Editor’s Note: Reality Check is a monthly discussion of reality television shows.
This week we watched two of Bravo network’s reality competitions, both based on creativity using scissors: “Project Runway” and “Shear Genius.”
Coincidentally, both episodes challenged designers to express individual personalities of the people for whom the contestants were designing: drag queens and sets of twins.
Christine Simmons: I think Jaclyn Smith was better on every level as a host. She came across as caring and interested, while Heidi Klum was cold and boring. I’m always going to enjoy watching a judge/host who seems to have a vested interest in the contestants. Klum may be a supermodel, but she came across to me as being almost robotic. I can’t figure out why the producers picked her to host such a successful show.
Susan Pierce: She’s eye candy!
Heidi Klum is beautiful and a stylesetter. Who better to host a fashion competition? But rarely does she show the emotion that Jaclyn Smith did this past week when Smith cried because a favorite hairstylist got the boot from the judges.
Actually, my favorite host is “Runway’s” Tim Gunn. That’s really not his role, but he’s the one interacting with the designers, the one whose opinion matters to me. Every time he has told a designer their creation was a flop, he’s been right, and Klum ended up telling that designer “You’re out.”
And he’s not afraid to poke a little fun at his uptight, stern image. The week Blayne was teaching Gunn the phrase “holla atcha boy,” Gunn was hysterical, really mugging for the camera. Gunn “makes it work,” to borrow his catchphrase.
Christine: I thought all of the judges on both shows were honest, but the guest judge on “Shear Genius,” Jose Eber, is one of my favorite people. I doubt there is anyone in the world who knows more about hair.
On “Project Runway,” I was thrilled to see guest judge RuPaul. I haven’t seen him on television in years and I have to say that “girlfriend” looked fabulous, and he was loving those drag-queen outfits. I did think that the judges on “PR” were a little on the cruel side even if it was very predictable who was going home.
Susan: I think “Runway’s” judges were a cut above. In fact, I think viewers would be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable or more qualified set of judges on any reality competition.
I felt the judges on “Shear Genius” could have given more constructive criticism to the contestants, not just list what went wrong.
“Runway’s” judges — Michael Kors and Nina Garcia — are always fair in handing out compliments as frequently as they point out the fashion faux pas. I like Kors’ sense of humor, and I respect Garcia’s knowledge on what is chic.
The Talent Level
Christine: I have to say the names of the contestants were hilarious: Farah Moans, Sharon Needles, Hedda Lettuce! And they worked that runway.
I have a lot of respect for the designers. I have a hard time picking out shoes that match my outfits, so I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be to put together an entire ensemble so quickly.
At one time in my life, for about five minutes, I thought I wanted to be a hairstylist, until I realized how hard stylists work for so little money. So I’m really glad that “Shear Genius” is giving some attention to this profession. I really enjoyed the show, and out of all the contestants Nicole was my favorite. She seemed to care the most about her clients and throwing the double-booking (styling twins in the challenge’s time limit) didn’t seem to trip her up like it did the others.
Susan: I have watched all but the first season of “Project Runway,” and I believe this is the least-talented group they’ve had. There is no breakout star in this group like elfin Christian Siriano, who made “fierce” part of pop vernacular last season, or Chloe Dau, whose designs are selling by the thousands on QVC.
By this point in “Runway,” the talent should be rising to the top, their style separating them from the uninspired. But they all seem to be content to just whip up a look and finish on time. Only Korto and Kenley have shown any edge to their work.
“Runway” needs to finish stronger if Heidi and her gang hope to hold viewers when they switch networks next season.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...