The Ginger Rogers Syndrome

My favorite reality show let me down yesterday. What sets Project Runway apart from a lot of the other programs I watch in this genre is the importance of talent over personality. It’s not really like Survivor or The Amazing Race or heck, even America’s Next Top Model. Sabotaging your colleagues gets you nowhere on this show. Strategy doesn’t really factor into either. The host and judges associated with the show have too much invested in the “real” world of fashion design. The emphasis is on the work product. I love that.

Except that in tiny print at the end of each episode’s credits about how the judges conferred with producers. This is how Wendy Pepper managed to get to Fashion Week. Her so-called strategy was useless, but as a polarizing person on the show, she generated a lot of feedback. Of course, when she got to Fashion Week, she was almost immediately discounted by the judges and you knew she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.

This season’s Wendy is a guy named Santino. Don’t get me wrong. He’s significantly more talented, but he’s a camerawhore. He’s casually cruel and insecure. You can practically feel the producers salivating every time he speaks.

So this week’s episode had the remaining designers creating a dress for Sasha Cohen to wear at an exhibition performance. I don’t know a lot about figure skating but I do know that their costumes need to function. I’ve seen competitions where bits and bobs have fallen off of costumes; Dick Button and Peggy Fleming gasp and we watch anxiously hoping that the skater doesn’t hurt themselves.

The designers came up with some costumes that ranged in quality. The one that one did nothing for me personally, but it looked fairly skate friendly. The two bottom designers were the aforementioned Santino and a man named Emmett McCarthy. I can’t say that Emmett’s designs set my world on fire, but his creation seemed a lot better than Santino’s.

Santino’s outfit reminded a lot of that story they tell about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Top Hat. Reportedly Rogers told the costume designer what she wanted for one of the numbers. It was a lovely confection covered with ostrich feathers. Beautiful. Except that the feathers kept detaching and distracting Astaire. In another film she had a gown that had bell sleeves and was beaded. Again, beautiful to look at, but as she danced the heavy sleeves started swinging and whacking Astaire in the arms and chest.

Now Santino’s gown was ugly. At least the costumes in Rogers’ films were beautiful. But what figure skater wants to be risking injury and/or death to wear a horrific looking thing?

Guess who got eliminated? Heaven forfend the one who makes for better TV should be axed…

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