February 25, 2006

"Project Jay" -- what's really going on here?

I finally got around to watching "Project Jay," the reality show that follows around Jay McCarroll, the Season 1 winner of the reality show "Project Runway." I was surprised to see that he played a little role on "The Comeback," that fiction show about a reality show that follows around Valerie Cherish, the star of the fictional fiction show "I'm It." He played the designer whose red dress Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) accidentally wears backwards to the Emmys.

Well, so, how real is "Project Jay" anyway? We see him getting a call from "Project Runway's" Heidi Klum asking him to make her a red dress to wear to the Emmys, and this sets off a flurry of activity with him rushing around trying to complete an assigned task that isn't really what he wants to do -- just like on "Project Runway." The task takes him out to Los Angeles, where he seeks out Kara Saun (from Season 1) to help him and where Heidi inflicts extra surprises on him to create tension: he didn't have her correct measurements (and expresses on-camera amazement at the immensity of her breasts), so he must remake the dress (with some weird old guy sent in to do the actual work), and then she rejects it anyway (making him cry). I smell phony, phony, phony.

And how about the scene where he just happens to be shopping at Mood (the fabric store incessantly featured on "Project Runway") and -- ooh, look! -- there's Austin Scarlett! (Another Season 1 contestant, in case you don't know.) Austin just happens to have a fashion show soon! What a coincidence! Then Jay goes to Austin's show, and Wendy is there. (If you don't know why that's ridiculous.... just get the Season 1 DVDs and get up to speed, please.)

Okay, all of this is just too absurdly set up! And how about the beginning, where he's back in rural Pennsylvania living with his parents and whining about how isolated he is? But the cameras are there making a reality show about him! Are we supposed to be idiots, or is this a spoof of a reality show?

Well, maybe the tip off is "The Comeback." We're supposed to laugh and enjoy our inside knowledge of the phoniness of reality shows. It's deliberately over-the-top phony, right?

I found this interview with Jay, which kind of hints at the real situation. He has some sort of contractual dispute with the "Project Runway" people, where I think maybe they all hate each other but still want to use each other. He refused the two main prizes he won, and, in the interview, says he can't talk about it but "use your imagination." Apparently, they wanted to own too much of him. I'll bet the Season 2 contracts lock the contestants into the deal beforehand.
TIME OUT NEW YORK: Who do you think will win the new season?

JM: I would love Santino to win. He’s edgy and I’m sick of this one-trick-pony thing that the judges keep telling him. That’s his style. That’s why Calvin Klein makes f**king tunics and why Betsey Johnson makes f**king floral chiffons. Mixing shit up is what he does. He’s arrogant as f**k and people will put him in his place along the way but, once again, he’s covering up for his insecurity. Look at him! He is a gigantic weirdo, six foot five, voice like the devil, looks like Lurch. Would I want to see more of Chloe? Probably not. Would I want to see more of Daniel V.? Probably not.

TONY: Will it be weird for you when there’s another winner?

JM: Let it move on. I’m trying to distance myself from the show and to establish Jay McCarroll. Am I supposed to be more thankful for the process? I feel like I’ve given so much. You saw ten weeks of me. I showed you my family, my collection, my thought process, I cried, I laughed. And I didn’t receive a penny.
Some very hard feelings there. We also learn that "Project Jay" was originally an 8 episode series, but that it got edited down to that one hour we saw. Okay, so I no longer think it was some "Comeback"-like spoof of a reality show. I think it was a crazy manifestation of contractual hostilities and commercial exploitation.

Oh, the things that can entertain us these days!


Jen Bradford said...

I really liked it, and I'd watch more of him. He was obnoxious when he appeared as a guest judge this season, but this show was a reminder of how fun he could be. I loved when he envisions himself carrying the rejected dress down the runway on a hanger. And the whole thing about his physical appearance, and how he wouldn't have evolved if he'd been born hot - very funny, but sincere as hell.

Maybe the red dress smelled like smoke during the fitting. Ha ha.

tiggeril said...

Jay's amusing to watch on TV, but he's not going to make it very far in the egoland that is fashion unless he learns how to walk by a bridge without burning it.

Jen Bradford said...

Huh? He seems pretty well in the loop with everyone from the first season. But avoiding being owned by anyone so early in the game is smart - even Ray Charles could see that.

The Commercial Traveller said...

Although Season One's Vanessa was assy beyond all description, she did make one comment in an interview that I think hints at why neither Jay nor any other Project Runway winner will probably amount to anything in real fashion.

The dilemma here is that the real people that buy these high-end ridiculous clothes are ususually uber wealthy and uber snobbish and don't want to buy things from a winner of a reality TV show.

On the other hand, the people that do watch reality TV are middle and lower income people that dress rather conservatively and won't be caught dead in the kinds of fashions that Project Runway rewards.

Again, can you see any Oscar contender proudly announcing that they're wearing a Jay McCarroll? Or, on the flip side, can you imagine one of your co-workers wearing something Jay would design?

Ann Althouse said...

C, good point. But Jay's style is a kind of punky streetwear. He could go in a mass-produced popular direction. He said his favorite fabric to work with is cotton knit. He should make cool things for ordinary people.

Ann Althouse said...

Jen: Good point about the smoke.

knox said...

c: I'm not sure about this, but I think for some designers, the stuff you see on the runway is conceptual, and the actual clothes produced for the public is more wearable.

Maxine Weiss said...

Ann: You watch entirely too much TV !

Peace, Maxine

J. Cricket said...

Ann: Oh, the things that can
entertain us these days!

Jack: Indeed. I am entertained every time I see you take the time out of your life to watch this crap and then blog about it.

femme feral said...

There's only ONE episode? that stinks.

I thought project jay was great.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Maxine: Au contraire! I watch exactly the right amount of TV: as much as I want.

knox said...

Oh, all you self-righteous anti-TV people, p*ss off.

There's plenty of posts on this blog, and others, I am totally bored by. Guess what. I don't read them. I don't post a comment about how *Ann* shouldn't be interested just cause I'm not.

neptunerh said...

Hey There. I worked on this show. A few things to clear up. Yes, Jay did indeed run into Austin at Mood. It's a magnet for designers in NYC and is often a place where designers run into each other. The problem is that you can't just shove a camera into someone's face; you have to ask permission. We asked Austin's permission; he said yes. Therefore, the only fake part of this scene is when they actually first meet (and if you watch closely, you can hear them laughing and being fakey-fakey with each other). The rest of the scene played out for real.

Another clue is that Austin is not at all dressed up for the camera. He did not know we were going to be there...

As for Heidi asking for the dress. This, to me at least, is clearly a publicity stunt. But Project Jay doesn't shy away from this fact. Jay says he was roped into doing it. I can assure you, her turning the dress down was no stunt. It was a sad turn of affairs.

One of the things we are most proud of with Project Jay is that it explores the blurred line between the fakiness of Hollywood, and the realness of a person just entering that world. It's exciting to see people skeptical about tv. That's how they should be, and I'm glad that Project Jay helps instigate these discussions...


C Merry said...

Wow I like this guy a lot but you make some great points!

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