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.