"Project Runway" is the latest reality series focusing on the modeling business (see also: "America's Top Model".) Once again in season 2, model Heidi Klum hosts as the cameras watch the work of 16 designers who were picked from a massive group of applicants from around the country. The group gets their own luxury NYC apartment, and then one or more of them is eliminated each week as their work is judged. The eventual winner will get a lucrative magazine profile, a car, a mentorship with INC (Inter-National Concepts) Design, a year of agency representation and a $100,000 prize to start their own line. The set of models that the designers can use to show off their fashions are also eliminated one per week, as well. The winning model also gets a spread in Elle magazine.
What sets "Project Runway" apart are innovative contests. The challenges during the series are just that - challenges; they don't take it easy on the contestants and require definite skill to succeed. The results of the tasks are definitely interesting to see, as there are some that are remarkably creative, and others that just don't work. Making matters even more difficult is the fact that the budget given to these designers to create their projects is often very minor - as little as $100 in some challenges.
Some of the challenges throughout the season include creating an outfit for Miss USA Tara Conner (I'm guessing this was shortly before all the controversy around Conner began), designing an outfit based upon a "story" inspired by a dog, modernizing the look of a fashion icon, making an outfit from recyclable materials, making a black and white outfit and heading to France to make a coture outfit in record time. A few of the challenges are a little less inspired than previous years (the black and white challenge, as well as Conner's appearance in the Miss USA contest, where she really say a whole lot as the designers are trying to talk with her about their ideas), but overall season 3's challenges still mostly make for riveting TV.
The other elements about "Runway" that are very refreshing are the fact that, while there are definitely big personalities in the pool of contestants and the show does show some catfights and arguments, the series focuses more on the actual work that the contestants are trying to do. However, there are a few incidents during the season, including one contestant being booted from the series for going against one of the main rules of the show and allegations of cheating in the finale. There's also the infamous moment of contestant Jeffrey Sabilia hurting a mother's feelings when he thinks she's trying to sink his chances during a challenge where the designers' mothers are the models. This season's contestants are a mostly engaging mix, although no one quite reaches the heights of last season's Santino.
Additionally, this season is actually very funny at times, as the season continues to give a bigger role to Tim Gunn, head of fashion at the elite Parsons School of Design in NYC. Gunn acts as something of a co-host in the series, checking in on and generally encouraging the designers as they go about their work. Gunn's way of seeming uppity yet friendly (and occasionally oddly fascinated by some of the work on the series) is quite funny and some of Gunn's dry comments about what the designers are up to are priceless. While Gunn's comments can be tough (and his silences can be tougher), he offers genuinely constructive criticism and tries to be supportive.
Additionally, Heidi Klum actually makes a very good host, managing to not keep the focus on her in her scenes, and yet not be so subdued that she becomes a non-factor. It's a tough balance, but she achieves it quite well. The pacing and documentary-style cinematography are also faster and sharper than most similar shows on TV today. That's the other great aspect of "Runway", as the show does create a great sense of urgency as the viewer is always made to feel that the clock is ticking for these designers to get things done.
Despite not really having any idea about fashion or the fashion industry, I continue to not only find this an incredibly entertaining and addictive series, but one of the VERY few reality shows on television that's actually worth watching.
Season 3 Episodes (all 15 episodes are extended versions with never-before-seen footage.)
S- 1 12 Jul 06 Road to Runway: Season 3 - Casting Special
27. 3- 2 12 Jul 06 Wall to Wall
28. 3- 3 19 Jul 06 Fit For A Queen
29. 3- 4 26 Jul 06 Designer's Best Friend
30. 3- 5 2 Aug 06 Reap What You Sew
31. 3- 6 9 Aug 06 Iconic Statement
32. 3- 7 16 Aug 06 Waste Not, Want Not
33. 3- 8 23 Aug 06 Everyday Woman
34. 3- 9 30 Aug 06 High Flying Fashion
35. 3-10 6 Sep 06 Couture Du Jour
36. 3-11 13 Sep 06 Black and White
37. 3-12 3 Oct 06 What the Elle?
38. 3-13 4 Oct 06 Reunion
39. 3-14 11 Oct 06 Finale, Part 1
40. 3-15 18 Oct 06 Finale, Part 2
Seasons 1 and 2 are already available on DVD.
VIDEO: "Project Runway" is presented in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio by The Weinstein Company. The show appears to have been shot on digital video, and while the picture quality varies at times, the presentation looks mostly good. Sharpness and detail are very good at best, and average at worst, but the presentation appears mostly well-defined.
In terms of flaws, some minor shimmering on occasion is the only other issue. Overall, I thought the picture quality appeared crisper and cleaner here than the image quality did on the first set. Colors remain natural and accurate, with no smearing or other problems.
SOUND: The show's stereo soundtrack is crisp and easily understood, with no concerns.
EXTRAS: "Wear Was He Then: Tim Gunn" featurette, "Wear Are They Now?: Jeffrey Sebelia, Mychael Knight, Laura Bennett; Tim Gunn's season 3 blog, designer bios and outtakes.
Final Thoughts: I continue to not only find "Project Runway" an incredibly entertaining and addictive series, but one of the VERY few reality shows on television that's actually worth watching. This set once again doesn't offer a whole lot in the way of extras, but audio/video quality is fine. Highly recommended.