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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Stay Tuned: Making it work on ‘Project Runway: Under the Gunn’

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  • Tim Gunn, mentor on “Project Runway” and all-around lovely gentleman, has spun his reality-TV success into a spin-off series. In “Project Runway: Under the Gunn,” 12 fashion designers are chosen by three past contestants from “Project Runway” who serve as their mentors. Each week, the designers are challenged to create a garment which then appears in a runway show that is judged by a panel. The mentors are there to advise, and they receive a prize if the winning designer at the end of the series is on their team. So, as the title suggests, it’s pretty much “Project Runway” with multiple Tim Gunns. While it’s not the most original idea, Mr. Gunn is so likeable, it’s hard not to root for him.
    Like all good mentors, Tim cares. A lot. On “Project Runway,” he sometimes cries when a designer passionately speaks about his or her fashion dream and has often become teary when he has to say goodbye to an eliminated contestant. From his gentle consultations in the workroom, to his heart to hearts with stressed designers, to his motivational “Make it work!” catchphrase, he is that rare reality-TV personality who feels unscripted, even authentic. Thankfully, nothing changes in his new series. One episode into “Under the Gunn,” the tears flow when a designer in jeopardy of not being chosen gives a heartfelt speech about why she should stay. As it was the decision of the mentors, Tim had no say in her fate but was moved just the same. It was a reassuring moment. The show might be new but Tim is still Tim.
    Except now, he is also the boss. No longer just a dapper addition to Heidi Klum’s side and a calm presence in the workroom, he is tasked with controlling the drama that inevitably happens when creative people are put together and made to compete under stressful time constraints. The addition of mentors, who were once contestants, adds to the tension because they want to prove themselves as capable leaders. Clothes are one part of this show. The other is Tim’s ability to step out from his sidekick status and become a star.
    There’s a lot at stake when your name is in the show’s title. Ensemble players don’t always succeed when they’re offered the lead role. (Kris Jenner’s failed talk show comes to mind.) But Tim rises to the challenge. When mentor Nick Verreos misconstrues his role to mean doing his designers’ work rather than guiding them to do it, Tim, in stern headmaster mode, firmly sets him straight. No screaming or name calling, just tough love, Gunn style.
    Like any reality show interested in ratings, the contestants on “Under the Gunn” might be encouraged to be nasty to one another in their private interviews and the mentors might be persuaded to talk a little trash about their competition. But the creative output outshines the routine drama. What Tim brings to the table is civility to go along with the clothes and his new show continues the trend.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Project Runway: Under the Gunn” is on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on Lifetime.
    Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her atstaytuned@outlook.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.
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