Why ‘Mad Fashion’ could use a little more madness

11.04.11 7 years ago

A few seasons back, Chris March was one of my favorite designers on “Project Runway.” Make that favorite personalities — I’m still a bit grossed out by his human hair gown. Anyway, on “Runway” March was affable under pressure; a cheerful, funny presence on a season otherwise dominated by Christian Siriano. Beyond reality TV, he’s also built an intriguing resume as a designer, having created costumes for everyone from Prince to Lady Gaga and countless drag queens and theater geeks. Thus, it seemed like a natural fit for Bravo to build a show around March, and it seemed like a natural fit for me to love it. How could I not?

I want to love it, really I do, but why does the finished product have to be so… dull?
Obviously, the designs are as outlandish, bedazzled and exciting as I expected. March has vision, and though that vision sometimes seems to have taken a detour through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, it’s pretty irresistible. Watching him make outrageous ball gowns and headpieces is fun in and of itself. Unfortunately, it’s only a small part of the show, as room must be made for testy clients, March’s staff and March himself.
Herein lies the problem. In his interviews, March seems tired and constrained, as if his mind is elsewhere (probably on his next job). Maybe it’s the weariness of a boss who knows he has to support not just himself but a staff. March clearly loves his minions, and they seem like a perfectly fine and charming group of co-workers, but there aren’t any big personalities here, either. Izzy the wigmaker, Jake, Alex, Matt and Christine all seem like people you’d probably want to work with (okay, maybe not Christine). They chat, they roll their eyes, they hustle — you get the idea. The problem is, I don’t want to watch a show about people I’d like to have as office mates. March seems like a good boss who hires good people. The problem is they aren’t good TV.
Clients occasionally drop by the mix things up, but even they aren’t the nightmares you might expect. The Simmons girls want dresses for an event and one envies the other’s more colorful dress — but even as March insists a fight has broken out, it’s not much more than the usually quarreling you see with siblings. A renowned florist collaborates with March on a costume for an contest, and despite how little March likes to collaborate, it’s a civil, tension-free process. Even when he and March lose the contest, March and his team are gracious in defeat with the exception of a few grumbles. It’s not that we need fighting and snarkiness to drive the show.The problem is that no one is quite funny enough, strange enough or even enthusiastic enough to draw us in. To paraphrase that USA network slogan, characters wanted — and sorely needed. 
If we got a more in-depth view of March’s creative process or at least more exciting clients, it might be enough to make this mild-mannered program sing. Maybe March just needs a little more caffeine. But as it stands, the only part of “Mad Fashion” worth watching are March’s fantastical designs. 

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