Project Runway: Cautiously Optimistic

Last night was the start of the 8th season of Project Runway, and after the show's been through—switching networks, losing sponsors, quitting judges, that creepy LA phase—I’m cautiously optimistic about this newest season.

Lifetime started the show by tossing us a bone in the form of more Tim and Heidi, who both got talking head interviews to discuss the latest group of contestants. They seem to be a fun bunch, with the requisite stock characters of “Older Sassy Lady,” “Over-it Hipster in Bad Glasses,” “Wide-eyed Eco-Conscious Designer,” “Too-Much-Confidence Girl,” etc. There's also a Puerto Rican gentleman who speaks only enough English to request that he be called Cassanova, and “100% Italian” Jason, who tells us with his first breath that he is a straight man. He goes on to explain his “rejected gangs from ‘The Warriors’” top hat look by saying that he wants to intimidate the others. Well done, sir.

Rather than being rushed off to Atlas to settle in and have a champagne toast, the designers are immediately taken to Parsons (I've missed you, Parsons!) and challenged to design a garment that incorporates an item from another contestant’s suitcase. This is the shortest challenge in Project Runway history, and we’re told that it will determine who makes it onto the show. (I’m sorry, am I watching Heidi’s private video collection? Aren’t they already on the show?) Nevertheless, this angle is played up as being especially terrifying, because everyone is still auditioning. Gasp!

The models, who were given way too much screen time last season, are thankfully absent for most of the designing process; the spin-off show about their lives was not renewed. But Project Runway apparently followed that excellent decision with a terrible one, as Tim explains that they won’t be going to Mood—there's fabric in the next room for the contestants to pick from. WHAT?! I love watching them rush around Mood, even if I can’t explain why! Don’t give us a Mood annex!

Okay, moving on. Given that the nature of the challenge offered up a delicious opportunity for everyone to bitch about their fellow contestants' fashion sense, I was disappointed that the majority of the cattiness came from Tim himself, casting his delicious glasses-assisted side eye at the camera during his critiques. Didn’t anyone have any opinions on the garments they were given to work with? Didn’t anyone blame their finished product on someone else’s clothes? All of the contestants talked about was how anxious and terrified they were during their interviews. Dear Lifetime: It’s always better to show anxiety and tension rather than to have people just say it.

And then finally, finally we get to the fashion show and are welcomed into the bitchy arms of our old friends Nina and Michael, joined for the premiere by Selma Blair. They all get some good lines in (I especially enjoyed Selma and Michael’s discussion of a dress looking like it’d be sold at “Razzle Dazzles, a store where they sell wigs and dresses”) before choosing six designers to be on the bottom. After many threats that several people may be eliminated, only one person is.

The show ends with the 16 remaining contestants moving into Atlas and trying to make small talk with each other before saying goodnight. I’m on the fence, but I’ll keep watching, because watching is like running into an old friend I haven’t seen in a while who’s always making changes in her life. Some changes work, some don’t, but I’m always going to love her. Also, I saw a preview of the second episode, and the designers are running through what looks like Mood. Fingers crossed.

What about you? Will you sticking around for Season 8?

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