13 July 2006

In Praise of Project Runway

Okay, so I'm totally lame, but here it is: the highlight of my yesterday was not the library or driving my car to the library or sitting outside Starbuck's in the sun (this was of course before the storm), drinking a raspberry black iced tea, and reading about Wales.

No, the highlight was curling up on the couch at ten o'clock and turning on the season premiere of Project Runway.

I love this show above all other reality shows (yes, even The Amazing Race, which, over the course of the last two seasons, is working it way to "dead to me"). This is what got me to fight through my often unfightable Wednesdays during the second half of the school year: the prospect of an hour of Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, and fashion designer wannabes/fame whores who have to step up to whatever wacky challege they are given that week.

I love that designers aren't voted off the island or forced to make alliances that last all of two seconds or required to eat bugs in order to remain in the competition. They just have to... be good designers. And so little of the show is dedicated to what so many reality shows these days thrive on-- the personal drama. No, the focus here is on

(1) how the designers create and implement their respective visions, like when they go to Mood, the fabric store, and pick out their materials,
(2) the runway show (my favorite part!),
(3) the judging, which seems to me an excellent critique by people who know what they're talking about, and
(4) Tim Gunn, whom I love with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

I'll also admit that I scoffed at Project Runway's premise when I first heard it (much in the same way that I was digusted by the idea of America's Next Top Model, which I, um, now love not quite as much as I love Tim Gunn but more than I love, say, coffee. I know-- sacrilege!). But I turned it on a couple of episodes into the first season and was hooked immediately. Now it's just starting its third season, and I am so there!

Project Runway's greatness is not only felt by me, however. This past March, I was chaperoning a trip to NYC for our publications students, and at one point, we were waiting in line for the theatre we where would be seeing Rent to open. Suddenly, a group of our girls started shrieking and running up the stairs of the building we were standing in front of. Of course, everyone in line immediately stiffens, looking around (and up) suspiciously.

"What is their problem?" asked one of the other chaperones a little nervously.

I looked over, and lo and behold, the girls are jumping up and down in front of Parson's New School of Design, where all the Project Runway designers do their work for the show (and where Tim Gunn teaches, or directs, or does whatever it is his kick-ass self does). "Oh, that's the Project Runway place," I replied casually, not quite willing to admit to my fellow teachers that my nightly programming involves "Where the hell is my chiffon?" and not interviews with scholars about Shakespeare's works.

But now I feel I can declare my love in the open. So, thank you, Project Runway, for returning early to Bravo and especially for including Tim Gunn in the credits.

And a quick note about those shrieking girls-- the security guard eventually let them into the lobby of Parson's... AND gave them Austin's button. If you watch the show, you know how absolutely, totally cool that is.