Thursday, November 19, 2009

Project Runway vs. Top Chef

Two of the shows currently in my viewing rotation are Project Runway and Top Chef. I enjoy both of them. Bravo knows how to make a good reality show. They are pretty much the same format. Project Runway came first followed by Top Chef. I know a Top Design followed and a Top Haircut or something like that, but those were just not as cool as the first two.
Pretty much they are cooking competition and fashion designing competition where unknowns try to make their name only to be brutally cut down by industry experts.
Here I will put the two shows head to head, dissecting them and coming up with one winner.

Project Runway
I saw this show on one day during a marathon of the second season and I could not stop watching it, even though I have not the slightest interest in fashion. The characters were compelling and I like pretty much any reality show where you have competitions, challenges, immunity, and people getting cut. I don't think there was anything super innovative about the show, they just put a good product together. There is a good balance between character development, creation of the clothes, and competition.
Pros:
-Heidi Klum
-hot (usually) models
-gay people are funny
-lots of crying
-cool looking clothes - it's a visual medium
-great, quirky characters
-a look at an industry I know nothing about
-judges that aren't scared to straight up tear someone apart
-cool challenges - I remember one making entire outfits out of newspaper, one making a dress out of coffee filters, making clothes for other contestants mothers, making costumes for movie genres
-team challenges are always good too - forcing people to work together that pretty much despise each other
-some cool celebrity judges
Cons:
-I don't know much about making clothes
-pretty subjective
-it seems that in fashion it is necessary to take risks and make stuff that doesn't always work, but that trial and error doesn't work in this set up
-lots of crying
-lots of times stuff I think looks good ends up losing
-often time designers are felling like the did a very bad job, and just put something together at the last second and still end up in the top 3
-not sure how realistic it is to only have 5 hours or whatever to make a red-carpet dress
-on Lifetime

Top Chef
So Top Chef came a year or so after Runway, using pretty much an identical format. Top Chef added a "quickfire challenge" at the beginning of the show where one contestant can get immunity for the larger end challenge. It seems overall the show is based more on the challenges and the cooking than the cooks, whereas Runway is just as much about the designers as the design. Judges are super brutal at the judges table and say some pretty outlandish things if they don't like the food.
Pros:
-I know a little bit about cooking
-fast-paced challenges seem like something cooks would have to do in real life
-cool quick-fire challenges - junk food, tv dinners, vegetarian
new styles of cooking
-the kitchen environment is a place where is is seemingly ok to curse someone out
stress of the challenges leads to contestants genuinely disliking each other
-judges do not front if they don't like something - you could come up with some pretty degrading critiques
-I like the head judge Tom Colicchio and the host Padma Lakshmi
-Visual presentation is often time amazing
-I can sometime image if something would be really good
-cooks are more likely to lash out at judges criticism
-Restaurant Wars
-Team challenges
-some cool characters - but usually focus is on the food
-I might actually use something I see
-if you make a mistake, you pretty much go home
Cons:
-Food is based on taste, and you can only see this stuff an imagine how it tastes
-some people are good at cooking, but are pretty boring
-lots of technical cooking terms I don't have the slightest idea of what they mean
-often times inferior chefs stay around too long by playing it safe
-lack of attractive women
-sometimes having only 10 hours to create a wedding banquet seems unfair
-quickfires that don't involve cooking
-lots of challenges are the same every season
-long commercial breaks before choosing who goes home
-having the show in a different city every season
-no Heidi Klum
-too many French judges


Verdict:
A couple things determine the winner here. First, like I mentioned above, often times designers in Project Runway scrape their ideas halfway through and put something together at the last minute, or designers feel they are going to go home, but they end up being in the top 3 or even winning. In Top Chef, if you mess up, there is really no turning back. If you mess up you are doomed. If you think you are doing bad, you are usually in the bottom 3. I think that gives Top Chef more credibility. Food is more objective I think than fashion.
Two, I don't know a lick about fashion, but I know a thing or two about cooking.
Project Runway wins in the area of being a visual medium and it has much better characters and characterization. But, in the end, it might not be a surprise.
Verdict: Top Chef is better!
but both shows are great.