Remember last week when I said I watched as much Project Runway as hockey? Yeah, it's time to throw down.

Like most viewers, I watch PR more out of habit and obligation than genuine interest at this point. It hasn't actually been all that interesting since Season 4. When Johnny Neck Tats won Season 3, it officially started the show on its gradual decline although it's still moderately entertaining. My complaints are two, and I imagine they are fairly common. First, the "judging" on the show is little more than a way for the producers to get rid of the cast members who aren't focus-grouping well enough. Actual talent seems to be about 4th on the list of priorities. I know, I know, it's TV. But the competition seems to be less about fashion and more about who can make the "edgiest" audition video, who has the most memorably idiotic haircut, and who has the potential to come up with the most irritating catchphrases. Second, the cast is essentially the same every year. Only the names change. There is a formula and the network(s) stick to it. It's like a Mad Lib. With hipsters.

It's so easy, any viewer can do it. Who needs Lifetime (and its desperate, futile efforts to get PR viewers to watch anything else on Lifetime) when you can plug your own characters into the various roles, find someone who can do a good Tim Gunn impression (I can, by the way), and make your own season right at home. I'll prove it. To make your own season, you'll need:

Yes, something like 90% of the male contestants are gay. But each season there must be at least one gay guy who embodies every stereotype – at quadruple strength – that comes to mind when I say "gay fashion designer." Most of the cast are just regular dudes, but the Alpha Gay Dude goes the extra mile. Viewers, no matter how tactful, look at this guy and wonder "Holy balls, where did they find someone that gay?" The answer is that he was manufactured in a laboratory, assembled from parts taken from guys who were not quite as gay. I'm not sure if it's appropriate for us straights to use the term "flaming", but…what I'm saying is, flaming. Gay like a french horn solo in a Mardi Gras parade.


Examples: Austin Scarlett (Season 1), Jerell (Season 5), Kayne (Season 3)

This designer has average talent at best but gets strung along all season – usually one of the last people to get cut before Bryant Park – because he is funny. He makes good B-roll, great soundbites, and keeps the other cast members from murdering each other. The audience loves them, as their humor is not the polarizing type. Flat-out funny.

Where's Andre?

Examples: Santino (Season 2), Chris March (Season 4), Anthony (Season 7)

Each cast needs one member who is absolutely fucking bonkers. Like "I drink your milkshake" crazy. The ideal candidate talks often about auras and fairies and assorted other pieces of New Age horseshit while engaging in bizarre behaviors that leave the other cast members genuinely fearful. Or it could just be weird, like incomprehensible Elisa who liked to spit on things.

My chi is covered in spit.

Examples: Elisa (Season 4), Stella (Season 5), Malvin (Season 6)

100% guaranteed to bring up the fact that he is straight early, often in the introductory episode, and very often thereafter. They often look like rejected extras from Jersey Shore.


Examples: Jeffrey (Season 3), Kevin (Season 4), Johnny Sakalis (Season 6)

The producers understand that many a boyfriend/husband/etc. are forced to watch this show against their will. So there is one extra-hot female contestant in an attempt to placate them. Their design talents are often considerable, enabling the producers to keep them around to the bitter end. They are always nice, too, so that male viewers can think they are the ideal girlfriend. The kind who would never make them watch PR.

"Althea, Nina wants you in a tighter shirt."

Examples: Alison (Season 3), Emily Brandle (Season 5), Althea (Season 6)

Bravo knows its audience, but Lifetime reeeeeeally knows its audience. There has to be at least one contestant upon whom the middle-aged female viewers can project themselves. These contestants range from highly talented (Laura, Season 3) to "Why is she there?" bad (Marla, Season 2; also, hot), although we all know the answer to that.

My kids don't call me either. Let's go out for appletinis.

Examples: Laura Bennett (Season 3), Marla (Season 2), Peach (Season 8)

Every season of every reality show ever made has the one asshole everyone wants to choke. The other contestants (and most viewers) spend a lot of time hoping he or she will trip and be impaled on a pair of scissors or Nina Garcia's jagged, angular face. The assholes are often very good and may even end up winning, making them increasingly unbearable until a friend or family member has them euthanized.

God, you are so beneath me.

Examples: Irina (Season 6), Kenley (Season 5), Wendy Pepper (Season 1)

These are the pure self-promoters, trying as hard as possible to be "quirky" and constantly throwing out ridiculous catchphrases. Like a sitcom character, they fight for more camera time for reasons that have nothing to do with talent. Usually very young and immature. They often go by one name (a la Brazilian soccer players) or some ridiculous moniker befitting their gimmicky appearance.

