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Critics: Lifetime Hasn’t Tampered With Project Runway

Tonight Project Runway’s sixth season premieres on Lifetime, after a year off the air owing to an epic legal battle between the Weinstein Co. and NBC. In tonight’s challenge, contestants are asked to create an Emmy red-carpet gown. They have $200 for fabric and 30 minutes to buy it at Mood. People cry (mostly men). Tim Gunn’s one-liners are blunt and witty as ever. And the contestants include the usual group of token characters (the ex-addict, the straight guy, the flake, etc.). But even though the sixth season was filmed in L.A. and the show is airing on Lifetime, Project Runway remains basically the same, according to critics. In fact, the network may have taken extra pains to ensure the show remained unchanged. Lifetime needs the viewers — it would be unwise for them to tamper with the show too much. Critics were given a screener of the entire first episode, save the judges’ critiques at the end. Herewith, their thoughts:

• The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan writes that it’s not terribly apparent the show has moved to Lifetime and L.A. (save one scene of a Champagne toast on a rooftop) and is disappointed by how straightforward the first challenge is. The designers are asked not to make dresses out of leaves or cookies or newspapers, but of fabric. Of guest judge Lindsay Lohan, Givhan doubts she’ll “offer anything profound on the subject of aesthetics. The best we can hope for from Lohan is a bit of blissful, oblivious absurdity.” [WP]

• Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times writes that the “look and feel of the show are essentially unchanged.” However, Qristyl, the 41-year-old who designs plus-size clothing she calls “plus-sexy,” screams Lifetime. Bellafante notes, “The greatest and most innovative American fashion has never come from the Mayflower descended. It has come from those deeply invested in reinvention. ‘Project Runway’ has absorbed the history lesson.” [NYT]

• David Hinckley of the Daily News also reports the show remains largely unchanged despite L.A. and Lifetime. The contestants include “several promising oddballs and no immediately obvious villain.” Tim Gunn is hilarious as always, and tells one contestant her red-carpet dress looks intended for a “cruise-line cocktail waitress.” [NYDN]

• The New York Post’s Linda Stasi similarly does not cite any major differences between season six and past seasons, though she notices a surprising amount of weeping men in the first episode, which “casts Tim Gunn into the role of Oprah as he comforts and gives ‘You can do it guy!’ pep talks to the weepers.” [NYP]

• Lifetime “has barely changed a thing, from the makeup of the judging panel (Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and assorted guests) to the silhouette screen that’s used for dramatic effect in the runway show,” notes Joanna Weiss in the Boston Globe. She praises the producers for “milking Los Angeles for its self-perceived glamour” with the Emmy red-carpet challenge. She’s also glad the designers have to use fabric instead of Dr Pepper cans, because it allows us to see who can design and who can’t. She also thinks this season includes more Tim Gunn, the best part of the whole series. [Boston Globe]

• Mary McNamara of the L.A. Times writes, “it’s a bit alarming how little change there is” this season. Everything about the New York setting seems to have been reproduced in L.A., including the contestants’ dormitory-style housing. She enjoys watching the creative process in its varying degrees of success: “Not with the personalities, not even with the competition. It’s the miraculous simplicity of creating something from nothing that makes ‘Runway’ endlessly watchable.” [LAT]

• In the Philadelphia Daily News, Chuck Barney tells fans to “relax,” because the premiere episode “follows an oh-so-familiar pattern.” He laments that Lifetime doesn’t seem to have added any twists to the show, as reality shows like Survivor have done to keep things fresh. Also, guest judge Lindsay Lohan “looks sort of lost.” [Philadelphia Daily News]

Critics: Lifetime Hasn’t Tampered With Project Runway