Abby White is covering SXSW this week, so I volunteered to recap this week’s Project Runway in her place. I thought it would be fun — I love TV, I have opinions about fashion, and I’m crazy about hometown designer Amanda Valentine, who seems to be coming across well on the show. But by the end I'd vowed to never watch another episode, and I really can't tell how this show is still on the air. Strike that: I can totally tell that this show is still on the air because of its maelstrom of product placement. But I can't tell how this show has kept an audience. Any ideas, Country Life readers?
So the judges blew their wad in the last episode by throwing not one but two (shocking!) contestants out. If they had only known how terrible this week’s designs were going to be, there’s no way they’d have wasted that big moment on a boring — but comparatively pretty acceptable — duct tape prom dress.
The judges pair the contestants into teams, and introduce their surprise clients: AUSTRALIAN STRIPPERS! There's terrible muzak in the background that sounds vaguely like "SexyBack," so I guess it's supposed to be sexy. Team Slick and Hip (ugh) is Amanda, Richard, Samantha and Layana. Team Shades of Grey (even worse) is Stanley, Patricia, Michelle and Daniel.
The head stripper breaks down the competition's rules: One of the elements needs to be a suit. The look needs to be suave, sophisticated and masculine. Stanley thinks a bike messenger outfit would be “too costumey.” For a stripper. This is dumb. I want to like him because his designs are some of the best, but he’s so wooden.
Samantha says that if the team followed Richard’s direction, all the models would be dressed like Prince and Boy George. But she says it like it’s a bad thing, which totally baffles me. Richard is corny as hell, but this is the corniest challenge ever, so he should be in charge. I want Liberace and Bowie and the New York Dolls! Richard and the girls are at odds, and while I’d normally be totally anti-Richard’s bad taste, this time I’m with him.
Richard is upset that he can’t express who he is as a designer. Amanda says, "He’s a lot of attitude. We don’t speak the same language." Then Richard goes into what looks like an isolation chamber to talk to his friend, and starts sobbing. It’s heartbreaking, but then the editing gets ultra-corny with sentimental music and voiceover: “This competition makes you. You have to step up to the plate or step off.” Ugh. It’s like the reality TV version of those father-daughter talks at the end of every episode of Full House.
Tim Gunn seems to be surprised that the teams aren’t working together well. Really? “I’m having the sense that you four aren’t working well together.” I can't stop making a "YOU DON'T SAY?" face as I'm watching.
Michelle says she’s going for a steampunk style. Oh Lord. Tim looks at Daniel's trench and says, “I picture clergy.” Brilliant! Put those strippers in Vatican-wear and watch the panties fly.
The clock is ticking, and the clothes are looking really terrible. Amanda totally fucked up the measurements for the pants, and doesn't realize until the very last minute. By then, it's time for the models to go to get their hair and makeup done, and for the show to fill its product placement quota.
This week's guest judge is Emmy Rossum, who I know nothing about — sorry.
First up is Team Slick and Hip. Oh my God this is hilarious. Samantha says it looks like clown-wear. Amanda says it’s the biggest train wreck ever.
Next is Team Shades of Grey: Daniel thinks his guy looks "pretty cool" — ha! The shirt that Patricia spent all her time working on is completely covered up by the trenchcoat, which is hilarious. Michelle’s vest looks like it has a Kleenex sticking out of it. I am reminded of this toward the end of the episode when her model jerks his arm back and forth to mimic unzipping the vest, but ends up looking like he’s pretending to masturbate.
Heidi thinks they should all go home. She calls Patricia’s shirt a potholder, and says that the only positive element is that the other team was even worse.
While Slick and Hip team are up there, one of the Down Under Thunder’s pants keep tearing apart, and I really want it to go full-on Hussein Chalayan. Amanda and Richard have it out on the runway, but backstage Amanda starts to cry and says that’s not who she is. It’s another sweet moment that gets represented surprisingly well inside an hour of cornball overload.
But in the end, the judges decide to send Amanda home. She handles herself well — sure she cries on camera, but it's because she doesn't want to be forced to be mean, and not because she doesn't get to stay on the show. She exits by saying that she's invigorated and ready to go back to her studio and get to work. Can't wait to see what she comes up with — maybe she'll take Tim Gunn's clergy-wear advice and work some "Like a Prayer"-style choir robes into her repertoire.
A few stray observations:
• Thank God that everyone seems to agree that Richard has terrible taste.
• Samantha is my secret favorite. I think she’s so cool.
• I'd love to pair Patricia up with Natalie Chanin.
• Richard: “I’m a guy, and I might be gay but I know what the hell I’m talking about.” Genius.