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Project Runway 9 – Thoughts on the Season

Season 9 of Project Runway is over, and if the various blogs and fora are anything to go by, the general consensus is that it was one of the weaker seasons.

Here are some ways Lifetime can improve it:

1) Fix the scheduling. Going on to Fashion Week should be an honor reserved for the best designers of a given season. Every season has a few decoys along with the finalists– but the key word is “few.” Fashion Week shouldn’t happen so early in the season that everybody but the bottom four or bottom six designers gets to show. If Fashion Week is early, schedule the show accordingly to keep the decoys to a minimum.

2) Cut the show back to an hour. The extra half hour simply isn’t worth it. The original idea was probably to give extra insight into the design process or the judging. Unfortunately, that’s generally not the way it’s worked. Instead, too many challenges now have twists that involve having the designers make additional garments, and too much time is spent on the fact that Designer A thinks Designer B stinks.

3) Cast fewer jerks. They simply aren’t that interesting and they hog time that could be going to quieter designers who might actually have something worthwhile to say. Besides, if I wanted to watch shows with human train wrecks, I’d be watching something like Charm School or The Tool Academy. The preponderance of jerks was especially pronounced during the last two seasons– and it didn’t help that both seasons used a jerk as a narrator figure, which meant viewers heard a lot from them, even if they had nothing interesting to say. This past season was especially egregious in that regard as Joshua M. spent a lot of his camera time bad-mouthing his fellow designers and/or whining about his problems. That got very old very fast.

4) Cast more clowns. Nice, funny designers like Chris from Season 4 or Anthony from Season 7 can help make the show. They can lighten the mood with genuinely funny comments or silly actions.

5) Keep the team challenges to a minimum. As in, no more than two or three. The point of the challenges should be to test a designer’s creativity, versatility, and ability to work under difficult conditions. Admittedly, having to work with somebody you can’t stand probably fits the third category, but having a bunch of team challenges quickly feels like blatant fishing for drama. Not only that, but having a slew of team challenges limits the designers’ ability to express their creative viewpoint. Since team challenges are, by definition, collaborations, the designers have to compromise with each other, which means their personal styles tend to end up muted.

6) Give the designers more time. Michael Kors has said, “It’s Project Runway, not Project Seamstress. Unfortunately, short construction times are turning the show into Project Seamstress, as they generally favor the contestants who can sew fast. The short construction times also force many designers to stay within their comfort zones and make things they know they can make within the time allowed. If the producers and judges really want to see creative designs, as opposed to stuff the contestants know they can crank out, they need to give the designers more time. This is especially true for Fashion Week.

7) In a client challenge, get the client’s opinion during judging– even if the client isn’t somebody who knows a lot about fashion. Fashion is as much a business as it is an art, which is why it’s called “the fashion industry.” As such, a designer should be judged on their ability to please their client, as well as their ability to make pretty clothes. A designer who makes something that their client loves should be rewarded for doing so– even if Nina and/or Michael don’t like the look. In other words, Bert should not have been in the bottom during the “real women” challenge, as his client had liked the dress he’d made for her. He should have been safe that week. Conversely, if a client truly hates a look, that should also be considered, even if the judges themselves like it.

Project Runway used to be one of the best reality shows of its kind, and it can be again. It just needs some tweaking.

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