Reality Check: Decade-old 'Project Runway' still walks on the cutting edge

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Heidi Klum had her doubts.

Ten years ago, as she ran around New York City trying to promote a new reality television program that involved sewing, she and the producers braced themselves to see whether "Project Runway" was going to take flight or tank because it looked "like an arts-and-crafts project."

"Project Runway" debuted Season 10 Thursday. It's one of the few remaining big name shows that hasn't had a Pittsburgher on board, and Nathan McDonald of Zanesville, Ohio, will have to suffice for now.

It's a given that television audiences will embrace everything from baking cupcakes to singing a cappella, but back when the show began, Bravo was pre-"Housewives" and reality television wasn't yet a ratings magnet.

On the first episode of the series, which has since found a home on Lifetime, Ms. Klum sent a group of designers to a grocery store, where silver fox mentor Tim Gunn helped them "make it work."

Winner of that inaugural challenge, Austin Scarlett, constructed a cocktail dress out of corn husks, and "Runway" never looked back.

"I love the challenges using unconventional materials," Ms. Klum said.

For the upcoming season, Ms. Klum teased a few details. One of the challenges will be to design something for Radio City Music Hall's famed Rockettes ("This is something that will go down in history," she said), as well as sending the designers to Dylan's Candy Bar, a boutique sweet shop.

Ten years is a long time, but Ms. Klum said she still has a favorite designer: Season 4 winner Christian Siriano.

"He's just a little Jack Russell [terrier]. He just does not give up," she said, explaining that the designer constantly calls to ask what he can design for her. Ms. Klum wore one of his creations to last year's Emmy Awards.

As a designer, she said, "You have to be like that. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and he squeaks all the time."

• On Cupcake Wars (Food Network, Mondays), Pittsburgh native Amy Lung was runner-up in a challenge that involved creating a Hollywood bling theme for a party given by "Private Practice" star Kate Walsh. Ms. Walsh has a new fragrance, "Billionaire Boyfriend," and Ms. Lung and the other three pastry chefs were to come up with cupcakes that were not only blinged out but also smelled nice too.

It could be argued that nothing smells better than freshly baked cupcakes all by themselves, but whatever. Ms. Lung, who graduated from Moon Area High School and now lives in New Jersey, created with her "Art of Cake" co-owner a finale cupcake lineup that included an upside-down pineapple cake version.

Displayed on a stand resembling a yacht, the 1,000-cupcake masterpiece was praised by the judges but did not win.

• On "Big Brother" (CBS Sundays, ETC), Shaler Area grad Ian Terry baffled the Houseguests with his bedtime behavior. Pacing around the house after many of the others had gone to bed, he crawled under furniture as though looking for a hidden immunity idol (wrong CBS show).

Some of the others in the Head of Household suite were watching on closed-circuit TV, amazed that Mr. Terry, who has been a huge fan of the show since elementary school, would forget he was on screen.

Highly unlikely he forgot, so what is he playing at? The show's producers must love Mr. Terry, who so far has exhibited the sort of behavior that keeps viewers watching. Although he has creeped out a few of the other contestants, he was awarded immunity in the first week (a very good thing, as he was later shown running around naked, except for a carefully placed cowboy hat).

Ashley Iocco, 26, flew under the radar and was safe from elimination. The mobile spray-tan business owner is originally from Murrysville.

What you didn't see on the various TV broadcasts, but thanks to reports from dedicated fans who actually watch CBS's various online extra content (some of it requires a paid subscription): Ms. Iocco apparently is suffering back problems.

More eye-opening: she and Mr. Terry went on a date. Inside the house. That must have been ... interesting.


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published July 21, 2012 4:00 AM


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