Last night NBC debuted its new fashion design competition show Fashion Star, the big hook of which is that you can buy the stuff you see on the show in stores the next day. Basically, three fashion concerns — H&M, Macy's, and Saks Fifth Avenue — bid on the garments they like and that's how success is determined each week. Elle Macpherson hosts while Nicole Richie, Jessica Simpson, and John Varvatos act as mentors. They're not the judges, those are the three fashion buyers, they're the mentors. Sounds a bit crowded, right?
It is, it definitely is. Six people giving feedback as each designer shows their pieces is a lot! Add to that the blaring pop music, the ridiculous trio of dancing girls ever-present in the background, the steam cannons shooting up while the models strut through the runway/arena, and the cheering, addled-seeming live audience, and the whole thing feels ludicrously noisy. It's synthesized big event TV with an innate smallness (we're ultimately talking about craft and detail here, after all) that gets completely lost amid all the silly spectacle. Like, the process of assessing fashion and buying it for retail is a big deal for those involved, of course, but it's not in any way performative. In comparison to Fashion Star, a show like Project Runway seems like some tiny, humble PBS documentary.
Obviously NBC feels they need to soup things up to get big network TV audiences, but good grief guys. Remember that episode of The Simpsons when that flashy yo-yo show comes to Springfield Elementary and the joke is that beyond the rock music and lasers and crazy names, we're still just talking about a damn yo-yo? On Fashion Star the fashion becomes the yo-yo. The producers have overwhelmed the core product of the show with fog machines and light displays (and let's not forget those dancers, oh god those dancers), which is a shame. Though, ahem, that isn't to say that the fashion on display last night necessarily deserved any demure showcasing. With a few exceptions, it all looked pretty junky and amateur, with either little gimmicks or a sort of general vagueness ("I made culottes." OK... and?) that seemed, well, a little sad.
Between this and The Voice, NBC has certainly cornered the market in manufactured enthusiasm where other similar shows produce that organically. The Voice has always seemed like a sadly showboating version of Idol, while Fashion Star, which, granted, is trying for a slightly new angle, seems like an embarrassingly over-corporatized Project Runway. Watch those two better shows instead. This NBC stuff is hokum, all smoke and mirrors that ultimately signify nothing.