Project Runway and Top Chef: Worst. Challenges. Ever.

Oh, I just don’t have the energy to write about these shows in any detail.

Look, I get it. The challenges have to be fun and unusual. A whole series of ‘make your best thing’ would be stupid, and boring. But you can easily have challenges along the lines of ‘make your best thing under these very strict criteria’ as opposed to ‘make your best thing out of materials gathered that you skimmed from a canal while guest judges Itchy and Scratchy fire bees at you’. The difficulties should come from meeting the brief, not the execution of the brief.

I’m all in favour of PeeWee Herman, but Paul Reubens clearly didn’t want to be doing it and felt weird about ‘comedy’ judging something that was serious. Making them cycle around and use other people’s kitchens was just stupid. Not at this stage of the contest. The ‘street muse’ thing for Project Runway was a good idea, but the idea of making people give up their clothes was beyond stupid. Even if we did get a ‘hot’ dude in tiny underpants out of it. That’s an awful lot of air quotes for one paragraph, but they’ve brought it on themselves.

Two of the most obvious boots in the history of these shows. Tom cutting off Grayson at the knees the second he gets the chance. Whatever, totally worth it for the chance to have told him to suck an egg. I still don’t know how Sarah’s making it through. Two bad risottos and now underseasoning. These are big sins on this show. I hope Bev comes back and it’s an Ed, Paul, Bev final three and Ogre Heather and all the rest of them choke on the ASIAN FLAVOURS.

Anthony going home was absurd. It was obvious from about five minutes in when 90% of the episode was him talking to camera or getting strangers to undress. Clearly getting their monthey’s worth from how ‘funny’ he is. His outfit was fine. Little bit 70s loungewear, but fine. He mostly seemed to get ousted on a misunderstanding. He said he made ‘everything from the waist up’ from fabric from strangers, and they seemed to think he just made the turban and the purse. Regardless, he shouldn’t have gone when Jerell’s … Jerell’s whatever that was was in contention. I think that’s overtaken Ramon’s neoprene toilet dress, but not quite beaten Emilio’s washers and string bikini, as the worst garments EVER made on this show. It isn’t a unique vision. It’s just bad taste.

Oh, and Mondo? Wearing a T-shirt with your own face on it as tacky as all hell. Don’t do it.

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Project Runway and Top Chef – Stop. Saying. Taste.

So Project Runway had a ‘taste’ theme this week. You may have noticed that from the way that Angela Lindvall kept saying taste about a thousand times in the introduction. ‘There are many kinds of taste and taste comes from lots of places so this week we want to challenge your taste and have you show us your taste by making something in good taste from something with good taste which is to say gelato which tastes nice so you have to take the taste of your gelato and base a garment that is in good taste on the taste of your gelato’s taste. Taste.’ I know she doesn’t write her own scripts, so she’s not entirely to blame, but that shit was clunky as hell. I liked her at first, but now she’s kind of grating. Apart from the moments she SHOUTS RANDOMLY, she just drones. She sounds like one of the Fashion Club from Daria. Maybe she’s just tired from having nightmares about orphans who can’t afford ankle boots.

I enjoyed April saying that she didn’t understand some of the flavours and then mentioning ‘Fruits of the Forest’ like that was some obscure gelato arcanery that only gelato masters with secrets handed down the generations would understand. Rather than, you know. An ice cream. She did somewhat redeem herself when Joanna Coles was all ‘I brought delicious ice cream for everybody! DELICIOUS DELICIOUS ICE CREAM! Taste!’ and handed it to April, all ‘Refreshments!’ and April immediately just tossed it aside and caried on talking about sewing.

Joanna’s visit was weird, though. She wasn’t really giving them any advice or help; she was just serving as weird ‘Voice Of The Audience’ thing, asking simplistic questions about where they get their ideas and so on, which she as a fashion editor has no business asking. It seemed a really clunky way of giving information they thought the audience would want, when we (well, I) just want to hear her being mean to the designers.

