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Thank you, Project Runway Season 7 for debuting a mere two months after the corpse of the series was draped in Irina's "Reasons To Love New York" t-shirts and massive knit blanket coats, placed on the back of a hot dog cart and wheeled through the streets surrounding Bryant Park, its dead eyes frozen, and its tongue lolling about in its open mouth. Clearly that season didn't need a mourning period, and tonight's episode taught us some very important things. Why, without Season 7's debut tonight I wouldn't have learned that Kate from Lost is apparently selling L'Oreal paint-roller foundation now.


And yes, I know what everyone is thinking: How can there be a Season 7 of Project Runway if the series died in Season 6? That's simple. It's the same way that Bernie, the titular dead man in the seminal Jonathan Silverman movie Weekend At Bernie's 2, can dance: voo-doo. Merely bringing the dessicated body of Project Runway back to New York mystically brought the show back to something resembling life.  The Atlas apartments are back! There's the good ole Tim n' Heidi champagne get-together on the roof. The Parsons workroom looks like Project Runway never left it (except for that bright pink wall, which is probably only there because every show on Lifetime is contractually obligated to feature either a murder or 35% shocking pink decor.) Nina Garcia and Michael Kors are back! The designers had to run for fabric! There was even a contestant who cried literally 70 seconds into the first episode! Everything seems like it's back to normal.

But then Tim had the designers meet him in Central Park amidst the benches festooned with fabric and he told them their first challenge: "Make whatever the fuck you want. Signature style. Who are YOU as a designer…Blah blah blah." (I'm paraphrasing.) Obviously some part of this show—most likely the brain—is still dead because that challenge doesn't qualify as a challenge.

Why, after seven seasons, is Project Runway oh-so-gingerly easing both the audience and the designers into the competition in this way? Everyone watching knows how this show works. Everyone competing knows how this show works. Apparently the only people who don't know how the show works are the people currently making it.  The first challenge isn't about learning who these people are as designers—we have those mini-bios introducing each contestant for that. The first challenge should be about seeing what they can make with strange fabrics, or rigid parameters, or alternative materials. It's about testing them to see if they can take it. Throw the designers into the pool and see if they can swim. Drive them to the middle of nowhere and see if they can find their way back. Push them off of the ledge and see if they bounce. Basically, the producers should have broken, abandoned, and nearly drowned the contestants (metaphorically speaking) in this first challenge. Instead, they gave them five—five!—choices of fabric and told them to do whatever they want. Ugh. In case you were wondering why those workroom scenes felt a little draggy, that's why. No drama = draggy.

That said, some of the designers still did manage to uphold the grand tradition of spectacular hideousness that we've all come to expect from Project Runway. Janeane, the crier, scrapped her dress at the last minute and made some cheap-looking, gauzy, pseudo-Calvin-Klein study in neutrals—or, as she said it, "With..(sob)…less than two…(sob)…hours to go..I…I…(sob) start over." Amy made a skirt that looked like a bulbous cropped court jester costume, while Jay (aka Fauxhawk) decorated his wool skirt with an array of floral tumors.


Then there were the chosen bottom three: Anthony, with his party dress/wine rack; Christiane with her poorly-made, "unsophisticated" blue and floral cocktail dress; and Jesus's chocolate brown leather-couch-turned-evening-gown-that-leaks-brown-chiffon. Obviously the judges couldn't let Anthony go, considering that he and Ping are this season's designated comic relief characters, so it was down to rock paper scissors for Christiane and Jesus. In the end, Christiane's oddly-draped dress "with no vibe or feeling" (uh, thanks Nicole Richie) was judged to be the worst, a development that was destined for Christiane the second she said, "I think I'm going to win this one."

The designer who actually did win this one (see what I did there?) was apparent from the second his dress stepped out on to the runway: Emilio. His intricate, cool, banded cocktail frock was the clear winner—especially over Seth Aaron (aka Dominic From The Real World: LA), who made what looked to me like a sad Betty Boop costume. And what was "punk" about it? The exposed zippers? If so, then French Connection is the new punk. But I guess that's just who Dominic From The Real World is as a designer, though. Fascinating first challenge, right?


Stray Observations:

—In case you're wondering who Ping is as a designer she's a sherpa. And she only would make sherpa-wear that she would wear herself.


—"Thank you! That was not that bad. I literally thought I was going to disintigrate here." I like this Anthony.

—"I said 'in.' Before I change my mind to 'auf wiedersehn' get off the runway!" "Jesus, unfortunately one has to go….but it's not you." Heidi was so mean mommy tonight. Hopefully she doesn't sweeten up as the season goes on.


—Dominic From The Real World: LA isn't the only former Real World castmember amongst the designers: I'm pretty sure Anna Marie is Jacinda from Real World: London.

—"Use your HP Magic Touch Notebooks if you see fit." Hmm. That just doesn't sound right, Tim. Maybe: "Use your HP Magic Touch Notebooks thoughtfully?"


—It has to be said: If the show is not in LA anymore, what is Nicole Richie doing on it? So she can tell us, "I love full skirts."?