I refer to myself in 3rd person. Seriously.

Examples: Christian (Season 4), "Suede" (Season 5), "Epperson" (Season 6)

Fill out the rest of the cast with people who are quiet, bland, unremarkable, and pretty good at making clothes. Et voila. You're now a producer.

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  • Steve from Canada says:

    OK, I've never watched the show, but I would have guessed before I read this bit that I would rather set myself on fire than watch it. Now, after reading your description, I'm quite sure of that. If my girl tried to make me watch this, I'd set her on fire, too. I'd only be putting her out of her misery.

  • Steve, you're missing out. Ed, you're the only straight man I know to openly admit not only watching but enjoying the show.

  • Man, they're on season 8 now? I quit watching after the fourth one, when I realized I could barely tell if I was watching a rerun because the whole show was edited exactly the same way, musical cues and all, every time. Also I think maybe that season everyone sucked and was boring? Plus I started feeling bad for Tim Gunn, who seems like he should have a pullstring taped on the back of his impeccably-tailored suit jackets when he spouts the same catchphrases. You can practically see him wince when he does it.

  • QUIET YOU FOOL! You're giving away trade secrets!

    Seriously, though–shouldn't you have gone to WikiLeaks with this information?

  • Bah, if we're on trash TV this week…

    PR has nothing on America's Next Top Model..

    …where in one of the seasons a contestant actually said that they weren't against the fur industry as long as they got the fur from animals that were already dead…

    Truthfully though, you only need to watch the first three real episodes for the fun ones to get cut.

    Also it has nothing on Wipeout either… that is pure "ouch my balls" from Idiocracy.

  • party with tina says:

    Has anyone here ever heard of "Hyden Yoo"? He's a fashion designer who is not only isn't gay, but got his start-up cash by winning "Fear Factor," $50k.

  • Steve from Canada says:

    Weird. I am one of those people who thinks that "reality TV" in general constitutes a reason to hasten the extinction of homo sapiens. I don't know why, but I would have guessed Ed and most of his readers would be in that boat, too. Where my haters at?

  • Steve: what I would like to know is just how "scripted" are they. I mean in addition to casting the stereotypes who Ed has so brilliantly catalogued, how far do they go in encouraging them to exaggerate their behavior? Do they actually set up specific conflicts? Or are the players so into the spirit of the thing that they just blossom all by themselves?

  • I don't have cable. This doesn't convince me I'm wrong. Also, Reality shows all got their start from wrestling and are just as real.

    So, I guess that puts me with Steve From Canada.

  • I never got into PR, but America's Next Top Model has managed to suck me in more than once and I have no idea why. Tyra Banks is one of the most vapid obnoxious people I have ever seen, but the cattiness is just so compelling.

    Far prefer the cooking ones though. Hell's Kitchen, Top Chef, and Iron Chef will reel me in every time they happen to come on when I am in a hotel somewhere.

    Another reality show you might appreciate at the given moment, appreciate in the sense that is will seriously make you question the future, is Say Yes to the Dress. Wealthy princesses at a high end wedding store shelling out $12000 for the perfect dress that they will wear for all of four hours max.

  • This is the first time I haven't read through an entire G&T post.

    I'm with Steve from Canada. My wife watches, although she's about as interested in making me watch something I'd prefer not to as I am forcing her to eat something she hates: not at all. We do okay together.

    Seriously. There's kitsch, and then there's eight fucking seasons of kitsch which, as documented, is the same fucking shit over and over.

    That's entertaining? Really? I'd sooner shovel shit than sit through that pablum.

  • truth=freedom says:

    I'm with Steve. "Reality" TV is a reason to never watch television again. I've noticed that what little sports I see (not having a connection to a live feed on my TV) is trending towards being like "reality" TV. It makes me happy I can get my fix for sports-watching by going to the field/stadium.

  • I may be the only other straight guy who both watches and enjoys the show.

    Yes, it's incredibly formulaic. The "twists" are gimmicky and often get in the way of the design rather than spark creativity. And yes, the judges emit asphyxiating clouds of smug – except for Michael Kors, who radiates hazardous levels of orange. I also do not love the focus on "wearability". And yes, the drama often seems pointless and, er, fabricated (heh). But I love this show.

    I love it because the contestants make things. To me it's incredibly fun to watch creative (often crazy) people push themselves to do more while struggling to work within the rules and boundaries of the show.

