Those who still watch Project Runway say this season is better, or is it just Mondo?

Project Runway‘s eighth season concludes tonight, and after Mondo Guerra, Gretchen Jones, or Andy South wins, that will mark the end of the third season on the show on Lifetime. The network has been pumping out seasons, but those who stuck around after the disastrous season six say that the show has gotten better, perhaps even topping its Bravo-hosted, Magical Elves-produced version in some respects.

There’s been evidence to the contrary: Tim Gunn ripped the show’s incompetent producers, and the prize that everyone pretends they want so much–a chance to show at Fashion Week–was actually given to more than 50 percent of the contestants, since 10 of them showed at Fashion Week thanks to Lifetime’s production schedule.

Still, some fans say the show itself is improved. On MSN, Diane Vadino argues that “[a]gainst all expectations, Season 8 has proven to be a massive winner, with innovative design, amped-up judging, and all the crying fits, temper tantrums and mean-spirited bullying we expect,” and she cites seven reasons why it’s better. Among them: Tim “Gunn was a more active presence this season than ever before,” and Nina Garcia and Michael Kors “seem fully invested in this year’s outcome.”

But it may just be about the people. Mondo revealed that he was HIV positive on an earlier episode after making symbolic pants that had a pattern of plus signs. At the time, even his family didn’t know (he told them just before the episode aired, and told the Wall Street Journal today, “I really underestimated the power of unconditional love. They have supported me 100 percent. Now I just have to feel comfortable around them. I’m not hiding anymore.”)

And Tom Scocca writes on Capital New York that Mondo is the best representation of the series itself. He writes that “the contestant is supposed to play the role of a member of the industry as accurately as possible. Challenge, but don’t defy. Stand out, and assimilate. Is it any wonder so many immigrants or children of immigrants thrive on the program? Especially the boys, who have already been through two gantlets: getting into mainstream America, as a foreigner, and then getting out of mainstream America, as a homosexual.” Thus, the story suggests in its headline, the show “has found its ideal protagonist” in Mondo.

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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.