Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Still Dream of Uncle Tim...

Now that I've broken up with my television love, what do I do now?

Well, last year, when Bravo finally lost the acrimonious court case that ensured that Project Runway (I type those words with deep bitterness) would move to Lifetime, they developed a new competition reality show for emerging designers creatively titled, The Fashion Show. Isaac Mizrahi starred as kind of a Tim Gunn/Tom Coliccio hybrid, playing both mentor and judge. Mizrahi is a wonderful designer and has been an entertaining media presence for nearly two decades. So much, so good. But for some reason, his charm didn't translate very well to this forum. He seemed uncomfortable and affected.

I think pretty much everyone knows that the smartest thing the Magical Elves ever did was hiring Tim Gunn to act as mentor on Project Runway (sigh). The fact that they found someone as all around wonderful as he is, is of course, a miracle. But they should be lauded to the skies for interviewing him to begin with, as he was in no way an obvious choice for this sort of television show. He went to school for sculpture, then taught at Parsons School of Design for 25 years, the last seven of which he spent as chairman of their prestigious Fashion Design program. In other words, they had the foresight to think that maybe someone who has spent the bulk of their career in education might be a wise choice for mentor. Rather than, say, a pop star whose career was rapidly fading.

Which brings us to The Fashion Show v.1's most egregious error: the Kelly Rowland debacle. Now, Kelly Rowland has a nice singing voice as she proved when she was one of the members of Destiny's Child who happened not to be Beyoncé. If she had been pegged to be a judge or the host or whatnot on a singing competition show, it would make sense. As that is what Ms. Rowland does for a living. She is not a fashion designer, a fashion magazine editor, or a fashion model. She does, however, like the rest of us, wear clothing. This seemed to be her only qualification, unfortunately. She used to trail around after Mizrahi and give advice to the designers. This is pretty much equivalent to me walking around the Top Chef kitchen giving advice to the cheftestants because I have a lifetime of experience eating. It was patently ridiculous and the show suffered.

I tried watching it and kind of vaguely meant to stick with it and then I suddenly realized the whole thing was over and I had completely stopped bothering to watch. And I feel the need to add that this was when I was in the midst of a major depression and basically spent most of my time on the couch weeping, eating nachos and watching reality television. I mean, I watched that horrible Matchmaker show, but I couldn't be bothered to stick with The Fashion Show, which could be best described as: Just like Project Runway (sigh), but terrible. And I've always been fond of Isaac Mizrahi and was willing to cut him some slack, but no.

No one seemed to like it, the reviews were pretty uniformly bad, so I was surprised to see it coming back for a second season. But! They have majorly retooled the show so that it seems less like a sad imitation of (sob!) Project Runway. Kelly Rowland has been jettisoned, and she's been replaced by Iman. They really couldn't have come up with a better choice. She's a legendary fashion professional. She's intelligent, articulate and strongly opined. Mizrahi also seems more relaxed now that he doesn't have Rowland trailing along after him. The show is still far from perfect, though the emphasis on team work is interesting. There is still too much emphasis placed on "personalities" rather than the work. It's nice to see the judges (which include a Harper's Bazaar editor in addition to Mizrahi and Iman) calling out insufferable behavior, but it's frustrating to see it rewarded with airtime. Uncle Tim and Klum would never put up with this level of nonsense. But, the bulk of the designers seem nice enough and a few have created some lovely pieces.

When one's heart has been broken, after the inevitable moping around has become tiresome, I believe one should move on. I've seen two episodes of The Fashion Show (oh my God do I hate that title), but I'm not in love. They still feel as if they're trying a little too hard. But the producers seemed to have understood what the problems were in the first season, and have done a pretty good job at remedying them. The lovely presence of Mrs. Bowie is what is keeping me around for now. But the challenges and the judges decisions need to be interesting and accurate, or I'm gone. I'm still fragile.

Below, the runway show from 1995 documentary, Unzipped, incidentally proving that grownup women with personalities make much more entertaining models than armies of interchangeable fifteen year olds.

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