Reality TV: An Interlude

It’s been a difficult month for completing things. Well, actually I’ve finished a lot of big stuff. A lot! My job hunt is over for the immediate future (hurray!), I’m rooming with one of my best friends (uraa!), and I’ve made great strides in combating my apartment’s cockroach infestation (…yay?).  But ever since I got this new job it’s been hard to focus on finishing stuff. I’ve barely touched any of my books, and forget marathoning TV shows.

That is…except for Project Runway.

I've watched three seasons of this show over the last two months.

I’ve watched three seasons of this show over the last two months.

Project Runway is a Bravo-cum-Lifetime reality show that recruits up-and-coming fashion designers and makes them compete for a coveted slot at New York Fashion Week (HAPPENING NOW) via process of elimination and daily design challenges. To get to the top, designers have had to make clothes out of candy, garbage, pet food, party supplies, and of course, expensive fabric from Mood [link]. I watched the earliest seasons of the show back when it was on Bravo, and fell off the wagon due to lack of television…until this summer.

Because it’s on Hulu now and I’m never watching anything else ever again.

Whatever. It’s a great show! It’s like Top Chef but with clothes instead of food and more flamboyant gay men!

What I love about Runway is feeling constantly impressed by the products these designers can put together in twelve hours, and reminding myself that yes they really do only have twelve hours, then they show their collections, then they go to bed, then they wake up and do it all over again. It’s not only physically tiring, it’s creatively exhausting.

Before I got into yarnworks, I was sort of an amateur seamstress. I started sewing at some point in high school and had this fantasy of becoming a costume designer slash urban planning guru. Clearly neither of those things worked out. I can take in T-shirts, insert zippers and fix seams, but when it comes to reading patterns, I’m a complete failure.

But Anya taught herself to sew four months before being on the show and ended up winning.

And yet Anya (center) taught herself to sew four months before being on the show and ended up winning.

This is why it’s so impressive to me. To win a challenge on Runway, you have to be able to conceptualize and draw your design in half an hour, navigate the maze that is Mood to find that perfect fabric, and then sew it impeccably in a day or less. Your garment has to be unique, fashion forward, well-made, and had to please the holy trinity – Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia.

In earlier seasons, the drama came mostly from whether or not the designers would finish on time or if they’d send a train wreck down the runway. In watching seasons 8-10 (and also the current season) the producers of the show have fallen back on doing more team challenges – a sure way to amp up the drama – and doing more unconventional challenges (making garments out of pet food, trash, etc.) They’ve also started literally sending designers out into the wild and doing wacky physical challenges that have nothing to do with fashion.

It feels like some of the spirit of the show has been lost. I live for seasons that focus on more creative and technically complex challenges. I love it when there are characters that want to collaborate with one another and in the end truly become friends. The show has an earnestness to it that makes it perfect for marathon viewings after a long day at work.

And of course there's Tim Gunn, who is probably the most honest and supportive mentor you'd ever wish for.

And of course there’s Tim Gunn, who is probably the most honest and supportive mentor you’d ever wish for.

I’m going to keep watching Runway and crocheting and shirking other Important After Work Activities in an attempt to nurture the dream that maybe one day I’ll get my own dress form and make those Final Fantasy costumes I’ve fantasized about. But that’s a nerdy discussion for another time.

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