with Hamish McKenzie
There's a great line in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which Channel hop just happened to watch about five minutes ago. It comes from the author Gertrude Stein - or, at least, her character in the film. 'The artist's job is not to succumb to despair,' Stein says, 'but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.'
We're not quite sure how that applies to Project Runway, but, what the hell, we're going to do it anyway.
Project Runway, a drunk man could argue, is in effect a response to the emptiness of existence. It subscribes to the vapid formula of the reality competition show, which is the entertainment equivalent of succumbing to despair, but it somehow transcends it with smart tragicomic drama.
We know this because we accidentally got hooked on the fashion-designer reality show's eighth season, which culminated in the most controversial finale ever. Mondo Guerra, an insanely creative, exceedingly popular designer who revealed during the season that he was HIV positive, was defeated by the talented but rather plain Gretchen Jones in a split decision. It was, the judges said, the 'tough-est decision in Project Runway history'. Jessica Simpson was there, too, randomly.
It also made for gripping viewing, for as much as Project Runway is about creativity under pressure, unique cuts and glamorous catwalk events, it's also about personalities, conflicts and tension. It's a stretch to call the squabbles and the humiliations, the heartbreaks and the triumphs, art, but it's a pretty decent antidote - or, at the very least, anaesthetic - for the empty environment in which it wallows. Meta!
For Project Runway 9 (premieres Saturday, 9pm, TLC), host Heidi Klum is joined by judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia and the most contestants in the show's history (20). With celebrity judging from Kim Kardashian and Christina Ricci, and a drop-dead-stunner contestant in Trinidadian Anya Ayoung-Chee (a former Miss Trinidad & Tobago Universe who is of Chinese descent), the chances are high Channel hop will get addicted again.
Jumping the gun into next week, we have the second season premiere of Pretty Little Liars (above; May 27, 10pm, WarnerTV), which could reignite the I Know What You Did Last Summer spark that makes teenage dramas like this so, we don't know ... endurable?
The mystery thriller series, based on Sara Shepard's best-selling books, features four 16-year-old girlfriends - Aria, Hanna, Spencer and Emily - as they deal with the aftermath of their best friend Alison's mysterious disappearance and death. They are, however, taunted by text messages from someone only known as 'A', who annoyingly seems to know all the fabulous four's deepest, darkest secrets.
Season two picks up just moments after the end of the first season's finale, with the 'little liars' telling police about the death of a missing person, whose body can't be found. Best line from this episode: 'Zombies don't text!'
This season of the popular American show promises it all: murder, suspense, high drama and perfect hair. In other words, it is, as one internet pundit has put it, Desperate Housewives for teens. Sounds like a winner to us.