Project Runway jumps the shark by letting Vincent and Angela rejoin the competition

So, Project Runway has officially jumped the shark by becoming everything that it used to not be. Angela and Vincent–perhaps the two most annoying, drama-filled contestants–were allowed to rejoin the competition, even though they were already eliminated.

“We told you from the beginning of the competition that there were other benefits to winning challenges. This is it,” Heidi Klum told the designers, who were shocked. Indeed, she has mentioned the other benefits in the past. But considering that reward was never revealed before last night, and that the two designers who returned conveniently happened to be the most annoying, this twist seemed on the surface like something producers constructed just to create drama.

Last season’s obvious manipulation with time and editing was one thing, but allowing the two most contentious designers to return with a chance at winning was little more than a stunt. And it doesn’t really matter that both Vincent and Angela were sent home, again; that actually makes the whole exercise appear to be designed just to inflame the other designers.

And as icing on this rotten cake, Tim Gunn told the designers that they had to use all of the fabric they purchased, including any scraps they cut off. What, is there not enough drama to design a garment in 15 minutes and then assemble it in one day while camera crews hover around? The insecurity is overwhelming, and has totally ruined the show.

I’m overreacting here, as the show remains among the best reality shows, but in truth, what I’ve always adored about Project Runway is that it’s above all of this other reality TV shit. After all, this is not The Apprentice. Sure, Bravo casts strong personalities, but they all have demonstrable talent, and the competitions have been focused on challenging the designers to flex their their talent within tight constraints, not cope with absurd obstacle stacked upon absurd obstacle. A show doesn’t have to keep one-upping itself; look at American Idol, which has barely changed over the years. If Runway continues on this trajectory, its meteoric rise is going to come to a quick end, probably by next season.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.