Saturday, June 28, 2008

All Aboard the Failboat! (Or, a Rope of Sand)

In its ongoing effort to destroy the last great good thing on television, the Weinstein Company has made the following ridiculous changes to the format of Project Runway:

1. Selling it to Lifetime TV, where all challenges will probably revolve around what one should wear when escaping from one's psychotic ex-husband/lover/father/stalker, preferably with one or more frightened children in tow

2. Moving it from New York, a legitimate capitol of fashion, to Los Angeles, where people like that vacant girl from the Hills worked at Teen Vogue and has a "career" in "fashion"

3. Today announced that the show was being taken over by Bunim-Murray production company.

Don't know who Bunim-Murray is, and don't want to read the article? Well, here are some of their past reality show highlights!

For E: Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Living Lohan
For Oxygen: Bad Girl's Club
For Lifetime: America's Psychic Challenge (!!)

And, my favorite:

21 seasons of The Real World. Yes, ladies and gentleman, the company that steered the ship of the Real World from the calm seas of docudrama to the retarded ocean of famewhoring is going to be handling the delicate flower that is Project Runway.

Why did the Weinstein Company feel like they had to mess with a good thing? In the slew of ridiculous competition shows out there (like America's Best Dog, which I didn't even know I needed in my life) PR is– was– the best. The contestants, for the most part, were legit designers who had either experience or talent. The show's drama didn't derive from picking Homophobic Redneck A and making him live, eat, and work with Flamboyantly GayGay Homogay B. The drama unfolded when real people got tired, when they'd been working for a million hours straight to make a dress made of toilet paper and dammit, they probably just all wanted coffee and a few moments of sleep. Drama emerged from personalities clashing– over design vision, over sharing space, over working together.

That kind of drama is the kid we all experience in our daily lives. For instance, if there were a reality show like PR about "World's Best Barista" at my old work, we'd have cast of "characters" and a psychotic "boss." But fights always came from personalities fighting in context, personalities clashing in the middle of working towards something else.

The Benim-Murray brand of drama is none of those things. The Bunim-Murray brand is about Drama!!!1!1!, about picking bland caricatures and pitting them against one another to ensure for the most scandalous footage. The Bunim-Murray brand is about TV. Project Runway was about fashion and TV, about collecting a bunch of people together who all loved doing the same thing and making them work their skinny-denim covered ases off to get the prize. Unlike Bunim-Murray's past efforts, the fame that came with Project Runway has felt like a happy addition, a means to an end. You don't hear Christian Siriano say "Oh yeah, I totally want to present at crappy reality TV awards shows for the rest of my life, and walk red carpets for events I've been paid to attend." You hear him say "I want to be the next Alexander McQueen."

It's infinitely frustrating to see the Project Runway transition drama go from terrible to shitstorm in such a short time. In the months since the Weinstein Company has announced PR's move, so many people are now saying that it's going to blow that when it does move to Lifetime, I'm betting that the first season will have high ratings, but not as high as in the past. Every season the ratings will go down. Dollars to donuts Tim Gunn will leave. And Bunim-Murray, instead of looking at how great the show used to be, will only look at the stereotypes. They'll cast ever more flamboyant gays, and ever more idiotic bigots, and then make them sew a dress while suspended over a lake of flame or something. Viewership for PR will decline, and decline, and decline, and soon it'll be like The Real World. I'll hear about a new season of it and think "Wow, that used to be good back in the day. I wonder if I should tune in now." But I won't.

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