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And we're back! It's the first week of the new, and possibly somewhat improved, Project Runway. This season's episodes will be ninety minutes long instead of the usual sixty. That means more time spent in the work room and with the judges, both of which prove to be good additions to this first episode. It also means more time spent in the L'Oreal Paris Makeup Room and in the Garnier Hair Studio, both of which prove to be—well, let's just say we'd rather have watched L'Oreal and Garnier commercials. The other big change this season is that Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn now do occasional bits of commentary. The two kick off the premiere by giving us abbreviated introductions of a few of this season's contestants. The smart one. The cute one. The funny one. The Asian one. For a moment we thought they were talking about The Beatles.
The first task of Season Eight is reminiscent of that great challenge from Season Three, when the designers had to create an outfit using items they'd ripped out of their apartments. This time, each contestant is told to choose an item of clothing from their suitcase, which they will then cut up and incorporate into a new design. One contestant, Michael D., chooses a simple knit scarf he'd created, while another, Casanova (yes, that's his real last name), sacrifices a pair of never-worn Dolce and Gabbana slacks, which he claims cost him $1,070.
Then those rascals Heidi and Tim pull a switch. They tell the designers to pass their garment of choice to the person to their right, who will then use it as the basis for their own design. "Bye bye four figure slacks!" If this weren't traumatic enough, the contestants are then told that they'll only have five hours to complete this task—the shortest amount of time ever allowed for a challenge in Project Runway history. We sympathize, since we can barely find the perfect outfit to buy in five hours, let alone create one from scratch. But the worst part of all for the designers, is when Heidi and Tim inform them that they aren't actually Project Runway contestants yet. Since there are seventeen of them rather than the usual starting number of sixteen, this first competition will be the final stage of their audition process. One or more designers will be eliminated, leaving the rest as the actual contestants. This doesn't go over well with the new cast...
Our judges this episode are regulars Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Since the first guest judge of each season is usually an actress, we'd been hoping the producers would bring back Lindsay Lohan and challenge the designers to create stylish prison garb. But alas, there's no updating of orange jumpsuits this week. Instead, our guest judge is actress Selma Blair, who we're told has been featured on an international best dressed list, although we never find out which one. Obviously it wasn't for her wardrobe on Kat and Kim.
This week, instead of picking six designers for the final judging, the judges choose seven. They immediately inform the eco-conscious Gretchen that she's the winner. According to the judges, her black cocktail dress, which looks suspiciously like something our mother bought at Talbots in 1999, was their unanimous choice for the win. Then the judges surprise everyone, including us, by telling the other six designers that they are all in the bottom and at risk of being sent home. The six include: the egotistical Ivy, who made pants out of pants; bowler hatted Jason, who turned a kimono backwards and then stapled it together; twenty-one year old April, this season's youngest designer, who turned a blazer inside out and called it "deconstructed"; dreadlocked new mother, McKell, who had no clue how to style her model and whose outfit Heidi described with the traditional Germanic expression, "butt ugly"; Nicholas, who turned sportswear into the dullest eveningwear ever seen outside of Soviet Russia; and finally, the Puerto Rican Casanova, whose skimpy outfit, to paraphrase Michael, could be worn by a belly dancing mother of the bride. Heidi ends up bidding "auf Wiedersehen" to McKell, much to our spell check's delight.
And in our As Tears Go By count, Valerie starts to sob when she talks about the folks back in Cleveland whom she is "doing this for," thus giving us our first crying jag of the season. Congratulations, Valerie!
And now for this week's Top Ten Moments of Project Runway Greatness...
10). Sarah introduces her designs by explaining that she uses "unconventional combinations of materials and colors." Since when did combining black and white constitute unconventional?
9). Former graphic designer Kristin says of her work, "I let my mistakes be part of the final design." She'll fit in well here.
8). Jason thinks that by wearing a bowler hat, he will "intimidate" his competition. Learning how to sew might have worked better.
7). Lake Forest designer Peach is fifty years old. The show spends so much time reminding us that she is "old," that by the time they are done, we are too.
6). Michael C. takes a scrap of bright pink fabric, puts it over his face and describes it as "a little Muslim couture." We describe Michael's comment as "a little culturally insensitive."
5). Casanova, here's a hint: if Tim Gunn asks you if your garment "is sexy or is it vulgar?" he's not asking. He's telling.
4). Heterosexual Jason is more unnerved by his "busty" braless model than the other designers are by his supposedly intimidating hat.
3). When Casanova is confused by the judges' comments, Heidi asks Nina to translate for him. Sadly, the subtitles on the screen don't say anything controversial like, "If I help you win, what's my kickback?"
2). Peach, with a mouthful of pins, looks a bit like the gagged Hannibal Lecter.
1). Valerie describes the designers' rooms at The Atlas apartments as, "Way better than camp" Obviously this was the kind of urbane sophisticated image The Atlas was seeking by being on Project Runway. "The Atlas apartments, better than lanyards, Daddy-longlegs and bug juice."