Michael Costello continues to be the absolute worst. Gasping, hand-flapping, insincere little wretch. Spending any amout of time with him must just be exhausting. With him and Anthony and Jerrel all not being nearly as funny as they think they are but getting so many interviews, it’s all a bit wearisome.

They continue to all make horrible, horrible clothes. I know that the six hours time limit is a lot to blame in this instance, but still. Kenley’s dress was cute and, as always, very her. Mila used notblack! But still did colour blocking like a champ. Mondo’s was the least bad from him this season, but was still, well, an ugly orange kaftan. Rami’s was hideous in a similar way to Anthony’s. Trying too hard to prove they could do construction. I admired Kara for avoiding the obvious ‘chocolate is brown’ conclusion, but the result was … offputting. Jerrel’s was gross, again. I don’t know how he’s cruising through making these short in front long in back gowns in ugly fabrics with bondage accoutrements. Not good. April’s was a nice idea, poorly executed, but she’s grown on me and she is young, so I’m sure she’ll be fine. I’d rather she’d stayed than a lot of the people left.

Michael can make some prety gowns, but this was not one of them. It sagged weirdly in the middle and the colour was drab drab drab. He does give good back, though. His reaction to winning was typically obnoxious, but I loved how it became glaringly apparent that the ‘industry event’ Miranda Kerr was wearing this to was yet to be decided, and may end up being a trip to Michael to Jack in the Box in Palm Springs. Do they even have Jack in the Box in Palm Springs? Anyway. Clearly this was Schrodinger’s Industry Event.

Speaking of Miranda Kerr, she … isn’t the brightest pair of shoes on the fabulous Neiman Marcus accessories wall, is she? She mostly just echoed what the other judges said, about five seconds too late. There’s a weird inconsistency with the judges this year – genuinely capital F Fashion people like Diane von Furstenberg, or Badgley and Mischka, alongside derpy old Miranda Kerr and Miss Piggy. I did love how Angela said ‘Here’s Diane von Fursternberg to tell you more about the challenge’ and then DvF basically just stood there looking like the leathery beach skeleton she is, winking at people. I still really enjoy Georgina Chapman. She gives really considered, thoughtful feedback and seems to have actual opinions. I still pretend that Mizrahi doesn’t exist.

I’m sorely disappointed that in a challenge that was supposedly about TASTE they didn’t really question the tackiness of some of the clothes. And that there was no Nina to say ‘We have concerns about your taste levels’. This truly is a show in its own mould.

As for Top Chef, wow, Sarah and Lindsay just continue to be utterly unpleasant don’t they? Grinning with delight when Paul forgot his shrimp. Their horrible self-congratulatory love-in of ‘I’d eat that every day!’ ‘no, I’d eat YOU every day!’ ‘IT TASTES SO GOOD’. I kind of yelped with delight when they lost to Grayson and Chris. And of course, they remained classy by implying that they lost because Cat Cora doesn’t like tarragon. Not because it was misjudged in that recipe, or because it was too strong, or any real actual reason. Or not even because Grayson and Chris simply made better food than them. No, it’s because Cat Cora doesn’t like tarragon, and is so lacking in professionalism that that would affect her judging of how well the food was made technicallly. Gross me out.

There’s not a lot you can say about the food, really. Two meatballs, two chicken salads, two Asian barbecues. They all looked nice enough. But that’s what you get when you make them serve food for 200 people in a short period of time, outdoors, in the summer, in Texas. At the risk of overusing a phrase, it’s Top Chef, not Top Caterer. (I would totally watch that show, by the way.) By all means challenge the chefs and make them do different things, and have a couple of ‘bulk’ challenges, but there’s been so many this season. The barbecue one, the steak one, the QuinceaƱera one (bring back Blanca Flores as a judge, by the way), this one… I dunno. I’d just like more ‘fine dining’ challenges that push the chefs in interesting directions, rather than ‘make lots of food in not enough time’.

