Friday, December 5, 2014

Project Runway Seasons 11-13 Commentary

Hey y'all.  Whoo, watching these later seasons is tough.  Not only have I been a bit spoiled by critical bloggers, the show makes it all too easy to be critical of it.  It's pretty painful, and I have to talk about it.

Since I would argue that the later seasons of the show aren't really worth watching, I don't mind some spoilers.  For people who really want to watch, these spoilers probably wouldn't discourage you anyway.

Season 11:

This, this season.  Project Runway has always given weak designers with dramatic personalities the chance to go far, but it's like they lost their way and don't know what makes the dramatic personality worth watching.  There is literally only one designer who I'm sure is high quality (Michelle Lesniak, of course), though it's entirely possible that some of the earlier outed contestants might have done better if they'd had the chance.

Why?  Because this is the team season, where until they get down to 5 designers, every episode is going to involve everyone being on teams.  The winner comes from the winning team, and the loser comes from the losing team.  This has the obvious result of not recognizing good work on a bad team, or poor work on a good team.

Then again, it's producer manipulation time, so the judges have stopped pretending to understand fashion.  That's the only explanation for some of the comments they made, such as complimenting really boring looks or insulting perfectly fine ones.

The summation of all of this is Patricia Michaels, the second worst designer in PR history.  I say second worst because Vincent Libretti still made a dress that looked like crumbled paper and drove people to drink.  Patricia, while catty and crafty, still wasn't quite as bad as Vincent.  Oh wait, she's only third worst.  I forgot Ivy Higa.

Heh, there should be an awful-off.

In any case, presenting proof that the judges lost their minds, they praised this look from Patricia:

This is supposedly something that Heidi Klum was going to wear for a makeup promotional.  Yeah, no.  I could create the same effect with pantyhose and construction paper.   I guess that makes me good enough to go on Project Runway, right?  There were the seasons when this mess would get a person off the show, but now they're pretending that this is good work.  Again, panty hose and construction paper.  And maybe some spraypaint for the gold squares.

To be fair, not every single thing Patricia makes is awful.  Some of it's kind of okay, and there's some scarves on her website that are wearable.  Trouble is, most of it is fringe nightmares or crafty stuff. She's proud of her Native American heritage, citing this as her inspiration. Okay, but she took it to such a crafty level, forcing every challenge through a sieve of southwestern cliches.  If it were at least over the top, it would be fun, but as is, it's generally just cheap crafty crap.  

There's clearly got to be better ways to interpret one's heritage.  I keep thinking about how Korto in season 5 was inspired by her origins in Liberia, but she produced generally beautiful work.  That, and her outfits didn't look all the same, or like they were made from paper (her wedding dress aside). While I've always believed in rebelling against modern Eurocentric fashion, outsider stuff still has to look good.  Korto accomplishes this.  

I'll say a couple of good things about Patricia.  She does do some nice textiles at times, in particular the travel challenge coat she did (it still looked like paper, but it was at least interesting paper).  Also, if Patricia just relaxed and made herself work on ready to wear that actually focused on the woman instead of the inspiration, she could do well.  Unfortunately, her designs are more for her than the person supposed to be wearing them.  She even forced this on a poor lady for the real woman challenge.

Note that this look kept her team from winning that week.

What makes it even worse is that Patricia made it to the final three.  The producers were so bent on keeping a Native American in the competition that they promoted her past her talent level.  She didn't even win any challenge.  So which is less offensive, having no obvious Native on the show, or having the aesthetic represented badly?  

But it wasn't simply Patricia who performed poorly.  Stanley's final collection was dreary and boring. Daniel was old fashioned.  No one else seemed really up to snuff, besides the winner Michelle.  It's nice that the best person genuinely did win, despite the overall lack of talent on this season.  I said before that season 9 had the worst talent level, but this one might technically be worse, given that too many blah designers went forward when you can't help but wonder if the real talent didn't get to be on camera.  

In other words, the talent level was abysmal, the personalities were argumentative and whiny with each other ("Lighten up, it's just fashion!"), and the judges are more manipulative than ever.  And as much as I liked Michelle, she too was over-emotional.  Though, I would be too if I was the only one left out when everyone else got to go on trips to different countries.  

