Thursday, February 09, 2006

Jumping the Shark While Wearing the Best Swimsuit You've Ever Seen

Though I normally type fast as Craig Schwartz files my motor skills are failing me today, steeped as I am in the deepest darkest pop-culture driven depression. I haven't felt this let-down by a loved on since Roseann won the lottery, since Kennedy and the Slayerettes suddenly over-populated my television, or since She semi-retired. The new cloud hanging over my head? The fear that Project Runway has jumped the shark in only its second (mostly brilliant) season.

Before you make the over-simplified claim that it is merely my love for a certain Nick (who got the boot last night) clouding my vision of a masterful entertainment, let me explain.

Though I often hate reality television, I have nothing against the genre. I think reality shows are, at their core, capable of brilliance (the same as any genre --it all depends on execution). I often enjoy them in their first season only to be entirely annoyed in the second because they always make the same mistakes as other reality shows; i.e. surprised by their initial success they desperately clamor to recreate the exact-formula which produced the sensation, and thereby rob the show of its organic magic by constantly trying to cast the first spell again.

This happened with the granddaddy of all reality shows: The Real World. The first season, an obvious experiment on the part of MTV, was absolutely intoxicating. Full of promise, impossible to see where it was going... unexpected friendships developed, super tense fights erupted sometimes blindsiding you. Etcetera. By the second season, the "performers" chosen were already too aware of what they were 'supposed to do' --get in fights, make outre decisions to gain camera time, etc... Now, many season later, the casting is always atrocious. They're always trying to fill "slots" -the party girl, the naive girl or boy, the jock, the gayboy, the drunk, etc... rather than coming up with a new group of people who will be interesting in and of themselves. Let the drama develop organically. It will. Drama always does if you've cast people with 'personality'

I could go on but I'll try and wrap up.

This same disease has infected Project Runway. How else to explain Santino's survival week after week after week (often he's in the bottom two) other than a "producers decision" because they feel he's their "Wendy Pepper" this year, the less attractive weirdly off-putting "villain" of the season. From the early episodes it was clear that he was the contestant they'd chosen to build the show's drama around through their editing choices. It's almost as if the producers don't realize that the fervent fanbase for this show finds ALL sorts of things interesting about the other characters and the contest itself. Look around the internet and find out. Santino is hardly the only calling card for the show's hit status. The reason why I absolutely know this to be true (the theorized producer interference I mean) is that the usually capable judges (on no other "contest" show are they as predictable in their adherence to judging based on merit as opposed to personality) are bending over backwards and changing the voting criteria every week to allow him to stay.

In an earlier challenge Emmett was booted opposite Santino because Santino was "ambitious" and was 'at least trying something innovative' -even though he had obviously designed the least practical most impossible to wear outfit. Emmett's outfit was ugly, simple, and unflattering. This week Nick is told that his "ambition did him in" in order for Santino to stay. Santino's garmet was ugly, simple, and unflattering. Last week Zulema is excised because her dress has ugly hems and "construction problems". This week Santino's outfit has a sleeve that FALLS OFF on the runway but he still gets to stay.

I am so angry this morning that such a reliably honest show (the ONE contest that's about talent) looks to be falling into the same pits and traps as countless other less interesting shows by making it about "drama" and "personality" instead of about the actual competition. If last night is any indication season 3 will just suck. Just spot the "villain" in the first two episodes and watch him/her make it to the final 3 to keep the 'drama' alive. As if drama can only be achieved with one type of storyline --the storyline from the first time you tried your experiment! For a show about innovation and artistic creation, they sure got all spread-sheet and factory like last night with their decision making.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to say that I have been an avowed Nick fan and Santino hater since the show began. That said, I think that Nick deserved to go. I think that Project Runway has been manipulating the competition, but it has been manipulating it in favor of both of them. Since the Nicky Hilton Challenge, (which might be said to be both his and Santino's creative peaks) they have both created lackluster designs and they have both been in the bottom two, two times. Each time they have been in the bottom two, I felt they should have been kicked off. Their team effort in the Banana Republic was, in my opinion, uglier and less client focused than Diana and Marla's, but it was obvious that the producers didn't want to kick them off. Since then, Santino should have gone in the Sasha Cohen challenge (but Emmett was boring TV) and Nick should have gone in the flower challenge (but the producers didn't want to get rid of Nick over Andrae).

