Thursday, November 3, 2011

Season 2 Finale: Blessed candles of the night.

Paul:  I come not to praise Season 2, but to bury it.  Here at the end, I get the sense that it was a season of growing pains for the series.  It was cute and awkward, like a cartoon deer learning to walk.  Now it is over and I feel like we've crossed a bridge from Season 1 over which we shall never return.

The only moment I took note of in the reunion special was when Guadalupe Vidal spoke.

Laurie:  Wow! I had totally forgotten about that.  Yes, the non-final-three designers had been treated to drinks prior to this little sit-down, but even so, this was a disturbing moment.  Do you ever get that feeling when watching someone else come unhinged that maybe it's not them, but you?  I'm not a fan of such moments.

Paul:  Nor am I.  Nor, apparently, is Tim Gunn.

Although from Guadalupe's POV, I think the moment speaks to a shared human experience: that of finding yourself midway through answering a question which you are in no way prepared to answer.  There is kind of a nightmare in the moment.  I like to think of myself as an articulate person, but I also know that if cameras followed me for a few months, they would find moments of deranged drivel spewing out of my mouth at some point or another.  A few clips in the editing booth and there's my fifteen minutes of fame.  I would add that this is the only thing I remember about Guadalupe Vidal from the entire season.

Laurie:  That's funny, Paul.  I agree.  The idea of being followed around by cameras makes me shudder.  It seems to me there was a moment, maybe in one of the outtakes in the bonus section of the CD, when someone in the group audibly passed gas.  Those are the kinds of moments, among other things, that ruin my How Fun It Would Be to Be on a Reality Series fantasy.

Now, back to reality.  I really enjoy the part of the finale when Tim Gunn does the home visits.

Paul:  Oh, I agree.  They are some of the best moments of each season.  Tim Gunn, who sort of stands for all that is good in the world of Project Runway - he is the guardian of splendor - visits the contestants at home and confirms for us what we rather suspected in spite of what the television was telling us: that these are fellow human beings.  They share our insecurities, our small triumphs and quotidian tasks, are fellow future corpses, no better or worse than the rest of us.  They also walk in beauty like the rest of us.  The home visits are a moment of redemption in each season where even the harshest contestant gives us a peek behind the curtain.  Those moments are a splash of reality on television.  

Laurie:  Somehow, too, they manage to be uniformly touching.  Even last season's Wendy Pepper ended with more compassion points after a visit to her hometown.  This season was no different.  I really like that this show doesn't intentionally (so far as I can tell anyway) focus on the designers' back-stories.  Occasionally one or the other individual contestant will try to do the harping-on-hardship thing, but seldom gets far with it. It is not until we get to the Fashion Week finalists that we learned more than just hints of what their extra-Project Runway life looks like.

Santino Rice, we learn, hails most recently from Venice, CA and was at one time homeless until a couple who knew him took him in.  He took Tim Gunn to meet his patron couple, and their small children, and they sat down to a meal together.  It was a warm, and very touching scene, really, with little ones hanging adoringly all over their grown-up friend Santino.

Paul:  This may very well have been my favorite moment in Season 2.  Santino's friends dearly love him and they take Tim Gunn into that urban haute bohemian world, sitting around makeshift tables in a little apartment on the edge of America.

Laurie:  Daniel Vosovik, originally from Michigan, was, as it happens, living right there in New York City.  After showing Tim the beginnings of his Fashion Week collection he invited him to come shopping with him for an outfit for himself for the big show. There was something irresistibly sweet to me about this.

The final home visit was to Chloe Dao's home in Houston, TX.  We learned that Chloe was a Laotian refugee, one of... I don't know...a gazillion daughters in her family.  She had worked her way up in the world of fashion to the place of owning her own up-scale boutique in Houston.  We saw her shop and then met her family - her mother was so very reserved it was hard to tell what she thought of the whole thing.  Again, there was something beautiful about the moment.

By the end of these visits I was rooting for all three, but was most concerned for Chloe, as she did not have a theme or complete concept, and no sketches. (She says she doesn't work from sketches.)

Paul: I was also rooting for all three and can't say I really had a preference.  I would have been happy with each winner and a little disappointed over the other two not winning.  So, hasten we to Bryant Park!

The designers show up with their lines and are met with a surprise curve-ball.  They are to make one more outfit.

Laurie:   With only two days left until the show, this out-of-the-blue challenge came like a slap to the face.  Chloe'd no sooner uttered words to the effect of "I'm so exhausted I never want to design another thing so long as I live," than this was sprung on them.  They got $250, 30 minutes to conceptualize, and one more surprise: one of their former competitors to help them execute it.  Chloe was about in tears as they ushered in the previously eliminated designers for our three finalists to choose from.

Paul:  I totally forgot that this was a thing that had registered on my retinas at one point in my life.

Chloe's 13th Challenge
Daniel's 13th Challenge
Laurie:  Yes, it really happened, and I have the notes in my spiral binder to prove it.  It was an awkward moment, as I recall, with the finalists too stressed to be happy to see any of their old pals, and with all but three of the old pals in the position of not being selected to participate in the challenge. 

Now to the hounds. Daniel chose Nick; Santino chose Andrae; Chloe chose Diane; and they all relied heavily on their choices.  As it happened, Diane was at least as responsible for what would prove to be the cornerstone and most commented-upon piece of Chloe's collection - a little gold baby-doll dress, with pockets hidden in its folds.

Daniel kept it simple and elegant, which really is his thing anyway, but worked well for the sake of the time crunch. 

Paul:  I remember Tim Gunn saying to Daniel "There's an element of risk in this that I want you to have."  
Laurie:  Santino was fresh out of ideas, so Andrae gave him a nice little Andrae dress.

Andrae's Santino's 13th Challenge

And finally came the big event.  The collections were all quite good, but the biggest surprise, I think, was Santino.  We expected to have our socks knocked off, for good or bad, by his collection.  But our feet remained snug. He made a few truly beautiful garments, but the collection lacked cohesiveness.  And most of all, the collection lacked Santino.  It was as if every memo the judges sent him through the whole season recommending that he ratchet it back a notch finally landed on his desk in one big stack and he finally took notice - just when we were hoping to see what he would produce once he was finally free of constraints.

Paul: I think above all we all wanted to see as much of Santino as we possibly could.  We got what we wanted and then someone else won.  Balance is restored across the great chain of diamonds and the palpable change in tone begins to give me hope for the next 7 seasons ahead of us.

Laurie:  I was torn between Daniel and Chloe.  I really like Daniel's style in general - and I like Daniel as a personality.  Chloe's collection was  much bolder and sewn to perfection, but a few of the pieces had a 1980's taffeta prom dress feeling that I just couldn't quite get past.  I am not a fan of poof, especially in sleeves.  But for all my concern about Chloe going into this without a plan, her collection looked like a collection.  Very cohesive.  She's a smart gal.  Her expertise and skill sent her home with the prize.

Unfortunately the only video we were able to locate of Santino's collection did not include the music that he created specifically for the show (and that was not followed inexplicably by Wendy Pepper's collection from Season One). 

Paul:  And so we have reached the end of another season.  Our work on season 3 will commence shortly.  I think it will prove enlightening for all.