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Project Runway Season 9: How do you fix a broken show?

By Miscellaneous | Lists | March 31, 2011 |

By Miscellaneous | Lists | March 31, 2011 |

By now I think most of us die-hard “Project Runway” fans have heard the news: A casting call for season 9 has gone out into the world. If you’re anything like me, you met the news with a mixture of wary excitement, exhaustion and skepticism. We were badly burned by that last season, and it’s taken me quite a while to get over the rage caused by the mere mention of Wretched Gretchen. But maybe, just maybe, things can change.

A lot of you have given up on the show completely, and though I’d like to do the same I know I’ll be there for this new one, giving it one more chance to be good again. Chances are it won’t — and the news that the season will take place in L.A. (the setting for season 6, largely considered the worst in the show’s history) isn’t encouraging.

There’s not a lot of information about the new season yet, so we don’t even know if Tim Gunn will return, which could be a big factor in determining whether anyone comes back to the show. The simple truth is that the show’s quality has gone down significantly since the move to Lifetime, and chances are slim that it’ll ever be as good as it once was.

On that note, I’ve been thinking of what the producers could possibly do if they were really determined to get the show back on track. I know that they probably don’t give a damn as long as the viewers are there, but let us take a trip into fantasy world and dream of the days when Project Runway was the best reality show out there.

So, I’ve compiled a wordy list of things the show needs to do to get back to being good again:

1.Cast designers based on talent, not personality. This one’s fairly self-explanatory, and I think we all know what’s happened in the last few seasons. People cast because they’ll bring the drama to workroom, but who end up presenting nothing but crap on the runway. And apply that to eliminations as well. Too many times in the past (hear that, Ivy and Michael Costello?) people were kept around because they made for good television, even though their work was subpar and forgettable while better designers were cast aside. This is how we ended up with Michael Costello and Gretchen in the finals, and we all know it.

2. Bring back Creative Challenges. In other words: Stop this nonsense where every challenge boils down to “Make a pretty party dress for a vapid celebrity.” We just end up with a parade of yawn-inducing cocktail dresses in shiny fabrics. Remember the days when they had to make outfits out of produce, or make an outfit for a drag queen? The entire point of the show should be to challenge the designers into going outside their comfort zone. Making them do a dress “That shows us who you are” is no challenge at all, and makes for incredibly boring runway shows.

3. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to challenges. One of the biggest problems that everyone (producers, judges, contestants, viewers) had in that last season what that no one knew what the hell would get a win from week to week. The infamous Jackie O challenge is a perfect example of this: No one knew what they were doing. Make the challenge guidelines clear to everyone involved and let the judging be just as clear, or you risk designers going insane and not knowing what to do. On that note …

4. STOP with the cracktastic judging. Last season you could practically see the poor contestants ripping out their hair trying to figure out what would make the judges happy that particular week. It turned into a complete, random mess—someone would be on the top 3 one week, then bottom 3 the next for doing what the judges had praised them for the week before. No one knew what to do to keep the Orange Kors and Evil Nina happy, and it seemed that neither did the judges themselves. The judging was just inconsistent and ridiculous, and even Tim Gunn spoke out about it. To be perfectly honest, however, I’m afraid that the only thing that might work to fix problem this would be to …

5. Get rid of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Calm down. Listen, I love the shrill, ridiculous Kors as much as the next person, and no one knows how to do a bitchface better than Nina Garcia, but the truth is that they’re completely done as judges for this show. Kors has become more concerned with making a clever comment than really judging the clothes, and Nina Garcia runs a second-tier magazine aimed more at housewives than high-couture costumers. They want to sell their products and that creates a conflict of interest. What it comes down to is that we need new faces and new perspectives. Bring in more modern, edgy designers and people who have power in the fashion industry, and for heaven’s sake …

6.Stop bringing in vapid celebrities as guest judges. Jessica Alba? Natalie Portman? Jessica Simpson? What do these people know about fashion? Just because they get to wear designer outfits—picked out by their stylists!— doesn’t mean they know the first thing about designers and fashion. Yeah, they’re cute and bring in viewers, but they make terrible judges. We want more Diane Von Furstenberg and we want her now.

7. Give us more Tim Gunn. The man is a jewel and the heart of the show, and kicking him to the sidelines is no way to treat him. Show the man some respect.

8. Cut the show back to an hour. Quite simply: More fashion, less bullshit. At first, it seemed like the longer running time was a good thing, but in the end we got nothing but more shots of the designers bitching in their apartments. More time just made the producers lazier.

9. Fewer ‘decoy’ shows at Fashion Week. This was a big complaint during last season’s final weeks, that a ridiculous total of 10 designers showed collections during Fashion Week (the finalists and 7 decoys). But what happened instead was that we got to see just how cracktastic the judging had been—for example, when we got to see that April’s collection was infinitely better than Andy’s or Michael Costello’s. I get why they do it, but surely there’s a better way to do things. It also lessens the importance of the top 3 collections. Sure, the shows aren’t televised, but they still get to show at Bryant Park, don’t they? How embarrassing must it have been to hear that most people were pegging Mondo or April as the winner?

10) Give the win to the best designer, not the safest one. I think this one ties up a whole lot of the points up there. Moreover, we all know that that’s why Gretchen won over Mondo last season. The show used to be about creativity and innovation, not about who could sell the most pieces for Lifetime.


Well, that’s a tall order, isn’t it? But the simple truth is that Lifetime has done terrible things to the show. Things need to change. Again, I don’t have much hope that any of this will happen, but a girl can dream. I know I’ll be right there when the new season premieres, and hopefully I’ll get to do the recaps for you guys again. But whether anyone but us masochists stick around for the whole seasonn remains to be seen.

So, feel free to suggest your own changes in the comments, or just vent your rage at the whole thing some more. It can be liberating.

Oh, and a quick thanks to Melody for some of the ideas in this post. Her anger was an inspiration.

Figgy wants Lifetime to make it work, dammit. You can read her blog here, or follow her on Twitter.

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