Of course, the highlight of the episode was Grayson standing up to Tom. The judges on this show, and especially Tom, are hugely inconsistent about what they want, and what they expect, and it was great that Grayson called him out on it. And with such finesse. ‘Like a MEATBALL?’ said in three words what could have been a whole protracted argument about what they should do and how the challenges are set and so on. And he actually shut up! She’s signed her own death warrant, of course, because there’s no way Tom’s ego will let somebody who talked back to him win the competition, but at least she’s going to be on ‘best bits’ clips from now until forever. She really should be Fan Favourite, but nothing can stand up to the might of hausfraus in love with Malibu Chris (who really wasn’t that hot).

Project Runway Allstars Episode 2

The most notable thing about this episode is that April has started to grow on me. That does seem kind of inevitable when you pit someone against Michael Costello, though. (Speaking of whom, how hilarious that he’s like ‘I love opera!’ and then mentions Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli. Like, way to show your extensve, in-depth knowledge of opera, dude. Andrea Bocelli sang on the beach for contestants on the Apprentice. He’s as debased as opera currency as Katherine Jenkins. I know, like, nothing about opera, but still. Come on.) But just the contrast in their two responses: him being all aghast that he and April have a similar look, and April saying ‘whatever, dude, it’s a red dress’. Because seriously. A red evening gown. That is not a new thing. If you’ve got so little faith in your own vision as a designer that you don’t think you can make a red dress different from somebody else’s, why are you even there? Especially when it’s Michael’s classicaly elegant style versus April’s, you know. Stripper witch aesthetic.

Still enjoying Joanna Coles as a mentor. Kind of stern, and not just comforting platitudes that Tim ended up giving.

Opinions, written before judging
Kenley’s dress was super pretty, and very much of her aesthetic. She spent the whole episode dressed liked the woman in the We Can Do It poster, but maybe she was aiming for this:

Kenley's plan

Fashion! Is the listing the fabrics a new thing, or have I literally always missed it? It makes sense when the fabrics are like, mop heads and sanitary towels, but when it’s organza and so forth, eh. Seems a bit redundant. The dress worked really well if you looked at it through a certain lens. That lens being Katy Perry goes to the opera, but at least it’s an aesthetic. And it’s unlike everything else the rest of the contestants did.

The top half of Gordana’s gown was gorgeous. I love the styling, and that soft lavender colour, and the mesh effect on op. I wasn’t too sure about the weird little leg panels in the skirt, though.

Rami’s was horrible. I can’t stand that fuschia colour, and it looked scrappy, not intricate.

Mila’s was neat, and pretty, but kind of lost its appeal the more closely I looked at it. As a red carpet statement piece, it’d work really well.

Sweet P. Oh dear lord. The colour pallete. The shape. Everything about it was wrong. Why that enormous bell skirt? Why the fabric that looked like melted Starburst? Why that weird little folded over panel at the back? Why ANY of it?

It’s funny that Joanna was warning Anthony about looking bridal, given that Mondo came up with what can only be described as a futuristic drag bride. Why the ring neck? Why that weird obi-style back? The fact that he said he was inspired by what he saw at the opera is telling – they’re meant to be going to it, not appearing in it. He also called it 60s, which in a sense it was, but ‘retro-futuristic’ and ‘couture to wear to a night at the opera’ are not interchangable terms.

Jerell. Horrible horrible horrible. Shapeless muumuu with feathers attached, in an ugly drab fabric.

Kara. The black sash at the waist brought a bit of interest to what could have been too pastel. And she managed to do a full skirt without making a balloon out of it. If the challenge was ‘a day at the races’, this dress would have kicked ass, but it wasn’t, so it didn’t.

Anthony’s gown was gorgeous, and not remotely bridal. It takes a certain skill to make pure white interesting. But the styling was way off. Elbow-length black leather gloves? She’s not meant to be an assassin.

Austin’s was lovely too. It’s pretty easy to make gold lame look tacky, but he reined it in and made it look classy. The fabric did look kind of wrinkled though, which I think would really have shown up to the judges in the room.

