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Project Runway: Season One (December 7/05)

There's just something oddly compelling about a show in which would-be fashion designers are given less than a day to design a complete outfit, using only a couple hundred dollars' worth of materials. Though I'm far from an expert on the whole "reality" craze (aside from both installments of Last Comic Standing, I've never really gotten into the genre), it would seem as though Project Runway has more to offer than a Survivor or a Bachelor - as the contestants are judged not on their ability to scheme and plot, but on their actual talent.

The show's premise is simple: 12 aspiring fashion designers are brought to New York City and forced to participate in a series of increasingly grueling challenges wherein they must create a wholly original piece of clothing. At the end of every episode, each designer presents their garment to a panel of judges, who then choose a winner and a loser (the latter is immediately kicked off the program). Host Heidi Klum even has her own catch phrase, as she sends the departing designer home with two kisses and a terse "auf wiedersehen."

Undoubtedly, it's the chemistry (or lack thereof) between the various participants that can make or break a show such as this. Project Runway, thankfully, is chock full of memorable personalities, including: the flamboyant and wildly creative Austin Scarlett, series villainess Wendy Pepper, comic relief Jay McCarroll, and all-around fashion whiz Kara Saun. Friendships are forged and enemies are made, and there's no denying that it's the catty moments that often elevate the proceedings to something that's surprisingly watchable.

But really, it's all about the garments and that's what keeps things interesting throughout. The talent and skill that each of these contestants possess is truly awe-inspiring, particularly in terms of their ability to create an entire outfit out of some exceedingly meager materials. About the only weak link in the show is Klum herself, who comes off as stiff and lifeless; for a woman who used to make a living in front of the camera, Klum seems unusually uncomfortable and spends an inordinate amount of time staring at offscreen cue cards.

About the DVD: Project Runway: The Complete First Season arrives on DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, armed with crisp transfers and about 40-minutes worth of where-are-they-now footage (there's also a hefty chunk of deleted scenes included as well).