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Pop Life: Way of the Gunn

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Project Runway is back? Where the hell is my chiffon? It's like fondling a shiny fresh pack of Dunhills after months of tobacco-free peace. Do I really want to do this to myself again? Every season, PR destroys my life. I have descended into pitiful levels of obsession I'm not proud of. I have started noticing faux bois and ruching; I have been kicked off message boards for getting drawn into flame wars over former contestant Alison Kelly; I have peppered my conversation with phrases like "Comme des Garcons goes to Amish country" or "You better cry and cut." I tried to fill the between-season void with Top Design and Shear Genius. Not even! Ah, Tim Gunn, you silver-haired succubus. You will bury me.

PR is the most addictive thing on TV, and Tim Gunn is the main reason — radiating kindness, intelligence, calm and other qualities normally verboten on the tube. It's funny to see executive producer Heidi Klum still trying to pimp herself as the star of the show â€" that was obviously the original plan. But Klum had no onscreen charisma and a dumb catchphrase ("You're either in or out") that didn't catch. It was Tim who accidentally became a viewer magnet, tending his flock of desperate fame whores with soothing Zen maxims like "Make it work" and "Don't defend the shoe." This season, he even speaks in the opening credits, a power shift as significant as Run-D.M.C. finally putting Jam Master Jay on the cover of Tougher Than Leather.

PR hiatus, Bravo tried to spin off a Tim Gunn makeover show, but it was a disaster — he just isn't bitchy enough for the role. So it's a relief to have the real Tim back, with a new stable of designers: Christian is the elfin megabitch art brat who urges everyone, "Don't go into the fear box." Elisa is the space case who builds marionettes and says, "I was going for a haiku of a cut." There's the cool rock hipster (Kit Pistol), the biker chick (Sweet P), the ex-model with fab Cyndi Lauper hair (Carmen), the crucifix-wearing Israeli stud (Rami). There's also supposedly a straight guy, but good luck guessing who.

PR got out of hand with generic reality-TV cliches, keeping no-talents like Vincent and Jeffrey for their quirky personalities. Who cares? You can find mediocre ego freaks all over reality TV. But where else can you find rich characters like Austin Scarlett, Laura Bennett or Daniel Franco? What other show has such odd couples (Jay and Austin, Keith and Alison, Nick and Daniel V.) or lone wolves (Malan, Uli)? The fascination is the way they plug their damaged personalities into creative work. These are people who share one skill — making clothes — but who vary wildly in the contents of their dealing-with-the-world toolboxes. The weak link, as always, is the judge panel — Nina Garcia's still a flatulentista, while Heidi's inept verbal beat-downs make Tyra look clever. But Tim Gunn makes it work.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Rob Sheffield

Rob Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he writes about music, TV and pop culture. He is the author of two books, Talking To Girls About Duran Duran and Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

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