Thursday, August 13, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E2: "It's All in the Cards"

I'll start this recap off with a question: If you were a producer on Project Runway's 14th season, would you try to edit the show on an episode to episode basis or try to craft some kind of season long edit that worked week in and week out? New York Fashion week isn't until the beginning of September, so they don't know who's won this season yet, but they surely know who's in the finale by now. That's not to say that you'd want to craft the season in such a manner that leads people to guess who makes it to the end as early as the beginning, but maybe you could look at the footage ahead of time and decide on an edit for the first episode that might have some bearing on the second? This is brought to the forefront of my mind in this episode for two reasons: 1) the episode is pretty boring and predictable and left me with a lot of room to think about stuff other than what happens on the screen. 2) Merline doesn't seem to be nearly as loud and annoying this week as she was last week. Is it just an off day for her, so she's more reserved, or was what we saw of her last week more about first day jitters than actual personality traits? If the latter, then was the edit of the episode wrong, or was my interpretation of the visual information just wrong? I guess only time will tell, and if Merline is back to being her chatty and annoying self by next week, then this whole paragraph is for nothing. But still; after 14 seasons, it's pretty clear that Project Runway edits on a week to week basis, and I'm not sure if that's a strength or a weakness.

This week offers us the first unconventional materials challenge with the contestants going to Hallmark and making outfits out of greeting cards. At this point, I feel like paper is the standard unconventional material for PR challenges, so the fact that these are hard card stock with stupid, I mean sentimental, images and sayings on them didn't do enough to make this challenge feel interesting or exciting. Swapnill, however is every excited to be in a Hallmark store which either means that his New York tourist experience has very different stops on it than mine would, or that Hallmark is much bigger over in India than I ever imagined.

After they leave the store a mess for the underpaid, unappreciated workers to clean up and set right again, it's back to the workroom to start coming up with ideas. A lot of trading of cards and offering of certain kinds of help happens here and it becomes clear that they all really like each other. Or well, mostly at least. Edmond makes a big deal about pretending to not have any ideas because he's worried his ideas will inspire someone else. It's stupid, but it's certainly one way to go. Here's the thing, I love Project Runway, but let's not pretend like this game is on the level of something like Survivor. Strategy doesn't really play a part in what goes on on this show, and pretending like it does gives it a level of complexity that it doesn't really deserve. But that's neither here nor there.

The biggest thing to happen during the workroom segment is that Blake shows himself to be even more of a stereotypical young gay boy by being racist towards Swapnil and playing it off like his annoying qualities are actually cute. The problem with Blake is that he's not smart or interesting enough for a full on Villain edit, but he's just young, stupid, and self-centered enough with just the right amount of privilege to make him an asshole. So he's honestly a bad person, but he's not the kind of bad person that will make for interesting TV (think previous contestants like Jeffrey Sebelia or Irina). So we're just stuck with him until the judges get bored enough with his cliche aesthetic and send him home.

To Swapnil's credit, he handles the situation well, and the rest of the designers seem to be appropriately annoyed and disgusted by Blake's remark, but that's pretty much the last we hear about it. Blake could have earned a lot of capital with me if he'd had the slightest bit of self-awareness and apologized for what he said, but if that happened at all, we didn't see it, and I'm back to thinking he can go fuck himself.

The most obvious edit for the episode is David's swan song. In my notes, I wrote that he was pretty much either going home this week or he was going to win, but I was leaning towards going home. He got a teary conversation with his husband, a reaming by Tim Gunn during his visit, and then totally scrapped and remade his look all in the course of a few minutes. Couple that with his confidence in what he made in spite of how obviously it didn't fit the challenge and you've got How To Be A PR Loser 101. After 14 seasons, it's sad to me that PR hasn't quiet figured out how to make these things a bit more seamless and mysterious, but I guess there's something to be said for consistency.

Before we move past the lackluster middle portion of the episode and jump to the runway, I do want to take a moment and talk about Tim Gunn. His visit is about as stock as you'd expect and doesn't add much to the episode as a whole, but it left me wondering a bit about how his role as mentor is at odds with the show’s need for him to manufacture drama. There are two moments in his meeting with the designers where the things he says, or at least the things we see him saying, are more about adding drama and cringing drums of doom to everything than they're about actually trying to help or offer some kind of construction to the proceedings. When he talks to David, he insults his look in every way imaginable, but did he ever once give him a single suggestion on how to fix it or what direction to go in? He calls back to him as if in an afterthought that he shouldn't forget who he is as a designer, but what does that even mean?

Likewise in his meeting with Amanda he offers increasingly panicked and grave pronouncements about the fact that she doesn't have a skirt for her look yet, but no real help beyond telling her she doesn't have much time left as if she doesn't know how to tell time. I love Tim Gunn forever, of course, but if his sole purpose is to come up with ever more colorful adjectives to explain how bad the bad designs are, then maybe "mentor" isn't actually the best title for him anymore. On to the runway.

The Runway:

Swapnil: Cute. I think there’s a skill and sophistication to it that I like. And I appreciated how fun and playful the bottom was matched with how sophisticated the top is. It's possible the judges will think there's too much going on, but I think it blends together well. 

Ashley: What the everloving fuck? No! I just want to shake a roll of pennies at it. No!

Joseph: That’s hideous and very crafty. The construction of the skirt is all wrong, and the top is boring. I can’t believe he stands by this on the runway. 

David: It’s cute though I think it’s a little pancho-y. Which is bothersome. But of course the other problem is that it doesn’t embody the challenge at all. It’s cute, but he could go home for that. 

Jake: I respect that he stuck with his materials and what not after Tim’s visit. The sparkle of it stops it from looking too much like roof shingles, and ultimately I think it’s cute, if a bit simple. 

