind it. I love everything about this look: the cut, the fit, the panels, the buttons, the story, everything is just perfection. This is the winning look for me as well as the look that solidifies Jeremy's place in my bed the finale I hope.

So there you have it, Jeremy, Alexandria, and Red Eyebrows are in the top, Justin, ToKen, and RHDB are in the bottom. Zac continues to earn his place on the judges panel by not only being cute and quippy, but also by being willing to disagree with the ladies around him. He doesn't care as much for Red Eyebrows' look as the girls do, citing the weird leather train and an odd seam running across the middle. While I see where he's coming from, I respectfully disagree with him, and so does Red Eyebrows, so there! The judges proceed to fawn all over Alexandria's look, and the more they compliment it, the more my initial dislike for it returns. I can give her credit for swimming against the current of the other designers, but I can't give her the edge over looks I liked without reservation. It's nice, but I think there was better on the runway. Especially when it came to Jeremy's look which I actually don't think the judges praised enough. Honestly, I don't think they wanted to give him the back to back wins that he clearly deserved. But oh well.

They call RHDB's moo moo trashy and boring which I think should earn her a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first person to create something that was simultaneously trashy and boring. And they (very politely, as if worried that it's not at all acceptable to harshly critique a disabled person) rip Justin's dress a new one. Heidi doesn't like the hot glue gun lace and thinks it looks like a cheap Halloween costume, Nina thinks her vagina is frothing, or, as Zac says, it's rabid. Nina and Zac do, however, find it in themselves to say nice things about the color and the paneling of the bottom of his dress, which is 2 more nice things than the judges had to say about either RHDB or ToKen's look, so that's a good sign right? Meanwhile, ToKen's dress reminds Zac of a frog queen. Like a frog that was run over and the red is a splash of blood. Which makes you wonder what kind of frog queen would ever be found anywhere near a highway to be run over in the first place. Doesn't she have subjects to do the dangerous work of running errands across busy streets for her?

Nevertheless, Alexandria is the winner and Justin is sent home, the Drums of Doom beating in his wake, not that he can hear them (Sorry, but I couldn't resist. Feel free not to laugh at that and rip me a new one in the comments).

But wait, during our journey through the ways that Runway has changed for the better, I almost didn't mention the new implementation of the Tim Gunn save; which, after a very emotional scene of everyone saying good bye to the good guy, thankfully gets used this week. Here's the thing, in an attempt to not just be safe and to make the judges take note of him, Justin went a step or two overboard. Even he acknowledges that he took a risk that just didn't pay off this time. As a result he finds himself in the bottom against a dress that is painfully boring and unflattering and a designer who has been in the bottom before (two challenges in a row to be exact). He shouldn't have been going home this week by virtue of those elements alone. But for some reason, the judges thought it would be a good idea to annex the one designer in the bottom with a look that actually garnered a small amount of praise. Did the judges cut Justin in an attempt to force Tim Gunn to use his one save this season before things started to get tight in the top 10? Or was there something so horrible about his look that they saw upon closer inspection that the rest of us I missed? I can't say for sure, but I will say that this decision marks the first time this season that “out there” was to be sent home instead of “boring.” But it's a moot point in the end because Justin gets to stick around to fight another day. I hope he's learned his lesson about being in the spotlight.

Stray Observations:

--I know I used a totally horrible deaf guy joke, but am I the only one offended by the use of subtitles when Jason talks? He isn't speaking a different language, he's totally understandable, don't be a douche Project Runway!

--There isn't a look on the runway that Heidi wants to wear. How can she know what she likes without that?

--Am I the only one who thought HMG was flirting with Dance Beard?

--ToKen: “She reminds me of Judas in the bible.” You know as opposed to Judas, the pimp, from down on 44th street. You don't want to fuck with him either. Seriously, how many Judas' could their possibly be?

--ToKen: “I was thinking about Mother Nature and about how she might possibly look if she existed in real life.” If Mother Nature looks anything like that, I'm running for the fucking hills.

--Miranda: “I hope we're playing paintball, because I really want to shoot some people.”

--The Rate the Runway pages aren't up yet and it's already 2am (the price of living on the east coast I guess) but I wanted to get the review posted before I went to bed. So the links to the looks themselves might be dead links or might be linked to the wrong looks. I'll fix it when I wake up. (Julius' note: Fixed!)

--Thanks to Julius for letting me review the episode. I hope to do another one before the season is over; it was a lot of fun. And thanks to you guys for reading and putting up with me, I know I can drone on from time to time, so if you read it all the way through, I'm sorry to have tortured you and also happy that you stuck it out.

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