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Miramax Pictures presents
Project Runway: The Complete First Season (2005)

"Why do I end up hating everything I make on this f***ing show? It looks like a f***ing apron from Ragamuffin-ville, USA."
- Jay McCarroll

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: December 06, 2005

Stars: Mario Cadenas, Nora Caliguri, Starr Ilzhoefer, Kevin Johnn, Jay McCarroll, Wendy Pepper, Robert Plotkin, Vanessa Riley, Kara Saun, Austin Scarlett, Alexandra Vidal
Other Stars: Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, Tim Gunn
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: Approx. 509 min.
Release Date: November 29, 2005
UPC: 786936688351
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- ABB B

DVD Review

If there's anything I care less about than models, it's the clothes they are wearing. The world of "high fashion" is populated with outlandishly expensive and fiendishly ugly designer pieces, as far as I'm concerned—stuff the average person wouldn't fit into, let alone actually wear. That said, I do respect the talent and effort that goes into the design, and now, thanks to Project Runway, I have an idea of the mad creativity involved (even ugly clothes are hard to make, it seems).

Runway, which aired earlier this year on Bravo (the network that constantly reminds us how poorly showbiz moms and dads treat their children/pets/future sports stars), is, like America's Next Top Model, a show that I find enormously entertaining despite the fact that it revolves around a subject that doesn't interest me at all. They're very similar, actually. Both are hosted by supermodels of questionable stature (in this case, Heidi Klum). Both follow the reality show mold forged many Tribal Councils ago—there are 12 contestants to start; each week they participate in challenges and one person receives "immunity" and one is sent packing. Or, as Heidi likes to say, "The world of fashion can be a real bitch sometimes. You're either in, or you're out."

As with Top Model, Runway works because the format allows for personalities to clash in a creative environment. Considering the personalities on the former are usually idiots and the creativity involves trying to craft a glamorous, smoky eye and pose for "world-renowned" photographers, the latter is a lot more entertaining (subtract half the women, replace with catty gay men for an equation that equals pure comedy gold) and rewarding (some of these people are crazily talented).

I'm a little sick of reality shows in general, but I can really appreciate something like Runway, which is all about skill rather than strategy and plotting (as one unfortunate candidate discovers rather quickly), but filled with just as many tense moments and nail-biter climaxes. Each week, the designers face a different challenge under an extreme time constraint. Maybe they'll have a few hours to design an outfit out of items they purchase in a grocery store (from the obvious—a shower curtain—to the unusual—corn husk couture, anyone?). The next week, they'll have to design an outfit inspired by the word "envy" using only a bolt of plain white cotton (one decides on the attractive option of a big, cancerous pustule on the shoulder, because that's a nice look).

Over the course of 11 episodes, the dwindling group puts together wedding dresses, a swimsuit that can be worn on the town, a line of clothing from the future, even a new uniform for the postal service. Precious little of the actual act of producing a garment—designing, choosing fabrics, sewing, fitting—is shown, but its fascinating nonetheless, a process infused with the spark of creative energy. Each week, the designers go before a panel of judges (including fashionista Michael Kors, who, I guess, is very famous, though to me, he's famous for being on this show) and see who makes the cut. The final three are given the chance to showcase their work during New York's Fashion Week, and the eventual winner gets $100,000 to start a clothing line.

Of course, the secret of any truly great reality show is the casting, and Project Runway has one of the most amusing and entertaining yet assembled. There's Jay McCarroll, acid tongued and self-depreciating, but undeniably talented. Kara Saun, an early star who, before coming on the show, had already designed clothes for the likes of rapper Missy Elliot, makes gorgeous garments but exhibits an often insufferable air of superiority. Austin Scarlet is exactly the man you'd expect him to be, given that name—a thin, immaculately coifed "theatrical/costume designer," there's no item of clothing he can't overdo (a teal wedding dress with a hideous purple train... why not?), but most of what he makes looks more like wearable art. Robert is the Joey Tribbani of the fashion world—he's got technical skill, but he's a rather dim bulb at times, and likes to schmooze the judges with his ladies' man attitude (in a challenge centered around envy, he designs a woman's suit and gives the model a cigar that is certainly not meant to be just a cigar). And of course, every show needs a villain, and this one has Wendy Pepper, a somewhat clueless, mousy older woman who views the contest as her last shot at success and apparently thinks she auditioned for Survivor, with all the calculated schemes she attempts. Wendy might detract from the creative vibe, but she also makes for great television.

Smartly edited and very satisfying, Project Runway is undoubtedly among the best of the current crop of reality shows.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Shot and video and presented in a full-frame transfer, Project Runway looks about the same on DVD as it did on satellite television—the image is clear, with bright colors and good detail. I noticed some odd video glitches during the runway segment in episode four that I couldn't say for sure weren't included in the original airing, but for the most part, this is a decent presentation of undemanding material.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Stereono


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a simple stereo that presents speech clearly, despite the "on location" quality of the recording.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
10 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. WEAR Are They Now? designer profiles
  2. Designer gallery
Extras Review: Ten deleted scenes (15m:05s) offer mostly excised goofing off, and, as always, it's great to see this odd assortment of personalities bang into one another. It's rumored that the fourth place finisher also showed at fashion week in order to avoid spoiling the revelation of the final three, but no footage of his (or her) work is present here. Drat.

Wear Are They Now (don't get cute, Klum, I'm watching you) offers a look at what the top five designers have been doing since the series ended. The lion's share, over 18 minutes, is devoted to the winner shooting an Elle magazine photo spread (it doesn't go entirely as planned), while the rest get about six minutes each to discuss their post-reality show lives (taken together, the segments run 40m:05s), and it's fun to see them all again and find out how the contest has impacted their lives.

The Designer Gallery features a few stills of the designers' pre-show work. There aren't a lot of pictures to click through, but it is a little funny to see some of the younger competitors—Starr and Alexandra—modeling their own clothes in photos.

Since this is a show about designers, I guess I should comment on the odd new packaging, which manages to fit three discs into a normal-sized Amaray case (two of the discs fit into a two-sided, hinged flap). It isn't exactly pretty, but the discs are held securely, they don't overlap, and the case saves space (it could be easily modified to hold as many as six discs... a whole season of a TV show in one Amaray case).

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Project Runway may be the only reality show with cattier contestants than America's Next Top Model, and that spells entertainment. It's also one of the best of the genre on television, a contest based on talent and creativity rather than scheming, backstabbing, or running really fast that will appeal equally to fashionistias and those who have fallen into the Gap. It repeats very well, too, and comes packed with enough bonus features that the DVD is a must for fans.

 


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