Candice: She set out to do something specific and she did it. I can respect that very much. It’s a nice look. It doesn’t appeal to me on a personal level, but I certainly can see and appreciate her vision. 

Han: If it moved more, I’d like it more. It looks like she stuck her model in a paper sack. And she keeps using the word young to describe her looks and I’m honestly starting to question if she actually knows what that word means. 

Gabrielle: Oh no! I thought she was going to go for a kind of ombre effect from the shoulder down across the diagonal of the dress. But instead she put that hideous looking thing in the center, and I think Ashley’s claim of vagina is right. I hate it. It feels like a solid idea gone horribly wrong. 

Laurie: I like it. Don’t really love it, but I like it. 

Blake: The truth is I don’t hate it. I don’t like it, but I also don’t hate it. For a dress that he just glued a lot of glitter onto, it’s fine. Very sparkly, but not as busy and distracting as his last look. He still needs to know when to edit and tone it down, and it also doesn’t feel like much of the point of the challenge is in here, but I don’t think it’s the worst thing we’ve seen so far. 

Lindsey: hm…… OK I guess. There are things about it that catch my eye and I like, and then things that just bore me. I find the front boring, and the weird scarf thing to be out of place and off putting, but the back is cute. 

Kelly: I’m digging it even though the cutout on the front reminds me a bit much of like the Power Rangers or something. In fact, all of it feels a bit Power Ranger-y to me. But I like it. I think the hood on the back of the top really makes it into something special. The skirt I could take or leave. 

Amanda: The really striking and pretty top is totally undone by that horribly skirt. Everything about it from the construction to the patterns in the cards she chose just don’t work. I wish she could have had more than just the one good idea. 

Merline: No!

Edmond: I like it a lot. There are some kind of leaves or petals on the skirt that look like tape to me and they are distracting, but other than that it's a really strong look made all the more strong by the fact that it’s just paper. 

Heidi says that they have four top looks and two bottom looks this time. Swapnil, Edmond, Blake, and Kelly all get top honors while David and Amanda are in the bottom. Though, given the reactions to Kelly's look, I think it's safer to say she's in the middle and could have been replaced with another bottom look such as Joseph or Gabrielle's. Ashley is called out for there being too much muslin on her dress, but I can't help but to think that if that's Heidi's only complaint about that paper-potato-sack of a dress, then she needs to try harder. 

The judge's Q&A is simple and lackluster just like the rest of the episode. It's pretty obvious from everything they're saying that the winner is between Swapnil and Edmond, and maybe instead of four top looks they could have gone with two tops and two bottoms and called it a day. They have nice things to say about Blake and Kelly, but it's so obvious neither of them are going to win that I don't see the point in them being there. They are, however, oddly complimentary towards David's look, Zac goes so far as to suggest it'd be a top look if he'd only used the cards for the body of it instead of fabric, while only having nice things to say about Amanda's top while then ripping her dress to shreds. It's an interesting dilemma having to choose between the girl with the ugly and poorly constructed look and the guy whose look is nice but doesn't embody the challenge at all. It's a question I never really have a consistent answer for. I generally am more interested in the show finding someone capable of thinking up great designs than I am someone who can follow instructions properly, but that's not to say that following instructions isn't important either. 

In the end, Edmond wins and David goes home and there's no real complaint to be made about either choice. It's all a simple and straight forward episode of the show. A bit boring and predictable, but at least not as bad as we've seen it be in the past. The struggle PR has currently and for the foreseeable future is in crafting drama without casting contestants who do nothing but yell, fight, and throw shade at the judges every time they get a negative critique. The truth is after only two episodes, I'm not sure how to suggest they go about doing that. We don't care enough about anyone one way or another to really care about who goes home week to week, so they're really at the mercy of their contestants. And while I'll take a season with less aimless fighting and yelling than the one we had two years ago, I also think a bit more personality than we've got this year is in order too.

Loose Threads:

--Links to photos of each dress will be coming when Lifetime finally puts them up on their website. but as it's already past midnight and I have to be at work in the morning, I'm not willing to wait around for it. 

--In honor of Blake's racist bullshit, I would like to say that if I ever hear the phrase "I just don't have a filter," or "I just say what other people are thinking," again, I'm going to lose it. I know he doesn't say the second one, but I think they go in the same ball park and I hate them both. Why should not thinking before you speak be commended? Esp when the things you say after not thinking are racist and stupid. If someone and responded to his "I don't speak Indian" comment with "Oh that's ok, I don't speak Fag, so I can't understand you most of the time either," would he have found that as cute as what he said? What a fucking asshole!

--I meant to mention this last week with some of Han's scenes, but shows offering subtitles when a contestant is speaking English really fucking annoys me. They might have thick accents, but at no time have I found it so hard to understand what David, Swapnil, or Han are saying that I need subtitles. And guess what, if you do need subtitles, it's 2015 and all TVs had a closed caption option. I find the subtitles to be just as demeaning as what Blake said. 

--Lindsey’s hope that the unconventional materials challenge would come later in the season makes me think she’s never watched the show before. Has there ever been a season where there wasn't an unconventional materials challenge in the first few episodes?

--Did anyone else notice that it looked like one of Kelly's tattoos was being blurred out? It's on her forearm, and I think it was during her meeting with Tim that something looked smudged in that area. I could have just been seeing things, but that's at least what it looked like to me. I wonder if it's just a personal thing or if it's something offensive, or too adult to get by the censors.

--The edit of Amanda’s Glitter rant followed by the close up of her pro-glitter shirt was great. 

--Anyone catching the Lifetime commercials? If so, who was really waiting for the Full House introspective that they've been pimping so hard? I mean really, is this a story that needs to be told? 

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