Wednesday, March 14, 2012


That word could apply to my workload--I'm finishing the (hopefully) final revisions to my book which is due in at the end of March, working on my conference paper that I present in a little under two weeks, working on the second chapter for the second book which is also due (or overdue) imminently and working on a paper that's due at a journal in two weeks time.

But I'm actually referring to Fashion Star, NBC's Project Runway come very-lately clone, a hot mess of a show that I watched while grading multiple choice tests this morning. It's maybe the classic example of why TV by committee doesn't work. You could hear the suits saying we need something for the men (so let's add random "dancers" in scanty, skanky outfits, motorcycles, fireworks and a display of models in Elle McPherson's underwear line, some shot from below as they climb stairs backstage). Then there's the its-a-reality-show-let's-borrow-from-American Idol line where we have a big blue stage (reminiscent of the AI finale but bigger) and a panel of bland suburban American friendly judges and a panel of industry experts, all overwhelmed by the kind of ridiculously loud music you hear in a teen store at the mall or a local gym. The designers came from stock reality show casting--older women, crazy minority, hard luck stories (as soon as I saw a photo of one designer's mother I knew she was dead), inspirations, struggles and lack of fashion training abounded, along with an air of delusion and a host of boring clothes that were sometimes too tired for Macy's. In this batshit crazy spectacle, there was virtually no emphasis on the actual sewing/cutting and for some reason 4 designers were just scrunched together near the end as though they'd run out of time and just thought that would do and, maybe, that we wouldn't notice.

Besides the fact that this show was ten times more loud and ten times more trashy than it needed to be, especially given the bland nature of the clothes on offer, there was also the futile effort to present it as live. Some of my students sometimes struggle with the concept of liveness in broadcasting, but I think this show would be a good teaching tool. Broadcasting is potentially live--it can transmit instantaneously and TV has its own presence because the image is constantly being formed and reformed on the screen. Fashion Star played to this sense of liveness--here are the cameras! the wires! the fuses! we're backstage! we're front stage! Then, of course, there's the premise of you can buy these clothes tomorrow--suggesting how contemporary, how now, all these looks might be. Obviously you can't make clothes overnight in large numbers, especially as it takes longer than that to ship the things from China or wherever else they are going for their cheap labour. But the show's tackiness and failure is also underwritten--as is its rather long and necessary lag between shooting and broadcast--by Jessica Simpson's seemingly pre-pregnant or at least early first trimester figure which advertises the nearly nine month gestation of these far from timely fashions.

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