Project Runway First Episode Recap: The Two Local Contestants Play Safe and Stay Safe

Dear Lifetime, thank you. I've really, truly missed Project Runway. Last night I was visibly excited to have it back. One thing though: Go high-def, for crying out loud. Not being able to see ruching and contrast stitching puts me in a teeny rage black-out. I realize you cater to the often middle-aged womens-needing-feel-good set and might assume such lady-types don't care about visual detail but you're forgetting that we, um, wear clothes. Also, you're now dealing with a rabid Bravo crowd and we're used to much better. If my mother can text message, you can broadcast in HD. Preesh! 

Now that that's out of the way... God, it's good to hear Tim Gunn pronounce "Mood" with three o's and tell someone to "Make it work!," even if that someone is all-methed-up. (Note to Johnny: This is a deadline-driven reality show. It might be a little stressful. Good on you for trying and all; bad on the producers for making it a storyline.) Also, so glad that Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia are still card-carrying members of the Bitches Who Are Right Club and that Michael Kors appreciates a good caftan for drinking by the fireplace (but, really, who doesn't?).

During this intro episode, we found the boys and girls of the new(ish) cast -- most of the sixth season was taped during the waning days of the Bush administration -- plopped in L.A. with what seem to be the most boring IKEA apartments of any season. But the stylists probably didn't want to take away from some of the absolute effing nutjobs that make up part of the cast:

There's Mitchell, the dude who sent a barely clothed model down the runway and blamed her for it, all while looking like Perez Hilton and Dexter's lovechild. There's Johnny, the recovering crystal meth addict who had a sit-down with Tim Gunn after scrapping four designs. (His fabric draping tutorial somehow did well with the judges.)

And then there's Ari Fish, the girl who doesn't sketch but instead meditates on her "designs." She sent a hooded space jumper with plaid bloomers down the runway for a red carpet challenge. Awesomely out-there, insane and responsible for drawing out the keeper soundbite from Heidi: "We did not know what was going on with your look, and we don't think that you did either. It's one thing to aim outside of the box, and another to miss it completely." And ... she's out.

Of course, you probably want to know how the local girls did? Dallas's 32-year-old Louise Black served up a glam two-toned silver-and-gray red-carpet wonder that a starlet like Maggie Gyllenhaal would look fab in. She wasn't pleased that the contrast ended up "washed out," but it was gorge. Unfortunately, Black has a very similar -- no, wait, the exact same -- design in her portfolio pics. She ended up safe, and I'm glad, but I'm looking forward to seeing things from Black that I haven't already seen trolling the site.

Richardson's Shirin Aksari rocked out a sweet champagne swing dress with a shimmery gray capelet that turned into a bedazzled train-like element on the back of the skirt when the model took it off. With it's nod to vintage design it was totally timely in that everything's-coming-up-Mad Men way. She too was safe -- along with Black, Aksari was in the first group to the green room to relax.

With Lindsey Lohan as a guest judge, Christopher Straub's alt-pop party dress appropriately won the challenge ... but not until after Lohan proved she's not exactly the best actress by being unable to hide the fact that she found some of the designs humorous and/or ick.

Here's to hoping Project Runway returns with better guest judges, HD (yeah, right) and fewer commercials for sorority horror flicks and killer birth control.

Oh, and before I forget, regarding the Project Runway All-Star Challenge: Hey, Korto! You're not always the second-place girl. See, hon, anyone who stood up there at the end of a challenge and didn't win gets to share that role. What you are, however, is a really sore loser. As much as I dig the guy, I too am dumbfounded at Daniel Vosovic's win, but c'mon, lady, be a good sport for once, a role model. Shoot for good karma. It's five syllables: No, not the snarky "Always a bridesmaid" we heard as you walked off-stage, but -- say it with me -- "Con-grat-u-la-tions."

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin