Fauxject Runway

Memo to Isaac Mizrahi: I know Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn is a friend of mine. And you sir, are no Tim Gunn.

And therein lies key failing of The Fashion Show, Bravo’s attempt to recover from Project Runway’s flight to Lifetime. Anyone who’s seen the real deal will recognize the show and all of its moving parts as a limp imitation.

Instead of the glorious Gunn and snarky Heidi Klum, we’re stuck with the middling Mizrahi and former Destiny’s Child second banana Kelly Rowland. As Bravo reality hosts go, the stiff Rowland is deep in Katie Lee Joel territory.

The structure of The Fashion Show is a bit different than that of Project Runway. Each week, contestants show their creations to a room full of fashion insiders, rather than a panel of four judges. The first episode includes a Top Chef Quickfire-style challenge that leads up to the elimination round.

Unfortunately, you get the feeling that the producers made these changes not because it made for a better show, but because they had to as not to become a complete copy of Project Runway.

The Quickfire challenge requires the contestants to make a little black dress out of a little black T-shirt. It’s an interesting idea, but their creations are displayed on dress forms — making it impossible to form an armchair fashion critic’s opinion of which design would look best on a stick-thin model (and forget about imagining the looks on an actual human.)

But the biggest disappointments are the contestants themselves. It would be bad enough if all we had to put up with was the insufferable Merlin, who dresses like a cartoon villain. It’s as if the show chose an entire cast full of Vincent Librettis or Blayne Walshs, to name a few of Runway’s camera-hogging but questionably talented former cast members. In the first episode alone, these bozos deem 90s-style Hammer (excuse me, harem) pants as an essential fashion item and sew tube skirts so tight that even the models can’t fit into them.

At the end, Merlin is placed in the top two for creating what looks like a costume for a circus performer (a bright red and blue romper with a jumbo-size rose at the waist.) Isaac bids first loser Jonny Day adieu by saying “We’re not buying it.” Kelly tells second runner (loser?) up Kristin that she’s “hanging by a thread.”

Of course they’re trying desperately to coin a hot new catch-prhase, in the vein of Tim Gunn’s “Make it work!” And that’s exactly why it doesn’t work.

I’m sorry, The Fashion Show, but you’re out. Auf Wiedersehen.