So tonight is the main event – the much-awaited debut of Project Runway on Lifetime. It’s been over a year since we last saw Heidi & Co. strut down the runway, and a lot has happened in the interim. Lawsuits, network changes, coast changes. The show is now in LA instead of New York, it’s on Lifetime instead of Bravo, and the production company that created it is no longer a part of its production.
And I’m worried.
My reaction when I first heard that the show was changing networks was one of contempt; in fact, my Lifetime-bashing jokes were the source of my first Great Commenter Revolt (you’re not a real blogger until the commenters turn on you, kids!). But Richard Lawson, one of my favorite bloggers, crystallized my continuing apprehension over the show’s move. Lifetime and Bravo traffic in fundamentally different ideas and subcultures; Bravo is sleek and snarky and self-aware, Lifetime is more heavy-handed and sentimental.
And my anxiety over this switch is only bolstered by the promo commercials that Lifetime is running for the new season: they’re emotionally wrought testimonials by contestants about how designing is their life’s dream, and they’re bathed in slow-motion and soft light. I don’t want my Project Runway to be sappy and friendly and nice! I want sneering, crap-talking and snickering. That was always one of the show’s greatest assets: it was smart and snappy instead of dumb and slow like so many other reality competitions.
And I’m also worried because, as Lawson points out, the last season of PR on Bravo wasn’t that spectacular. After Christian Siriano won, everything was sort of downhill – the contestants were too obviously aware of what archetypal character that they desired to play, and the clothes, with rare exception, were just not particularly fantastic. So if even a hip network like Bravo can’t sustain something as fantastic as Project Runway forever, what chance does Lifetime, Bravo’s decidedly less cool aunt from the suburbs, really have?
And then there’s the issue of the show’s physical location. Los Angeles and New York City are simply NOT comparable, when speaking of fashion authenticity. I can’t imagine Tim Gunn gadding about in Hollywood, but he and the show’s other denizens seem so perfect against the backdrop of New York. Moving the show is a further step into the mainstream middle-brow culture of America, and sadly, that culture is not one that embraces high fashion. There’s nothing wrong with being middle-brow in general, but it doesn’t work for this type of show.
I still have hope, though. I love this show so much that I have to. In college, we used to play drinking games while we watched it every week (if Tim Gunn says “make it work,” take a drink! If someone does a Tim Gunn impersonation, finish your drink!), and it was the first show that I ever recapped. It’s such a gleefully intelligent, sleek show in a TV lineup of almost endless drivel (some of which I also recap) that it would be a shame to lose it to mediocrity. So I’ll be watching tonight (on DVR, after Real Housewives of Atlanta) and recapping it (which will be published on Monday – unfortunately, both shows air at exactly the same time, and there’s no way for me to recap them simultaneously for Friday), and hopefully this will all turn out better than I fear. But until then, I’m prepared for the worst.