After 11 years on the air and getting bumped to Lifetime, Project Runway isn't the cultural talking point it once was. However, even if you quit Runway long before Michael Kors did, it's time to give the franchise a second chance thanks to the endlessly entertaining Project Runway: Junior.
The series, which debuted in November, features contestants ranging in age from 13 to 17 competing in all the Runway staples, including unconventional and team challenges. In short, Project Runway: Junior is everything you loved about Project Runway but with the jaded, bitchy adults replaced by guilelessly optimistic teens.
So why aren't you watching? Clearly you must have your reasons, but let me dismantle them for you:
It's just sweatshop TV.Look, I get it. The idea of putting children on reality shows always makes my skin crawl a bit. But the contestants on Project Runway: Junior never seem like performing monkeys slaving away at Brother sewing machines for our entertainment. They just seem like a bunch of kids enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime summer camp where one person just so happens to get a full scholarship to FIDM at the end.
For the competitors, Project Runway: Junior isn't a make-or-break moment for them. They know they have their entire lives ahead of them, so they're simply using this as an opportunity to have fun, learn about design and be around other people who share their passion. And their buoyant excitement at the most banal things can make even the most cynical Runway fan see the old franchise with fresh eyes.
How good can the clothes be? They're just kids.If you're anything like me, watching people younger than you achieve greatness fills you with equal parts awe and self-loathing. And trust me when I say there is a lot both while watching Project Runway: Junior because these kids are outstanding! Judge Kelly Osbourne even declared the premiere to be the best first challenge in Project Runway history.
Don't believe me? Check out some of the best looks so far, some of which were designed by people who aren't even old enough to drive yet.
I don't want to see adults be mean to the children. Judging children's reality competitions is a tricky balance. You don't want to watch kids get verbally abused by adults, but you also don't want a snooze fest judging panel where everyone is coddled with participation trophies and gold stars. The judging panel, which includes Osbourne, Project Runway winner Christian Siriano, supermodel Hannah Davis and Cosmopolitan and Seventeen's fashion director Aya Kanai, provides a harmonious mix of tearful support and scathing burns that allows you to watch kids get judged on national television free of any guilt.
Kids are obnoxious.You know what? You're right. Kids generally are obnoxious. But damn, if they don't make for great television! The competitors on Project Runway: Junior cover the full spectrum of teen stereotypes. There's the emo goth girl, the hippie surfer (complete with head chains), the small town farm boy and, of course, where would any season of Runway be without a handful of flamboyant fashionistas? These kids are all over-the-top in their own way and deliver sound bites as good as their clothes. Isn't that why we all got addicted to Project Runway in the first place?
Is Tim Gunn even on it?Yes, yes, one hundred times yes! And Tim Gunn is in full-blown dad mode this season, guiding the competitors with such care that it truly warms your heart. This is an especially welcome development after the typically monotone mentor became uncharacteristically fed up during the last season of Runway. Now on Junior, Tim's passion for nurturing talent appears revived. And you know what they say: a happy Tim Gunn is a happy audience.
Project Runway: Junior airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Lifetime. You can catch up on previous episodes here!