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Image: Project Runway
F. Scott Schafer  /  Bravo
The prolonged absences of judges Nina Garcia, second from right, and Michael Kors, right, is hurting the show. Supermodel Heidi Klum, left, is also a judge. Tim Gunn mentors contestants.
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updated 11/12/2009 5:39:55 PM ET 2009-11-12T22:39:55
Commentary

As we near the end of season 6, I challenge anyone to convince me that Michael Kors’ and Nina Garcia’s prolonged absences haven’t been disastrous for this season of “Project Runway.” Nina herself more or less acknowledged this fact a few weeks back.

An utter lack of continuity on the panel paved the way for the premature elimination of talents like Ra’mon, Epperson and Shirin. And that’s not the only problem it created — at least according to the vociferous “Runway” fans who comment on the boards of my TV Watch (thank you for weighing in each week!) and to recently auf’d designer Gordana Gehlhausen. Their argument? That the judging has been unnecessarily harsh of late.

Now, part of the reason we all watch the show is to experience the laugh-out-loud packages of wit in which Michael, Nina, and Heidi wrap up their critiques. But in past seasons, even the sternest of admonishments usually came with a constructive chaser that kept the words from feeling gratuitously bitchy.

The chemistry of the Holy Fashion Trinity tended to guarantee an affectionate jocularity. (I give you: “That crotch is insane!”) This year, that’s been rarer. A lot of fans, for instance, were put off by Jennifer Rade’s icy take-down of Qristyl in episode 4. And even more of them have commented on Heidi steadily turning up the harsh-o-meter to 11. This last point in particular unnerves Gordana. When the fourth-placer came to the EW offices for “Project Runway Talk,” she explained how hard it was to relive Heidi’s glare while watching the Bob Mackie episode. She also talked about much she envied the supportive brand of judging that the “So You Think You Can Dance” contestants enjoy each week.

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