Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama are Project Runway fans; Tim’s Guide to Style cancelled

Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama are all fans of Project Runway; Bravo has cancelled Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style after airing its second season last fall; like many fans, Tim Gunn thinks season five was weak; and Santino made Tim want to kill himself during the filming of the all-star challenge.

All of this–and a lot more–comes from Chicago Tribune critic Maureen Ryan’s conversation with Tim Gunn. Since Mo is a great critic who doesn’t automatically write off reality TV, she asks great questions that Tim answers with his characteristic honesty. Among the answers are some behind-the-scenes details about the first episode’s challenge, which almost didn’t happen because of the show’s legal limbo and the ABC/Disney/Lifetime connection with the Emmys.

A few highlights from their conversation:

  • First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obamas’ kids, Sasha and Malia, are fans of the show, as Tim learned when he sat at Michelle’s table during a White House lunch in July. “She was sorry that the kids weren’t there because they were off at camp; they were big fans of the show and all of that. We didn’t spend hours talking but it was lovely,” he said, noting that whether Barack Obama watches “didn’t come up.”
  • The all-star challenge was filmed at the same time as season seven, and Tim says, “I was as close to a psychotic breakdown as I’ve ever been.” Besides juggling two shows at once, another factor was “Santino Rice — I was ready to take a cyanide capsule. I mean, he just sucks all the air out of a room,” Tim said.
  • As to the change in producers, which ended up not being noticeable on TV, Tim said, “there was just a huge comfort zone that I certainly had. But the silver lining was that our new producers were unencumbered by the past. … It was really great.” Likewise, leaving Bravo reinvigorated the series. “I would never say I’m happy to have left Bravo. If it hadn’t been for Bravo’s tenacity there wouldn’t never have been a Season 2 of ‘Runway,’ so I’m always grateful to them for that. But I will say, after five seasons, it was time for a booster shot … and we needed it.”
  • Season five was kinda boring, and Tim told Mo that he doesn’t think it was deserving of its accolades. “No, five didn’t [top Season 4]. You’re absolutely right. And frankly, I’m surprised we’re nominated for an Emmy [for Season 5]. I’m delighted, but I’m surprised. I was concerned about Season 5.”
  • Tim Gunn’s work schedule has meant that, as he said, “Tim Gunn hasn’t even been able to get away to see his poor dying mother. … No, it’s bad. I mean, thankfully my sister is with her, but… And I talk to either my sister or my mother, if she is able to talk, every day and sometimes more than once. But it’s been bad. I was trying to get away two weekends ago and then, pow. Something came up with Lifetime and they wanted me to do something and I just — I am very loyal to them. Whatever they want, I’ll do it.”

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.