I admire April for hand-dying ombre in such a short time, and for making a dress that was still very ‘her’. Probably she and Kenley managed that the most. The dress, judged on its own merits, was fine but nothing too exciting.

Credit where it’s due, Michael’s dress was striking and glamorous, and the crystal ‘belt’ across the back was gorgeous. It does prove, though, how absurd he was to worry about using red, given that his and April’s gowns couldn’t be more different, even if he had used red for it. It’s about more than colour.

Judging didn’t add much to it, for me, other than learning that I still really like Georgina Chapman, and also learning the word ‘grosgrain’. Some of them liked Anthony’s murderer accessories, so what do I know? I did like that Kara stood up for print in the evening, and her pockets argument. Austin’s dress was apparently immaculate, and won, (which is good for his reputation as the couture master) so they obviously didn’t see the wrinkling I did. I still think Sweet P is great, but, yeah. Three times on the show. That’s enough chances, really.

Next week, Joanna Coles says in dead seriousness, ‘How does a pig feel about wearing giraffe print?’ and we learn that Kenley and Kara are becoming co-dependent, which: awesome.

Project Runway Allstars episode 1

What an odd little show.

It’s an odd choice to make an all-stars show with a whole new panel of judges and a new mentor. It works rather well, I guess, in that you’re at least avoiding the preconceptions (Heidi Klum always hated Gordana, Tim Gunn clearly wouldn’t spit on Kenley if she was on fire). Angela Lindvall isn’t a bad host, although a little prone to SHOUTING at random MOMENTS to show her ENTHUSIASM! It’s nice that she’s actually having opinions. Isaac Mizrahi is gross and is still just Will Ferrell in Zoolander. Georgina Chapman clearly knows her stuff and is super-pretty and well turned out. Joanna Coles looks like she could be a great mentor, although I confess that I’m hoping for more ‘if Nina came in to work dressed in THAT I’d think she was mentally ill’ and less ‘surprise the judges’. I did enjoy her just stomping off when she’d had enough and refusing to even bother to come and hang around for the results. Clearly too busy eviscerating some poor intern, as is only right and proper.

Casting isn’t too bad, from my personal perspective. I always loved Sweet P and Gordana, so it’s nice to see them back. I hate Michael Costello with the fire of a thousand suns, but he should absolutely be there as a ‘star’, although with Jerell and Anthony to compete with as Sassy Gay Who Isn’t Really As Good At Quips As He Thinks, he’s gonna get lost in the shuffle. Kenley is an obnoxious choad and therefore brilliant TV. We can but hope for more ‘I don’t look at collections’ and ‘Boobs are meant to be up here, Heidi‘. Elisa’s role was always going to be obvious first boot, and she was clearly fine with that. Given that the entire show is clearly set up to give Mondo the win he ‘should’ have had, his presence is inevitable. For my money, throughout his season, Mondo’s clothes were stunning, but his collection was weak and Gretchen deserved the win.

April has no place there in terms of talent or personality, and the silver hair is just ‘Girl, no’, made flesh. Rami is talented but boring. Mila will hopefully continue with insane Austin Powers colour blocking and nothing else ever. Austin and Kara are before my time as a viewer, but ability-wise seem to deserve their spots.

It’s always hard to separate the contestants’ personalities from their designs (or recipes or singing or whatever, depending on the show) so I don’t think I’m going to try, especially for a challenge that is as needlessly complicated as ‘Make an outfit with stuff from the 99 cent store but also make it inspired by your other dress that you showed us earlier but don’t make it too similar’. Rami, Jerell and Mondo did all make pretty things. Sweet P and Gordana did both make duds. The rest are a blur already.

Hopefully next week and onward we’ll get more design time and less ‘We love the judges! We love the prizes! THIS IS TOTALLY A LEGITIMATE SHOW IN ITS OWN RIGHT!’ pieces to camera.