You know that very famous Coco Chanel quote about how a woman should look in the mirror before leaving the house, then take off one accessory? You know, so she looks elegant and not like a crazy homeless person? Someone should have dropped that hint to NBC, because “Fashion Star” is one hot, over-accessorized mess.
The approach to building this TV show seemed to be, if an element worked on another show (“Project Runway,” “Biggest Loser”), cram it in! Add a lot of loud music! And some go-go dancers! And some recognizable names! And shopping! And sad stories! And fighting! This show is sort of like a turducken or that “SNL” Taco Town skit (it’s 15 great tastes rolled into one!). While it’s the American way to want too much of a good thing, this is just a stomachache waiting to happen.
We start things off with a lot of loud music, Elle Macpherson and dancing. Because when I think runway, I think hoochie dancing, don’t you? But like so many other elements on this show, lots of things seem to be orchestrated to annoy, confuse or distract from the fact there’s not a lot of logic at work here. You know, like a taco wrapped in a crepe wrapped in a pepperoni pizza.
At first, it seems that “Fashion Star” might have borrowed a considerable amount from “Project Runway.” The designers are given a challenge (this week it was to make one memorable look), are allowed to present three different versions of it, and can then style their models to best effect (with the usual product placement — hey, let’s use that pink Maybelline lipstick!). Finally, they take it to the runway. Simple enough, yes?
Well, not really. They are first given an assessment by the show’s mentors — Nicole Richie, John Varvatos and Jessica Simpson. The purpose of this? Um, none that I can tell. Jessica Simpson knows what she likes and that’s about it (just to be clear, licensing your name to people who actually make stuff is not the same as making stuff). Nicole Richie is more insightful, but hasn’t exactly spent time cutting fabrics or matching seams. Finally, John Varvatos is a real, honest-to-God designer — for menswear. During the debut episode, one snotty designer (Nicholas Bowes) basically shrugs off criticism from Richie and Simpson, suggesting they don’t know anything about what’s on trend for his audience (motorcycle jacket-wearing guys). Jessica scowls and says she’d like to punch him in the nose — but is he really wrong?
After the mentors say things like, “I love your personality” and “Great styling!”, it’s time for people whose opinions actually matter to weigh in — the buyers from, in this case, H&M, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. If they bid on a design, it will be carried in stores… tomorrow! But if they don’t, that designer may be up for elimination. Ah-ha! These three people actually have an impact on the show! So why did we have to listen to Jessica Simpson yapping about how much she’d like to wear a tacky sequined batwing dress?
Probably for the same reason that two designers are trotted onto the runway with their designs at the same time, implying there will be a battle between the two of them. There isn’t, but it certainly seems that way. But maybe the show has to double up designers on the runway, because time needs to be set aside for another important element — sob stories!
Oscar is pocket-sized, wears ridiculous hats and cries a lot. He’s also, judging from this first show, a crappy designer. But his story is so heartwarming! He crawled across three borders to come to America! And he’s feisty! I think Oscar is actually somewhat annoying, but he’s reality TV catnip — memorable, controversial and squarely in the middle of a love him/hate him polarity. But he’s not the only designer who seems to be on the show less for ability than personality. Barbara likes to make outfits with huge, unattractive lumps on the hips, but she survived breast cancer! Ross makes palazzo pants that are so poorly fitted they give models camel toe, but he wears little bow ties and is straight! Wow, they have stories! We can be invested in them now!
It could be argued that audiences might actually just get excited about seeing a great dress, but NBC has no faith in stupid viewers. They need lots of lights! And music! Watching this show is like watching an old episode of MTV’s “TRL” or being a fly on the wall at a rave. It’s so loud and so obtrusive it’s actually hard to focus on the clothing, which is hustled down the runway at lightning speed. I guess the hope is that viewers will just go online and buy stuff, but I’m not so sure I need a blue blur or a black smear at the moment.
And because the show tries to borrow as much as it can from “Project Runway,” we spent some short, strange moments in the workroom (the mentors stop by and say things like, “white doesn’t sell at retail” or “he doesn’t have the right attitude to improve”), though, yet again, we don’t really look at the clothes.
Oh, and another random element? We watch the designers flap their arms nervously just before heading to the runway while an enormous clock ticks down in the corner of the screen. Why do we see this? No clue. But I guess it creates tension. Or something.
Finally, the disco inferno that is “Fashion Star” winds to a close, and it’s time for the bottom three (not that we see any actual, insightful judging) to be selected. The mentors are allowed to save someone — and this week they pick, of course, Oscar. Nicole swears he has great stuff in the workroom, but I’m not convinced. I do think a feisty little person with funny hats is the kind of TV NBC can get excited about, though, so he’s back to annoy again. And who goes home? Why Nicholas, the Australian former model who didn’t give a crap about what Jessica and Nicole had to say. It could also be argued that he noticed the empresses had no clothes, but no matter. His jackets, which were well made and, while not original, at the very least sellable, will be going home with him. But who cares about clothes, anyway? It’s “Fashion Star”!