I watch a lot of reality programming, or at least I used to. Now I only have time for one or two shows a week, and even that’s pushing it. Now, before people start thinking, “Steven, why do you watch that trash,” let me qualify my statement. I watch a lot of reality programming because I’m obsessed with human behavior, self-betterment, and competition. Where else can I see all of that, but in a reality show?
Some of the show’s I have watched on and off throughout the years (in no particular order): Kitchen Nightmares, American Idol, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Project Runway (and all of its spin-offs), Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, Face Off, The Real World, The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, The Voice, The X-Factor, America’s Got Talent, Intervention, Hoarders, and every HGTV/DIY Network program.
Today I will touch on my favorite show, and the only one I’ve watched every year since it first aired: Project Runway. This show gives unknown fashion designers a chance to show a collection at New York Fashion Week in the show’s finale. The winner gets a huge sum of money to develop a fashion line. I love this show because it allows us to see another side of the fashion industry, while providing a unique opportunity for the contestants. It’s a positive show and promotes creativity, which is always a good thing.
In each episode, the designers are given a unique challenge to create a piece of clothing. Some weeks they have to design for a client, like Marie Claire Magazine. Other weeks they have to create an avant-garde look using only materials from a candy store. It’s incredible to see what these people whip up in less than 24 hours. This week (tonight actually) the designers had a tough challenge. Their look had fit into an assigned style category (trendsetter, bombshell, the girl next door, etc…) and also be ready-to-wear, meaning able to be mass produced for retail.
I am drawn to this show because of how much you get to know the designers through their clothes. They pour their hearts and souls into each look, and sometimes literally explore their demons right on the sleeves of these clothes. There’s nothing more touching in reality programming than a contestant opening up about his HIV-positive status during a challenge like Mondo did in season 8. You can watch his story here.
But it’s more than getting to know the designers. It’s also about seeing something of yourself in these people. I see a contestant struggle with the challenge, and I relate to her struggle. This show expands my perspective every week. I remember an episode when a designer (who was born deaf) made a dress symbolizing his experience learning to hear for the first time. It was a breathtaking moment, and I am better for having seen that episode.
That’s the beauty of this show. It’s not actually about the clothes. The designs are necessary, but viewers come back for the designers. The viewers enjoy spending time with this group of artists every week and getting to know their quirks. I like to discover that I’m similar to a designer in a way I would never have imagined. And most importantly, it’s incredible to expand your social perspective. This show gives us an opportunity to see hard work pay off. What’s more American than hard work and reality television?