It's no secret that The Fashion Show is the fashioned by Tresemme clone of Project Runway. Terribly self conscious of that fact, Isaac Mizrahi (who I still adore) and Kelly Rowlands (who I never did, and care even less for now – but more on her later) tip toe around the long shadows of Heidi and Tim. Instead of calling out a trademarked catch-phrase like “gather round”, Mizrahi has to stammer out, “Come here around me” to the contestants.
Even the sewing rooms look exactly the same, though the judging panel puts the judges on the opposite side of the stage and for whatever reason forces them to huddle and conspire in a hallway like gossiping girls cutting class as they debate which contestant will hear the uninspired send-off, “Sorry, we're not buying” in place of “You're out” and “Bye bye darling” instead of “Auverderzien”.
The show really could have benefited from an attempt to establish its own identity, because there are some good things here. Firstly, one of my friends from college is a contestant. Root for Anna! She's the one who looks Amazonian and strikingly sane amid the sea of freaks. Merlin is so over the top and flamboyant that he's nearly nauseating just to look at; when he gleefully announced to a hushed room that, “The woorl is run by beetches!” I wanted to hide someplace far away from my television. There are other caricatures here too who come in varying degrees of bitchy, swishy, and cocky but they pale in the shadows of Merlin's feathered hat.
On the plus side, the challenges are actually pretty good so far, better than some of the weaker late season PR efforts. I think Mizrahi, despite emphasizing his bitchy, non nurturing (read un-Tim Gunn) edge can offer a lot of good criticism and knows what he's talking about. However Kelly Rowlands, a natural born mumbler, seems only able to say, “I wouldn't be caught dead in that” and manages to make all her lines sound as if they come from the tenth plus take on a very long shooting day. I have no idea why they hired such a charmless wonder.
She explains her credentials up front as having worn lots of fashionable clothes and having been seated in the front row of some show; but considering that she really means wearing and viewing the horrendous showboaty glamour of Beyonce's mom's House of Der?on, her ostensible assets are more like hindrances. Oh, what I wouldn't give (since their going the bitchy route anyway), to have Sandra Bernhard as the co-host!