'The Fashion Show,' premiering Thursday on Bravo

Anne Bratskeir
THE FASHION SHOW - 10 p.m. EDT Thursday - Bravo
Newsday (MCT)

REASON TO WATCH: You've been jonesing for your weekly fix of "Project Runway"? Well, here's Bravo's answer, having lost the show, after an extended legal battle, to Lifetime. It's the ultimate fashion (reality show) knock-off, but so what?

Designer Isaac Mizrahi, whose sense of sarcasm, sweetness and mirth is evident, hosts with Kelly Rowland, former Destiny's Child singer and self-proclaimed fashionista. They also judge and are joined by New York Fashion Week queen Fern Mallis, an industry insider, who is the voice of reason. If you thought "Project Runway" designers had personality, wait until you get a load of this kooky collection of contestants.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: You know the premise. Fifteen professional designers compete to have their designs sold at retail and for a $125,000 prize courtesy of Tresemme, who stayed on as a sponsor.

Each episode features two challenges, starting with the Harper's Bazaar Mini Challenge. The first is to make a little black dress out of a black T-shirt. Then comes the elimination challenge — where there's a variation on the "Project Runway" theme. The fashion shows are flashier, featuring dramatic lights and a V-shaped runway. A studio audience of fashion insiders whittles down the winners and losers for the judges, who make the final cut.

Like "Project Runway," there are guest judges, the first being designer Elie Tahari. Somebody wins, somebody goes home, and in the first episode at least, the kiss-off line in place of Heidi Klum's "auf Wiedersehen" is Mizrahi's heartfelt "buh-bye, darling."

BOTTOM LINE: Overall, a meaner, harsher fashion competition, but compelling. When the judges hate something, they don't try to couch their disdain.

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