Ten Seasons In, Project Runway Is As Comfortable As Ever

Project Runway S10E01: "Episode 1"

Project Runway has returned like a comfy ex who we just can't seem to stop sleeping with! After trying to date around with Project Runway All-Stars, we're back to the Brother sewing room; the _______ accessory wall (this time it's Lord & Taylor); the dog that lives at Mood: Tim, Heidi, Michael, Nina; and the wondrous mix of high drama, high camp, and high fashion that makes Project Runway what it is.

So far, Season 10 hasn't disappointed. After dropping us right into Times Square on the day of the runway show full of funky talking heads we've never seen (how many of you panicked and checked your DVR, scared you'd chopped off half of the episode?), Runway backed us up to the day before for the all-important cab-hailing, suitcase-lugging intros.

You can divide Project Runway contestants into a few distinct groups, usually:

– The conventional ladies with pretty hair

– The rock n' roller

– The superweirdos who are fashion geniuses

– The superweirdos who are just there to create fun TV

– The quiet assassin (usually a master of textile manipulation)

– The impossibly attractive artiste

– The sassmaster

– The older one

We've got some good contestants this cycle—personality-wise, the standouts who caught my eye were Dmitry, the ultraserious Belarussian former ballroom dancer full of icy judgments and requests for silence; Buffi, the loud and theatrical half-Indian, half-Australian who's perhaps too in love with color; Japanese cartoon character Kooan and his full-on commitment to Japanese street style; and of course, Gunnar, who might as well be wearing a shirt that says "I'm going to be the villain!"

Gunnar seemed to immediately pick fellow contestant Christopher as his nemesis, probably because they look like two different drawings of the same human being, and snapped, "I'm just not in the mood!" when Christopher asked about his inspiration. Both kept this feud up throughout the episode, with Toddlers and Tiaras taunts and general bitchery. I'm not here to make friends, people!

I'm not mentioning the clothes much because I wasn't blown away by anything I saw—there was some cool-looking stuff, but the first challenges really just established the envelope that will need to be pushed in future episodes. Heidi, Michael, and Nina were deliciously cruel and awkward in their "little chats" and critiques, which are always a pleasure to watch, but it seemed like they were looking to fill time a bit too. My hope is that the challenges ramp up soon so the designers can dig in.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH: Christopher (of Christopher vs. Gunnar fame) won with two dresses made of reworked silky fabric, sewn in irregular parallel lines. Knit-loving Beatrice, she of the "T-shirt meets sack" dresses, was sent home for not having a point of view.

It's interesting—when a show has been on for ten cycles, there's a sense of the show and audience functioning as an old married couple. You might do something crazy like change your hairstyle, but there's no real desire to innovate (or expect innovation) because you know your spouse will always be there for you, and that's comforting. As the lackluster Project Runway All-Stars season taught me, those comforts really set the stage for a dynamic show. But how do you keep your spouse happy after so many years without boring them?

"I wouldn't be Tim Gunn if I didn't say 'Make it work!'" Tim said as he exited the studio, and I agreed, but I also would have been fine with him withholding the phrase until Episode 4 or so, to be used sparingly so I can relish it.

As always, as much as I love the reliable constants of this show, the true joy for me is watching the designers' work, finding the ones I want to root for, and seeing them evolve and get in fights and cry and win and lose as their personalities crumble under pressure. I think this season will provide that in spades, and plus it's got Tim Gunn, so I'm staying married to my Project Runway spouse.

What did you think of the season premiere? Who are you rooting for so far, and who are you excited to see go?

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