Well- fash­ioned show takes the cake­walk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv Monday, April 7 - Ker­rie Mur­phy

‘‘ IT’S not just a game, it’s my life,’’ a con­tes­tant says, sob­bing, in a con­fes­sional in the open­ing episode of Project Run­way. It’s easy to laugh; good­ness knows I did.

It’s prob­a­bly also worth tit­ter­ing over the mar­i­onette maker who, in the first chal­lenge of this fash­ion de­sign re­al­ity show, rubs her fab­ric into the grass be­cause she likes her cloth­ing im­bued with na­ture. And stains, ap­par­ently.

Af­ter all, you have to have histri­on­ics and loop­i­ness in a re­al­ity show. Oth­er­wise it would just be a doc­u­men­tary about a bunch of nar­cis­sis­tic peo­ple of whom you’ve never heard and, quite frankly, there are enough doc­u­men­taries about nar­cis­sis­tic peo­ple of whom you have heard to make that con­cept re­dun­dant.

What makes Project Run­way one of the best re­al­ity shows, how­ever, is that it’s about more than just this. An elim­i­na­tion- based com­pe­ti­tion in which 15 as­pir­ing fash­ion de­sign­ers cre­ate new de­signs each week ac­cord­ing to the chal­lenge laid out, it’s a show that de­pends for its en­ter­tain­ment value largely on the ex­cite­ment of creative peo­ple re­al­is­ing a vi­sion.

And it’s grat­i­fy­ing to see that ex­cite­ment re­mains, four sea­sons in. By that point most re­al­ity shows have jet­ti­soned pro­fes­sional cred­i­bil­ity in favour of good television. ( Much as I love it, I some­times won­der why Amer­ica’s Next Top Model didn’t just change its name to Amer­ica’s Cra­zi­est Bitches sev­eral sea­sons ago.)

So the con­tes­tants are all ex­pe­ri­enced to vary­ing de­grees and can sew their way out of a pa­per bag. Not to sug­gest that the re­sult­ing pa­per bag gar­ment is some­thing you’d wear. This is high fash­ion, af­ter all.

If any­thing, this sea­son takes de­sign even more se­ri­ously, with the de­sign­ers be­ing given fab­ric for their first chal­lenge, in­stead of hav­ing to use non- tra­di­tional sources, such as things you can buy in a su­per­mar­ket, the clothes they are wear­ing or the con­tents of the apart­ment, as has been the case in ear­lier sea­sons.

The judges know how to bal­ance the witty one- line re­view with con­struc­tive crit­i­cism based on pro­fes­sional cred­i­bil­ity, with de­signer Michael Kors and Elle fash­ion di­rec­tor Nina Kors re­turn­ing for the fourth time. ( They’re joined by a ro­tat­ing third judge.)

The host, model Heidi Klum, makes the show about the clothes and not her­self ( cough Tyra Banks) and has this en­dear­ingly gen­uine bewild- er­ment about bad de­sign. ‘‘ Your look made us very sad,’’ she says flatly to one de­signer in the sec­ond of two episodes air­ing tonight. You feel her pain. And let’s not for­get men­tor Tim Gunn, the most un­likely TV star, who’s like that strict but benev­o­lent teacher who in­spires be­cause they so fiercely want you to suc­ceed.

To­gether it makes for end­lessly com­pelling view­ing, which means Fox­tel has its work cut out when it launches a lo­cal ver­sion in July. Fail to match the qual­ity of this and it will be a cheaper knock- off than a Prada bag at a Hong Kong mar­ket.

Feel their pain: Project Run­way ’ s Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum

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