January 26, 2011

Why Bravo's 'The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection' Was Almost Good, but Not

When I first wrote about Bravo's revamp of The Fashion Show last October I had high-yet-reserved expectations. The show's first season was a mildly successful attempt to bring fashion reality TV back to Bravo after losing Project Runway to Lifetime, and season two's makeover (making the contestants work in two teams or "houses" instead of as individuals) seemed like it might have been the twist the show needed for success.

Last night the three finalists -- Calvin, Jeffery and Dominque -- showed their final collections and one of them named the winner. I stuck with The Fashion Show for the entire season despite lackluster episodes, and now that the finale is over I think I have identified why the show was almost a hit, but just missed the mark: Lack of contestant attachment.

Putting the contestants together in two fashion houses or teams (House of Nami and House of Emerald) was an interesting idea from the start, but forcing the designers to work together to complete cohesive collections each week cheated the viewers from seeing individual talent and creativity from the designers themselves. One of the most satisfying parts of watching a show like Project Runway is getting to know each of the contestants' design aesthetic and point of view, but when they are forced to work within such tight parameters each week the individuality is lost to the group mentality. Team challenges often pop up on reality shows, but when the entire series focuses on the teams it's difficult to pull out a favorite contestant, which is what keeps viewers interested until the end.

Basically, the finalist's creativity wasn't even showcased until the last episode where we watched each of their collections come down the runway looking like one-offs instead of a culmination of a season of designs. We learned nothing about clothes they want to make as designers. Also, there was a real lack of personalization or back story for the contestants. No home visits like Runway. They just came off as semi-creative people who happen to know how to make clothing.

Beyond the contestants, I think that for better or worst the hosts played a big role in the show's revamp. I love Isaac Mizrahi and Iman. I think getting rid of Kelly Rowland (sorry, Kell!) as host was an excellent improvement, especially by replacing her with an international supermodel like Iman. I think she and Isaac had a great good-cop/bad-cop thing going on, but Iman's wrathful exterior seemed forced and unnecessary at times. Although, she was pretty fierce and I love her "Don't move." tagline, her steely persona made her seem more intimidating than inspiring.

Perhaps The Fashion Show can find its niche in a third season, or maybe Bravo will revamp its other fashion series Launch My Line (get bigger names and it could be a hit!) but this season just didn't do it for me. But at least I stuck with it!

Did you watch The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection? What did you think of the winner? And the series as a whole? Leave a comment!