You're either Project Runway, or you're not. N'est-ce pas? Talk about a blatant knockoff, darling. Regardless, when you mix a passel of aspiring designers, a couple of snooty NYC fashion glitterati hosts (designer Isaac Mizrahi and singer/actress Kelly Rowland), a minimalist hotel for the designers to hang their chapeaux whilst competing (Le Parker Meridien), and a contest to the finish for the most creative designer of the pack, not to mention the Bravo Network, well, the comparisons to P.R. are nearly insurmountable.
However, once you have a few over-the-top characters as part of the mix you've got a show that hooks in this viewer, ma cherie. It's worth watching merely to see what outrageous outfit Merlin (a misogynist, bitchy queen from Honduras) comes up with next. He has more costume changes than Diana Ross. And then there's Johnny R., who sports a faux Samurai look with a topknot on his head, very SNL-Belushi.
This week's show, the second of the series, opens with 23-year-old Kristin (she of the platinum blond/pink hair) confiding to camera, "The competition's hard, it's really demanding" and breaking down in tears. She was in the bottom two last week and narrowly escaped being sent home. Kristin decides it's in her best interests to hit the road before things get any more difficult and sneaks out in the early morning. What a wuss!
The challenge this week is to create three looks for socialite Tinsley Mortimer; a cohesive collection that includes a look for an art gallery gala, a country club luncheon, and a rock concert backstage after-party. Hotcha! And the designer teams have only $40 per look to work with. Off they go to B&J Fabrics for a shopping trip and then hunker down with the usual sturm und drang that accompanies a situation where many large egos are forced to collaborate together.
The three teams are lead by James-Paul (who won last week's challenge), Anna and Haven. It's the typical tenseness amongst team members -- Kelly and Isaac coming in to check on things four hours before day's end and then dishing in the hallway about their thoughts are on the designs. There's a real problem with Laura, the gothic rock chick from Cincinnati, who ignores everyone's pleas on Haven's team to not use the ugly red tulle in her dress. A decision she'll regret for the rest of her born days.
Somehow the teams all whip it together enough to put the clothes on the models and the fashion show commences. Mostly it's all how in the world did they do this for $40 except for a few notable exceptions. Topknot Johnny's dress actually has visible safety pins; Gothic Laura's rock concert party dress takes heavy hits for the red tulle flounce at the hem and the red mesh in the back; and Markus' dress is said to look like a tablecloth with a rope around it. When Johnny's dress showing the pins comes out, Isaac dramatically says, "Oh my God, stop it, stop the show." (They don't). More fun: Tinsley's hubby Topper is in the audience (are people really named Tinsley and Topper? Is this an English drawing room comedy?).
The final judging panel consists of Kelly, Isaac, Tinsley, and IMG Fashion Sr. VP Fern Mallis. Anna's team is declared the winner and Daniella, on the team, is the winning designer of the week. Astonishingly, her model does not even crack a smile. She kind of looks like a zombie. Haven's team is the losing team -- every outfit is worse than the last. It comes down to Topknot Johnny vs. Gothic Laura and Johnny begs off the fact that his dress was poorly made and held together with safety pins by saying he's not a sewer and he didn't know the show was America's Next Best Seamstress.
Deliberating before the axe falls, Isaac has a mini freakout about Johnny's bad attitude, saying, "Restrain me. You can't just write recipes without knowing how to cook, it's impossible." The judges march back to their lucite chairs and make Laura go away. "Laura, I'm sorry, we're just not buying it. Buh-bye darling," is the show's trademark kiss off from Isaac. Topknot Johnny is still in the game but hanging by a thread (another trademark line).
Guess what. I'm officially sucked in. If only to see what outfits Merlin comes up with to wear on next week's show.
The Fashion Show airs on Bravo Thursday nights at 10pm
Read more of Holly Cara Price's ruminations on the slings and arrows of outrageous pop culture at Snoop* Du Jour.