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Project Runway Recap: “An Instagram Moment”

by Zan Romanoff

August 2, 2013 | 10:18 am

Someone-- some enterprisingly lazy grad student, probably-- should put together a longitudinal study on the effects of sleep deprivation based solely on evidence gathered from reality television show contestants. Basically: how many episodes in does someone (who seems otherwise stable, and you'd have to establish a baseline, since reality TV tends to attract a particular, dramatic Type) have a very tearful meltdown?

It took this season of Project Runway all of two and a half before Miranda was calling Timothy names in the workroom, making sad, stubborn faces and basically refusing to carry on with their (admittely misguided) team challenge design. "I'm gonna need f------ therapy after this," she admitted in a teary confessional, though since it's Timothy who got auf'ed for their work she'll have to put that off for at least another week. After nearly avoiding a similar fate last week Helen won for her collaboration with Kate (who she had, previously, called a bitch!), a totally cute look made out of repurposed sombreros. Both of the top teams were comprised of women who worked well together; it was a bright spot in an otherwise bloated hour to see women being supportive of one another, especially on reality TV.

The episode in general, however, was a good example of what makes latter day Project Runway hard to watch: it took the always fun unconventional challenge model, in which designers use materials other than bolts of fabric, needles and thread to create their looks, and wrapped it in fifteen minutes of cringe-y lead up product placement that involved the designers giving away free samples of frozen yogurt on the Coney Island boardwalk on a rainy day. They asked the tasters to give them adjectives to describe the yogurt which they then used to inspire their look, which had to be made of materials they won playing games to the boardwalk's Luna Park. It's necessary, I know, to fund the show, but somewhere between boring and painful to watch, and given that the episode aired with commercials spanned a full ninety minutes, stunts like this one severly test the limits of the viewer's attention span. Project Runway works best when it gives us uncomplicated fun: talented people trying to make beautiful things in stressful conditions. It was surprising-- and then surprising it was so surprising--- to hear judge Nina Garcia praise Alexandria and Dom's look as "an Instagram moment," when the show so often seem stodgy and unsophisticated, these days. I'm fine with continued unconventional challenges-- and even team challenges, which always bring out the drama in people-- but can we get more Instagram moments, please?

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