Watching Project Runway in its new 90-minute running time this week, I wondered how they ever fit this show into a mere hour. Just imagine: All those years, the producers were sitting on this footage of the designers milling about their apartments, talking about how tired they were, remarking that they were nervous about the challenge. And they had to throw it all away, pushing a giant pot of television gold into a volcano of time constraints.
But now the show has room to stretch its legs. We get to watch Tim Gunn saying “Go go go!” to upwards of five designers instead of just one or two. There’s time for fascinating twists like tonight’s photo shoot, which gave us a look at the designers’ outfits before the runway show, where we got a look at the designers’ outfits. What an extremely pointful exercise that was! It was loaded with point.
Seriously now: For all the times that we’ve seen Tim tell contestants to “use their editorial eye,” this longer format is a cruel irony. The show is 30 minutes longer, but this week it felt like they’d added an hour.
We began with jubilation from the contestants because they were actually on the show now (unlike last week, when I guess they were on Top Shot). Yup, the show was still banging this “last week didn’t count” drum, as Heidi congratulated the contestants on officially making it to Project Runway Season 8. At this moment, a media-studies grad student began typing up his proposal for a thesis exploring the ontological complexity of reality television. When is a show a show? When Heidi Klum says it is.
For the challenge reveal, Heidi and Tim were joined by the editor of Marie Claire magazine, Joanna Cole, a woman who always approaches her Project Runway appearances with the zest of a dentist's office receptionist. The challenge was to “create a look that defines the Marie Claire woman” for placement on a Times Square billboard. In other words, “make clothes that look nice.”
Jason, whose enormous-competitive-advantage-bestowing bowler has made him the Oddjob of the group, set to work on his “Infinity Dress.” The infinity symbol also resembles the number eight, which Jason noted was perfect since this is Season 8. (Who can forget the way Christian Soriano’s “4”-themed designs propelled him to victory and international fame?)
Small problem: Neither the infinity symbol nor an eight were in evidence on the dress. What we could see, though, was a shiny fabric that looked like it was cut from the inside of an old raft, held together with safety pins on a model who made no attempt to hide her misery. Tim Gunn had a few nits to pick, but Oddjob wasn’t hearing it. “It’s an INFINITY DRESS,” he explained. He added in a testimonial: “What’s better than infinity?” I don’t know, cake? I’m saying cake.
The other workshop zaniness was tame. Kristin complained about the sewing machines. Peach made the same pink-polka-dot dress over and over again, under the delusion that her model was a 1960s American Girl doll. Casanova asked other designers to make his decisions for him; A.J. spurned him while Gretchen obliged. “Casanova could be incredibly annoying if he wasn’t so charming,” she said, making peculiar use of the subjunctive.
Mondo had a mini-breakdown because he wasn’t making friends. He said in an interview that his social struggles were partially due to his talent: “I feel like this art—this gift is a curse to me sometimes.” Pretty obnoxious, but I’ll stick up for Mondo, as it’s the type of thing you say when you are very tired and will find any way to feel sorry for yourself. He was OK the next morning after a little sleep.
Then, a “twist” in the barest sense of the term: There would be a photo shoot before the runway show because photography fashion something something. I don’t remember why. All I know is that a boring challenge can’t be saved by an even more boring twist. So yeah, the photo shoot happened, and the little white pointer on my DVR’s timeline display was still distressingly far from 10:30 p.m.
Runway show, at long last. The top three: Mondo, Gretchen, and Valerie. Mondo’s design featured a great two-layer skirt that had a nice bounce to it as it came down the runway, but it looked like he borrowed some of Peach’s pink polka dots to make a puff on his model’s chest. That extra bit added nothing and probably made the outfit too busy for billboard use. Valerie’s simpler design, a red front-zip trench dress, would have made for a better large-scale picture, although I thought the big silver zipper up the middle looked a bit cheap.
Either Mondo or Valerie would have been a better choice than the winner, Gretchen. Like last week, Gretchen made something that was perfectly fine but nothing you’d remember after it went by on the street. I couldn’t get excited about the navy-blue jumpsuit look on the pants—it looked like gas-station chic, if there is such a thing, and there probably isn’t and shouldn’t be. But I will admit that the billboard looked better than I thought it would, and the design looks more appealing in Lifetime’s online photos than it did on TV. So, final verdict: shrug.
Bottom three: Peach, Nicholas, and Jason. Peach survived to make squash-team-bake-sale wear for at least one more week. Nicholas made a design with a purple cape and a practically backless blouse, as if the model got caught in the elevator doors on her way to the runway. He was stunned to be eliminated from the competition, but Heidi had to make good on her “one designer … OR MORE … will be gone” promise at some point.
The other evictee was, of course, Oddjob. At various points in this episode, he manhandled his poor model (who was busy questioning every decision she’d made in her life that brought her to this point) and aired his puerile insecurities with lines like “I’m a straight guy in a gay man’s world.” He moved beyond the realm of “entertaining dumbass” into “insufferable prick” with incredible speed. And then he was gone, the power of The Hat having spared him from a Week 1 elimination but no more. Poor Tim Gunn lamented that he “didn’t get a chance to say bonne chance.” Given Jason’s eagerness to escape the gay man’s world, that probably suited him fine.
— “I wake up this morning, and I’m dead. Literally dead.”
— “Infinity is a positive sign.”
— “I thought Mondo was going to be a chipper-chatter!”
— “It’s just so operatic, I can’t stand it.”
— I don’t know how Casanova avoided the bottom three. His top looked like something Mom from Futurama would wear.
— Ad during the judges’ remarks: “For extended judging, go to lifetimetv.com.” No! Damn it, Lifetime, fill your extra 30 minutes with this stuff, which we might actually might like to watch! Put the extra Michael Kors cattiness on TV, and put the extraneous photo shoots and Tim Gunn “go go go” moments on the web.
— Joanna Cole: “Mary Tyler Moore was the reason I moved to America.” I’m sure that sounded less creepy in her head.
— Hey, ambulances next week!