New “Runway” lacks real “Stars”

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“Project Runway All Stars” mixes old and new, bringing back old contestants to face new judges. But only some of the returning contestants can really be considered stars.

By Nick Desideri, Staff Writer

Bands like The Beatles succeeded because they possessed a dynamic that worked for them. Paul and John provided the foundation of the band, George contributed and Ringo…was Ringo.

As sacrilegious as it may sound, “Project Runway” was The Beatles of reality television in the mid-2000s.

While the show wallowed in the same melodrama of its contemporaries, it provided a compelling, talent-reliant competition everyone could enjoy. After all, who’s incapable of saying “that dress is ugly” or “that looks pretty good”?

But “Project Runway All Stars,” a “Runway” spinoff that brings back old contestants from previous seasons to compete against one another, discards what made the original great and disrupts the formula by using completely different judges and mentors.

What made “Runway” work so smoothly was its consistent personalities. From Heidi Klum’s quirkiness to her expertise in the industry, she was a perfect host and judge. But “All Stars” immediately hits a bump with host Angela Lindvall. She delivers her lines with a hollow enthusiasm that dampens the mood.

One of Klum’s strengths was her aloofness with the contestants. She never pretended to care about the designers. Instead, her compassion might show when defending a design she particularly liked.

Lindvall should take Klum’s lead and stop acting like the designers are her friends.

Every other “Runway” personality is similarly replaced, and the results are tackier than knockoff Louboutins. The essential Tim Gunn, the mentor for the designers, is replaced by Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles. The mentor footage is awkwardly spliced together, leading me to believe Coles lacks the nuance of Gunn’s fantastic critiquing style.

Gone are judges Nina Garcia and Michael Kors. Instead the producers bring in designer Isaac Mizrahi, who apparently thinks homosexuality guarantees wittiness, and Georgina Chapman, qualified mostly due to her marriage to Harvey Weinstein. While she’s still probably the best of the judges, Chapman lacks Garcia’s hilariously biting criticism that often makes the judging portion so entertaining.

In a way, “All Stars” provides an interesting paradox. The show tries to introduce fresh faces on the judging panel, but it also brings back old contestants no one really cared about in the first place. While some are recognizable—season one finalist Austin Scarlet, for example—hardly any of the rest qualify as even memorable, let alone all-stars.

The show features a few passable contestants from season eight, an Eastern European lady with a great accent, a 10th-place contestant from season four who spits on the clothes she’s making, the annoyingly voiced girl from season five, a woman from season two who I forgot existed and a few others who averaged decent rankings in their respective seasons.

This creates a problem for “All Stars.” Most of the contestants ranked high enough in their seasons to last a good chunk of episodes, though not quite high enough to denote exceptional skill with fashion. Their designs aren’t great, but they aren’t horrible either.

As anyone who has ever watched previous seasons of “Runway” can agree, the chasm between abysmal and awesome fashion is what produces the best entertainment. The amazing designs wow, but nothing tops when a designer creates something so offensively ugly it’s laughable.

The only bright spots in “All Stars” are the show’s actual all-stars: season four runner-up Rami Kashou, whose design wins him the first challenge, and season eight runner-up Mondo Guerra. Guerra’s unflinching honesty is hilarious, and his designs are always interesting.

If one of these two gets booted, “All Stars” might as well go off the air. I’d rather watch one of Lifetime’s stellar movie productions than suffer through another episode.

“Runway” requires strong personalities at its helm, or the production falls apart. With “All Stars,” every fun element of the show has been sucked away. The weird designs? Gone. Interesting judging rounds? Gone. Even the clip of Klum’s sexy, confident strut which used to signal commercial breaks has been replaced with footage of Lindvall’s uncomfortable bird walk.

“Project Runway” fans should aim the same disdain at “All Stars” that Beatles fans save for Yoko Ono. Both are blights on the legacy of something great. And both are completely unnecessary.

Rating: One and a half (out of four)