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Frank (Finally) Gets Cable: 10 Days of Television-Watching Ensues

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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for almost two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.


Abby Lee looking her least terrifying via Lifetime

Dear Cable Viewers,

We may be new to the cable fold (MCH!); but in our first ten or so days we haven’t done much but peruse our many, many channels. So, we’re already pretty well-versed. Our findings: There is a hell of a lot of fashion television on television—and we’re only just scratching the surface.

First things first: The original fashion reality television show—Project Runway—is back in a big way. When the show migrated from Bravo to Lifetime, it wasn't just the ads for Depends and Bengay and personal injury lawyers that constantly clog the channel's airwaves that turned us—and our sets—off. It was the move west, the Michael Kors famine and the mostly yawn- and/or cringe-inducing contestants. Also, the yogurt commercials—so much yogurt!

But we've caught dribs and drabs of the current crop and we like. Michael is in top form, Nina Garcia says "no" like nobody else, and the designers we already don't like are gross enough to revile in and laugh at rather than just benignly loathe and thusly turn off. As for guest judges—Christina Ricci: Still love. Kim Kardashian: Hate maybe a little less (probably not really). And, holy hell, who knew Alice + Olivia's Stacey Bendet was such a strange little clown person! Someone tell her she hasn't been the age of her target customer (let alone, like, 13) in a really, really long time.

But Project Runway isn't even close to the only show on cable that centers on fashion or shopping or design or collecting or, well, being a crazy drag queen.

We’re intrigued by the Picker Sisters. We’re dying for the premier of Project Runway All Stars. The always lovable Joe Zee is on his way back to the Sundance Channel with a new season of All On the Line in November. Before that, the network is premiering Unleashed by Garo in September. The six-part series follows the amazingly-named Garo Sparo—a New York-based designer—as he counsels clients past hurdles with quirk, quips and custom dresses. Sign us up.

Meanwhile, Bravo is rerunning a constant stream of designer-clad trash bag housewives along with the never-not-good Rachel Zoe Project—new season starts September 6th! We totally die! The brilliant What Not to Wear concept is still being destroyed by hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly; while Downsized—the story of a new-wealthy family of happy consumers who are forced to majorly cut back—is still churning along on WE.

There is even a fashion network that we thought might be what Style should/could be: A channel devoted to fashion shows and industry news rather than a very large person named Ruby. It’s called the Fashion News Network (FNN) and from what we can tell it’s a series of long montages (Donna Karan, cupcakes, mannequins, a runway show, champagne) set to canned house music; plus hard-hitting reports with hideous sound quality from non-events including Lululemon Athletica-hosted yoga parties and some sort of scripted drama that makes MTV’s Undressed look as well-written, beautifully-acted and impeccably-filmed as Gosford Park.

Then—less fashion, more of interest to people who enjoy glitter and/or train wrecks—there are the dual forces of TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras and Lifetimes’s Dance Moms. Holy hell, these shows are absolutely insane. Toddlers & Tiaras, which is clearly edited by sick-minded snark-monsters who almost definitely live in Williamsburg, read Gawker and drink too much, follows a handful of pageant girls (or boys, yikes) over the course of a certain beauty pageant that is most-probably taking place in Texas. Since discovering the show we’ve learned that flippers are false fronts for lost teeth; the differences between a “Glitz” pageant and a “Natural” pageant; that a pageant dress can cost thousands of dollars (for that much money you can put your pre-tween in Givenchy—just sayin’); and that these mothers are the sickest, saddest, most sadistic people on TV. To wit: More than one mother has seriously been okay with feeding her very small child Red Bull on camera. You know, for extra “sparkle.”

That said, Dance Moms makes Toddlers & Tiaras seem like Seventh Heaven. Dance Moms is sort of a Real Housewives for the mothers of a young dance team in Pittsburgh. The kids are fine, and talented, and whatever. The moms aren’t even that bad—one or two seem to really love the pinot grigio and there’s a lot of rumor-mongering and whispering and judging and she said/she said—but they’re just bored, fading housewives with what seems like little else to do. The craziness comes in the monstrous, hulking form of coach and studio owner Abby Lee. Picture a duplex in a black tunic with a blow-out and a broken, cigarette- and screaming-ravaged voice. There you have Abby Lee. She’s shrill and caustic and in her own universe. She yells and screams; she bullies and brags; she has a major power complex and clearly takes issue with other people’s happiness and real-life relationships (verses, say, being married to a dance studio). She ranks her students pyramid-style; she plays favorites; she exiles parents to a padded, sound-proof balcony; she wardrobes children in whore-wear. She’s basically a slave driver. And maybe she could get away with it—if she could so much as bend at the waist. Her coaching is not by example (it can’t be); her coaching is by barking.

(We also just have to mention that we love the older, weird mom who bought herself a Mercedes and a kid to force dancing on and buzzes around in a shiny striped pea coat and a Louis Vuitton bag making everyone crazy.)

That may seem like a lot, but there’s so. Much. More. We’d go on, but our cable box? Well, it already broke. I guess ten days is about the lifespan of anything electronic these days. So, we have no cable. MCH is back at ground zero. And, thanks to Time Warner, we have to get the stupid box to one of their stupid store fronts to trade it in for a new one. You see, they can’t get a technician out before the middle of September (after the premiers of two of the most important things on TV: The Rachel Zoe Project and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). I guess they don’t rush people out when they can’t charge them for the visit. God knows when we paid for installation way back when (ten days ago), they rushed someone right over. Ugh.

· Love, Frank [Racked]