Tonight, they producers were in a fix, because they had the two candidates that they probably intervened to save in the bottom two together. I think the judges geniunely liked Santino's design idea and where it was going (I know I did) even though its unfinished construction was awful. Nick's design, however, was poorly conceived and it had very glaring omissions, like the pockets or buttons, (at least Santino's had the sleeves despite how well they were attached) AND it was pretty poorly constructed (not as bad as Santino's, but it was the first time I was really able to notice poor sewing in a Project Runway design). The judges were able to look through Santino's construction flaws to see something interesting (unlike, say Zulema, who made an ugly dress poorly) whereas even if Nick had fixed his construction problems he would still have a poorly designed outfit.

Nick Davis said...

I have to say that I agree with Anonymous on every point. I loved Nick personally, but he's been skating on thin ice, too, and his really good ensembles were starting to feel like the distant past. Santino's clothes interest me (even the skating outfit), and keep me patient with him despite his personality; Nick's personality has, of late, kept me patient with him despite his clothes.

I think what's really annoying is that there have been so few great outfits in the last couple weeks and that the utterly uninspiring Kara has held to her mediocre middle of the pack. Obviously, N, I'm not saying you're wrong about producer interference with the judges, but I also think it's REALLY interfering with the judges that they're not getting inspired by much that they're seeing recently. You can just watch them and see how pissed they are.

NATHANIEL R said...

agreed on that point...

BUT

i have no patience for the dishonesty of their shifting criteria. Every reason they've booted someone else has applied to Santino in each instance where he's been in the bottom two. And every reason they claim they've spared him is the same reason why others are given the boot.

IT'S MADDENING.

NATHANIEL R said...

FWIW I think Chloe is going to win. Daniel V is very talented but he's talented at meeting the demands of specific challenges. He listens to the challenge and does fine work. Chloe will know what to do, experience wise, when it comes time to developing an entire collection that expresses HER.

Joe R. said...

I think the really blatant judge manipulation would have been if they had trumped up a reason for Kara to go, since it was "her time." She's really the one throwing a wrench into the plans.

Thing is, Santino has had more bad weeks than good weeks, so he really should be gone by now. But he's not as bad as Wendy Pepper, in that she had more bad weeks than good, but also no vision.

I'm just happy that Daniel V. was able to steal my allegiances away weeks ago, so I'm not as crushed about Nick as I might have been. Stupid Daniel, though! There is no coasting! Every week counts!

And, yeah, I think Chloe does eventually win. And there's no way Kara makes Fashion Week ... is there?

John T. said...

I have to agree with Nathaniel that Santino should have gone last night (though Nick was the second worst-no pockets, for shame). Chloe, Daniel, and Kara deserve the top three slots-if that's the way it goes, then I don't really have an ultimate problem with the order in which Nick and Santino go.

Kamikaze Camel said...

In the absense of never being able to watch this show (Australia only gets it on cable and cable isn't that popular here) I still say the greatest "reality" show is The Amazing Race. So exciting each and every week.

PoliVamp said...

Honestly, I think Daniel is next to go given the 'anger' and 'disappointment' the judges felt with him this week. It's would be an 'exciting twist' and it's the only reason all of that venom came from nowhere towards him.

As for the designs, I thought Nick's looked very good on Daniel. Since the challenge was to design something for another contestant, I thought it would be judged by how it looked on them. And I honestly felt that Nick's design was second only to Chloe's in how well it looked on the person wearing it. Just my 2 cents.