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Project Runway: Season Six
In my review of Project Runway: Season Five, I had an opportunity to enumerate the reasons why I enjoy the program so much more than other reality shows. Project Runway provides a legitimate forum for creative thinkers to make original work in a charged but realistically challenging environment - instead of being an excuse for auto-humiliation on a grand scale. With Season Six, the show retains its basic strengths, but a move from New York to Los Angeles proves detrimental to the integrity of the competitive aspect of the program.
I don't want to make a big huge "coast vs. coast" argument here, but New York is without a doubt the center of fashion in the United States, if not the world. For Season Six, the producers moved Project Runway to Los Angeles, for reasons that I've not been able to fully divine. It's possible that production costs were lower in LA than in New York, but I'm just making a guess. Whatever the reasons, Project Runway doesn't feel right in Los Angeles. For one thing, the contestant designers are still vying for the same grand prize: a runway show at Bryant Park during Fashion Week. So the setting is now oddly removed from the locale of the designers' goal. For another thing, although there have been and continue to be successful designers who come from and are based in Los Angeles, New York just feels like a more inspiring place for fashion design. Beyond that, New Yorkers are generally better dressed than Angelenos (painful, I know, but true), which further brings home the sense of disconnection between the show's object and its setting.
Season Six starts with a group of sixteen new designers who come from all over the country, cover a wide range of ages, and whose backgrounds and experiences vary wildly. Equally varied are their personalities, although in this season, there seemed to have been a smoother feeling of camaraderie among the designers than in previous years. There's not a whole lot of interpersonal drama; although it's interesting to note that, as in Season Five, the winner of Season Six is not a terribly likable person. Then again, there's something to be said for staying focused and single-minded in the process of making creative work, even if the price is pushing people away.
Episode 1: "Welcome to Los Angeles!"
The sixteen designers move into their quarters at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown LA. Their challenge is to create a gown for a red carpet event.
Episode 2: "We Expect Fashion"
Designers are challenged to create a maternity look for guest judge Rebecca Romijn.
Episode 3: "Rumble on the Runway"
A team challenge to create a beachwear look is ratcheted up with an additional challenge to create an avant-garde companion piece.
Episode 4: "What a Woman Wants"
In an old standby, the designers must create a look with their models serving as "clients."
Episode 5: "Fashion Headliners"
After a trip to the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times, designers are challenged to make an outfit from newspaper.
Episode 6: "Lights, Camera, Sew!"
In a very LA-oriented challenge, designers created film characters and appropriate genre-based looks.
Episode 7: "The Sky is the Limit"
In another team challenge, designers made two garments, both blue in color, appropriate for Macy's line.
Episode 8: "A Fashionable New Beginning"
Paired with recent divorcees, designers deconstructed their wedding gowns into new dresses.
Episode 9: "Sequins, Feathers, and Fur, Oh My!"
Designers are challenged to create an eye-catching theatrical look for guest judge Christina Aguilera.
Episode 10: "Around the World in Two Days"
Designers are challenged by Michael Kors to create a look inspired by particular global locales.
Episode 11: "The Best of the Best"
The six remaining designers must create a companion piece for their earlier, challenge-winning looks.
Episode 12: "The Design of Fashion"
A trip to the Getty Center provides the basis for the designers' final challenge - a look that draws inspiration from the Getty's grounds or artworks.
Episode 13: "Finale - Part 1"
The final three return to their homes with $9,000 in funds to design their 12-piece line for Bryant Park.
Episode 14: "Finale - Part 2"
The final three meet in New York for Fashion Week and their big runway show at Bryant Park.
For many, Heidi Klum personifies the show, and her combination of chirpy charm and Germanic austerity makes her an able host. But mentor Tim Gunn is the real heart of Project Runway. Gunn's paternally furrowed brow and honest, constructive advice keeps the designers focused and true to their respective visions. Gunn strives to instill confidence and elicit authentic individual expression - which is the best that any teacher of a creative art can do.
Season Six's move to Los Angeles entailed one key consequence that hurts the program's consistency. The relocation meant that regular judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia were absent from most episodes. In their place we get a parade of guest judges who range from the interesting and qualified (Milla Jovovich, Bob Mackie) to the bafflingly irrelevant (Lindsay Lohan, the awful Jennifer Rade). This inconsistency is extremely detrimental to the designers; not only are they deprived of sharp, insightful critiques from the dependable Kors and Garcia, but they are also forced to endure a gauntlet of random, disconnected remarks from people wholly unfamiliar with their work. Each episode is thus rendered a one-off, with uninformed judges making uninformed decisions that result in an unfair succession of eliminations. Although the final three are each fully deserving, the season progresses illogically, with excellent designers being eliminated too early and less talented ones surviving until the final pre-Bryant Park challenge.
Despite this important reduction in the show's competitive integrity, Project Runway: Season Six still delivers good entertainment and fascinating insight into the creative processes of sixteen talented people.
The full-screen transfer looks a bit better than Season Five. Saturation isn't as big a problem. Colors look more natural and balanced. Things get a little contrasty at times, but that's the look of the show. It's a good transfer that is free of egregious digital errors.
The main audio track is a strong Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Music is favored, and plays almost constantly throughout each episode. Dialogue is well-represented, although moments that are lost in the mix or were whispered too low for the microphones to pick up are helpfully subtitled.
Project Runway: Season Six doesn't feel quite right in LA, and the loss of regular participation by judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia robs the show of the consistency of its essential designer critiques. It's still very watchable television. Recommended.