  • Ryan, that's the reason I originally started watching the show (I'm mostly with everyone else who says reality tv = demise of western civ), because I liked seeing creative people do something, instead of bitch at each other or eat slugs. But eventually the formula of the show just ground away at that spark of creativity to the point that I couldn't watch it. Curse of commercialism.

  • I've never watched this show, but I've seen a lot of dance competitions over the past few years, since my several of my grandduaghters are dancers – and damned good ones, too.

    The kind of attitudinal idiocy you are describing has, unfortunately, spilled over into other arenas. Dance comp judges are impressed by flashiness over substance and fadishness over ability. Hip-hop routines ALWAYS score better than lyrical or ballet.

    As an indicator, last year the oldest granddaughter was in a group tap routine. Their music went out, but they kept on dancing – and finished perfectly and got the top mark – cause that was damned impressive. Next week – different comp, no technical difficulties – they danced the same – flawlessly, but got only a middling mark. That right there told me a lot.

    And – when you see the judges doing hand jives to the music, it pretty much tells where their heads are.

    It's all part of the degeneration of society. Von Mises would probably call it creative destruction.

    Anyway, very entertaining post, Ed.


  • Maren – well, as the old (current?) slogan goes, "Western Civ has got to go". And we're doing a fantastic job of it.

    I still watch because the rest of the reality shows (I still really like "The Amazing Race" and "Top Chef") are either really dull or so horrible that they seem to unseam the very fabric of sanity itself – I'm looking at you "The Bachelor" and "Jersey Shore", even though you're only looking at yourselves.

    It's the creative energy, the skill, and the flurry of ideas becoming reality that keep me coming back to PR. Not even Nina Garcia, with her withering WTF eye-rolls, or the random, pointless celebrity plugging something random and pointless can kill that. At least for me.

    Plus, I don't know enough about fashion to understand things like influence and "oh, he just copied that from so-and-so", so everything is a surprise to me. Especially when it's done well. Or when it's really, really horrible, which is fun too.

  • You know what is a good drinking game for watching the Bachelor (or the Bachelorette)? Take a drink everytime someone uses "amazing" as an adjective. But be sure to have a sober friend on hand to call 911–you'll be having seizures due to alcohol poisoning within the first 10 minutes.

  • Put me in the hater category. I don't understand watching a show that has the effect of making me want to punch every person on the show, which is the reaction I have when I see these shows.

  • My boyfriend and I love the show for the same reason – the fashion. We both like watching the runway part of the show and certain aspects of how the clothing is made. The people can be painfully annoying or really enjoyable – like real life, only more highly dramatized. I see it as an unfortunate reality that I deal with in order to have the privilege of watching designers engage in their art. I happen to enjoy fashion – I watched Top Chef because I was interested in watching cooks engage in their art, but couldn't get into it as much as PR.

    The switch to Lifetime seemed to increase the product placement, the drama, and the gender-based drama of the show. For instance, the first Lifetime season had an all female showing at Bryant Park, the next season had a [nearly] all male showing. Both seasons (if you follow Blogging Project Runway, which I sort of do) seemed to pick off various talented members of the particular gender they were after during that season. It made me want to vomit.

    Did you notice that the super gay guy (or at least one of them) this year is a clone of Terry from Reno 911 (Nick Swardson's character)? My boyfriend caught that while we were watching all of the contestant mini-bios on my On Demand yesterday. Sadly, we missed the premier on Thursday, so we needed a fix.

  • If you are interested in seeing people doing extremely difficult creative shit and being judged on their actual skill and talent, then Top Chef is much better than Project Runway. And Michael Kors's gross "Your model looks like a two-bit fat-ass street-slut in a plaid garbage bag muu-muu" misogynist gibberish is really old at this point.

  • Duh Quarterly says:


  • Neal Deesit says:

    After broadcasting went digital, I could no longer snare out of the air the "free" TV that does not arrive by wire or sattelite. So I just quit it entirely, save the trips to the sports bar to watch my storied alma mater embarrass itself on the gridiron. But I remember some of the old shows, and when I saw the "THE REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLY GAY GUY," I was reminded of those near-human aliens dressed in otherworldly non-technical fashion attire, who routinely materialized on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. I'm pretty sure that sparkly stuff on RGG's 24th century Mao jacket is dilithium crystals.

  • I'm gay and I can barely stand PR. I watch it once in a while, when CSPAN ceases to amuse me or I'm just crazy drunk and making bad decisions. And for all you het guys out there, the Austin Scarletttt dude makes me want to punch someone or at least sling a cocktail at them.

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