During one challenge, the judges acted as if Michelle's outfit was absolutely horrible, when really it was just something they weren't looking for.  So they kept her in the competition, but said it was a "do or die moment," so while the other designers got to go to foreign countries for the next challenge, Michelle got stuck being alone in the hotel in New York. To make it worse, some of the eliminated designers got to go with the others to those countries.

The strange thing about this is that airline tickets tend to be for specific people, and are non-transferable.  How did the show buy tickets if the competition if they didn't know beforehand which competitors would still be in or not?

Though I will say, props to Stanley for having some dang class.  All the rest of those schmucks came back into the workroom giggling, smiling, and chatting away about their European tours, while Michelle is there listening to it all and trying to hold herself together.  Stanley was the only one who seemed to notice that such behavior is rude.  Either that or he's just naturally quiet, but it's still classy of him.

Ugh, that was painful.  What's with the next season?

Season 12:

....Who are these kids?  I'm watching the season right now, and it's utterly perplexing.  Who decided to collect these hackneyed posers?  

Justin the deaf guy is, like Patricia, entirely defined by his non-design characteristic.  He's being pushed forward regardless of what he does so that PR can put up the pretense of sensitivity.  Then again, is that really all that much worse than the designers who get pushed forward because they are dramatic?  At least Justin's final collection included some fun 3D printed designs that were different.

There were three designers who had emotional panic attacks and had to be dismissed.  Timothy was a crybaby who, among other things, wouldn't allow his model to wear makeup, wore high heels and made his model go barefoot, and burned synthetic fabric despite his supposed belief in sustainable fabrics for the environment.  And he believes in unicorns.  Legitimately.  Not only is it an insult to the show to have a guy like this, but it's also pretty disturbing that they are willing to display this poor guy's issues for entertainment purposes.  Timmy needed to grow up, and not in front of the camera. 

The sad thing about Sandro is that he's actually talented.  He can construct pretty well, despite his taste issues.  But he's far too angry for his own good, and explodes at anyone who doesn't give him exactly what he wants.  Watching him in a team challenge was painfully bad (they did get rid of the team setting last season had, though).  His downfall was on an episode where he was safe, but insisted the judges critique his work anyway.  When the others tried to talk to him about it afterwards, he exploded on them and stormed out.  Props to Ken for actually defending a designer when Sandro went off on her.

Guess who the third nutjob is?  Poor Ken.  I wanted to like him for standing up to Sandro, but he's high intensity too.  He's so forceful in how he speaks, and yet doesn't seem to realize that he's being any more forceful than a normal stressed person.  Instead, he refused to let a person get past him in the hotel when he was ironing a pair of daisy dukes.  I can't write that sentence without giggling, but dude was seriously scary levels of angry that someone was interfering with ironing time.

You most likely see the problem.  This is just so much personality stuff, when really we should be looking at outfits and enjoying them.  Clearly the producers just wanted dramatic people, with talent only high enough to be passable.  On that level, this season is better than 11's and 9's talent showings, but not by that much.  Then again, it can be hard to tell when three of the episodes out of the first five were all unconventional materials challenges.

The unconventionals of past seasons were just creative breaks between more fashion oriented shows. While the one with the stuffed animals was actually pretty fun, it needed to be the only one. Especially since most of the designers really didn't get it on the other two.  Dang it, Project Runway, I just want to look at interesting clothes!  In the real world these people aren't paid to make pants out of wallpaper!  

On the whole, this season is less teeth-gnashing than some.  If you like drama and don't care that much about clothes, there you go.  But it's difficult for me to watch without thinking about all the wasted potential.  I'm just tired of seeing weirdos on display when this show can be simply about creative people.  I want to enjoy the contestants, not find reasons to run screaming away from them.

Season 13:

What?  Well, that's weird.  They took down the season 13 stuff right as I was about to watch it.  I suppose that's for the best.  There's been enough complaining in this blog already, so whatever. Let's just assume there was more manufactured drama, another designer who is pushed forward for sensitivity reasons, and lots of lackluster clothes.  I'll probably talk about All-Stars later (less complaining, guaranteed!), but for now, I'm going to go to sleep.  Night, y'all.

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