'The Fashion Show' Season Premiere!

Cast_thefashionshow_290 The big question I had before watching "The Fashion Show" tonight was how would if differ from "Project Runway"? Other than the clear (and unfortunate lack) of the affable Tim Gunn and the adorable Heidi Klum? Well, keep reading.

In truth, not much. Or at least, not enough to make it seem like much more than a knock off of an established brand. Instead of a $100,000 prize, it's $125,000. No car and no apprenticeships. And while there is a panel of expert judges, they are backed by a studio audience of fashion insiders who will also given their opinions. I Can only imagine that this is because Isaac Mizrahi has some crazy good karma in the community. Which isn't hard to believe, because he has always seemed like a nice, personable guy who genuinely cares about making people look good at affordable price points. Kelly Roland's presence, on the other hand, baffles me.

We start the season with 15 designers who seem range in age and experience than they do on PR. Most of them are fashion school grads, who have professional experience or own their own lines. However, I don't really recall any fashion conscious moms who just happen to be able to design ala Laura Bennet. There are some real characters, however, chiefly Merlin. He swears it is his real name, and his parents must have been clairvoyant to know their son needed such a larger-than-life moniker. There's Andrew, who calls himself the Panty Christ as an underwear designer, and Kristin, who informs us she needs neither fortune nor fame. Just hair bleach and pink dye, I suppose. Isn't that look very 2001, at best?

The show seems like it will be set up more like "Top Chef," with a mini-challenge before a big elimination challenge. This week's mini challenge was to create a little black dress out of a black t-shirt. The winners of that challenge - namely Merlin, Keith and Johnny - became the team leaders for the elimination challenge. The teams must agree upon a must-have item and then each designer must create an outfit around that item.

Johnny decides on Harem pants, that end up looking more like knee breeches with a crotch only 4 inches above the knee. Which is to say, awkward. And grey satin was not the best fabric choice.  Keith's team compromises to create a tube garment that can be worn as a skirt or a dress, but they use a double faced fabric that they then double. It creates impossibly tight garments that not even the models can fit into and look good in. Merlin's team goes for a bolero, but cannot agree on color choices, cut, fit or style. So Merlin just cuts what he wants and everyone is forced to follow. As he announces "Go ahead and cry! (...) It's male domination, get it" Which is not an effective way to communicate to your team.

In the end, Johnny's team is safe, Merlin's team is the winner and Keith's is the loser. From Merlin's team, Merlin and James Paul had the best designs and JP takes the cake and gets his outfit made available to the public on Bravo's website. Kristin and Jonny D are the lowest rated designers from Keith's team and in the end Keith's lack of fit, style and taste loses to Kristin's lack of cohesive vision and he is sent home.

What did you think? Is "The Fashion Show" different enough from "Project Runway" to make it worth the hour? How do you think the audience will get to choose the ultimate winner? What do you think of the hosts and designers? Can Isaac match Tim Gunn's ability to be a mentor to the designers or will it become a conflict with his ability to judge their work? And do you think James Paul's dress is worth $199.00?

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