Oh, thank God! Carol Hannah Whitfield may have had a stomach bug going into New York Fashion Week on Project Runway, but at least it wasn't swine flu (as I had said it might be). She did look more than a little worn out, however, as she struggled to work on her collection while fellow finalists Irina Shabayeva and Althea Harper sniped at each other.
Not a whole lot happened in this episode design-wise... and not a whole lot happened drama-wise! So... let's start the show! (Heidi Klum is the eternal optimist, after all.)
The Home Visits
These are always a lot of fun. Tim Gunn, advisor extraordinare, visits the designers at their homes to check in on the progress of their collections and do something always a tad silly. (Greatest PR moment of all time, in my opinion? Seeing Tim with Korto Momulu's very African family last season. "This is adorable!" Tim said at the time about her Little Rock, Arkansas home in a way only Tim Gunn could.)
The visit to Carol Hannah's upstate New York place of residence was probably the best. What Althea and Irina lack in personality, Carol Hannah makes up in droves. Putting Tim in a floral apron and making him bake? Genius!
The other home visits were dull as dirt. Brooke Hogan proves to be a worthless addition to this finale once again, as her designs are aimless and the home visit, designed to make the contestants' personalites shine through, was an epic snooze. Irina's was marginally better, due to the shocking revelation that she and her sister are the same person (seriously, their mother wouldn't even be able to tell them apart) and that her imaged T-shirts were more or less plagiarized. So what does she do? Write reasons why to love New York City lifted straight from a New York Magazine piece! (Point to Tom and Lorenzo of Project Rungay for figuring that one out.) More on that later.
Carol Hannah's Illness: Side Effects Include Boredom
Too bad Carol Hannah was sick this episode. We were left with the awkward silence of Brooke Hogan and Shabbadabadoo. (And no, I'm not suddenly shifting alliances to Carol Hannah because she agreed to an interview when Irina didn't. Why do you ask?) I miss the anguished, furious, "Everybody hates you, Wendy!" of Season 1, the expression of hatred from Chloe Dao to Santino Rice in Season 2, the accusations of cheating in Season 3, and even Kenley Collins' awkward apology in Season 5. These girls don't know how to make drama for the cameras outside of the confessional.
Seriously, guys, Carol Hannah's puke was more exciting than the rapport between the designers. You can undoubtedly see the handprint of new production company Bunim/Murray this season. These guys are the same ones that have long produced The Real World, so it's no wonder we've wound up with three pretty women low on personality in the finale. (Every time they giggle as a group, Christian Siriano dies a little bit on the inside.)
Next season is rumored to be much better (and in NYC again, thank God), but it would take a miracle to save this show right now. It's just so boring!
At Least the Clothes are Pretty
Usually, the clothes aren't the highlight of a Project Runway season. Hell, last season, they were practically an afterthought compared to the Kenley drama. However, this season, the saving grace has been the designers' ability to produce consistent, pretty stuff. Nothing too exciting, just solid. Now, going into the finale, there are at least two looks that really, really excite me. Surprise: neither of them comes from Brooke Hogan! Check out the next post (Collect Them All) if you wanna know which two.
But seriously, here's the crux of the matter. Fans of the show all over are in a tizzy over this season because of the production. Never before has the metaphorical hand of the producers left so many fingerprints all over the show. Shirin Askari, Nicolas Putvinski, Ra'mon Lawrence Coleman, and Epperson (so cool he had only one name) were all shafted to the side due to exactly two things: producer manipulation to keep Designated Straight Male Logan Neitzel in the competition, and the ridiculously off-base judgments of the designers this season. Both of which can be drawn back to the production efforts of Bunim/Murray.
Understand that most PR fans can go on for hours about the producer manipulation on this show, but I'm gonna do my best to summarize.
History Will Repeat Itself
First, a history lesson for you. Never let anyone tell you that producers of reality shows don't pick favorites. From Season 1 of this show, the producers'/judges' pets have been obvious. (And no, they're not always one and the same.) Back then, Austin Scarlett and Kara Saun were described by one contestant as "the golden children," but that's incorrect with regard to Austin. Looking back, the judges didn't really like him that much. He wound up on the bottom (don't say it) more than most remember, and won one challenge because his model was willing to put out. (That's a little blunt, I know, but go watch Model Clients from Season 1 again and see how deplorable Melissa, a 16-year old girl was acting towards a journalist and the guest judge.) Really, the producer pet was Jay, and the judge pet was Kara. Still, tragic mess Wendy slid along to the finale, creating the most real drama this show's ever seen, so in my opinion, the producers tampered with this season the least.
That came to a crashing halt the next year. There was rampant producer manipulation in letting Santino Rice stay as long as he did. Three separate times he deserved to go home, and three separate times he was saved for seemingly no reason. Seeing Nick Verreos, a strong, modern designer go home in favor of this idiot was especially hard. Meanwhile, the judges loved no one more than Daniel Vosovic, who was a good designer, if a little Wal-Mart for my tastes. (Target ain't havin' none of that! Represent!)
Seasons 3 through 5 is where the producers really amped it up with regard to Fashion Week. Jeffrey Sebelia, the producers' pet, and Michael (now Mychael, just to annoy me) Knight, the judges' pet, wound up in the bottom two on the final challenge, while Uli Herzner, who no one on that production team liked, sailed to an easy victory. So what do they do? They institute the tool that would soon become the bane of every fanatic's existence: not eliminating anyone on the final challenge.
In fact, they did it three times. Again in Season 4 to save Rami Kashou, and in Season 5 to save Kenley Collins.
They didn't do it this season, but instead of saving four designers, the producers just sent Gordana Gehlhausen home for, um, no reason whatsoever.
And don't get me started on the judging. I'm sorry, but if you're employed by a show to be a permanent judge, you rearrange your schedule so that you can be there for at least half the episodes. (Not so much referring to Nina Garcia on this one, who just had a really bad year and is trying to keep her job at Marie Claire by doing it, but to Michael Kors, who was getting "inspired" or some crap like that.) Why couldn't the judges show? Because some idiot at Bunim/Murray thought it would be a good idea to move the show to Los Angeles. They sure fixed that one in a hurry.
This is what we're left with. A season devoid of personality, filled with pretty, harmless designers. Snore.