Saturday, August 6, 2016

Project Runway Seasons Ranked- Worst to Best!

Hey, y'all! So, for the past few months, I've been consistently posting my Project Runway Designer Rankings, which you can check out here. And since I've just wrapped that series up, I decided that the best way to bookend that series is to rank the seasons from least favorite to favorite. I have a ton of other Project Runway rankings that I'd like to do, but this one is the major one that I've been wanting to do for a while. This is also really interesting for me, because despite having loose rankings in my mind, I never sat down and actually ranked them until I was preparing for this post.

Just to explain how I ranked these, it's definitely a mix of personal feelings and objective aspects such as the quality of designers and the level of competition in each season. I'm not going to claim that my personal likes and dislikes don't play a part-- they absolutely do, and this is in no way a completely objective ranking. My personal enjoyment of a season and the number of designers that I connected with certainly plays a part in the ranking. But I also feel like I definitely took the objective aspects into account and will certainly argue that the general placement of each season in the list is on par with the objective aspects as well. 

Given that I've already openly discussed everyone's placings in their seasons, there will definitely be moments where I mention/discuss the winner of each season. So, if you'd prefer not to know who won, you might want to skip out on this. That being said, let's just go ahead and jump into this list!

14) Season 6

If you're a hardcore Project Runway fan, this is probably completely unsurprising. For the uninitiated, this was the first season after the move from Bravo to Lifetime and the only season to take place in LA rather than NYC. Not much really worked about this season, and it almost feels like a spin-off rather than a normal season. This was just a really weak cast, not just in personality, but in skill and aesthetic. Almost none of the characters are memorable. The top 3/4 designers are pretty much the only strong designers in the season-- and they're blatantly obvious from very early on. 

On top of this, we had one designer who was such a disaster that he was eliminated despite his team winning the challenge. And, even worse, we had that really weird Johnny controversy that I still don't fully understand. Perhaps this season could be redeemed even a tiny bit by a likable winner, but instead our winner was the contestant nicknamed "Meana Irina" (who unfortunately was probably the strongest designer). Across the board, this was just an incredibly weak season-- few memorable people, few strong designers, few memorable moments, and an unlikable winner. 

13) Season 5

I'll admit that Season 5 being this low could be due to the recency bias-- it's been years since I've watched this season-- but I didn't really like it the first time around either. To me, this season just wasn't that interesting. Many of the people on this season weren't memorable, and most that were memorable were rather unlikable. Like with season 6, I think that we had a strong final 3/4, but that the rest of the designers were pretty mediocre at best. We do get some fun moments with Tim trying to holla at your boy, but did anything else that was vaguely interesting happen this season?

I know that most people have this one ranked quite a bit higher, but I just simply don't like this season that much. I think I'm going to do a re-watch to confirm that I really do want to have it this low, but I really don't think it's necessary. I just really don't like it that much compared to all of the other awesome seasons. It's not quite as low as season 6 because I feel like Season 5 had more strong and more likable designers... but not by a lot. Hence it sitting here.

12) Season 11

Admittedly, as a Project Runway superfan, it's a bit sacrilege to put this anywhere except last or second-to-last. Again, for the uninitiated, season 11 is the blatant outlier because it's Project Runway: Teams. In season 11, the contestants were divided into teams for the majority of the season. They began as 2 large teams, and got shuffled around multiple times before eventually working individually in the endgame. The format just works so completely differently from any other season, and like with season 6, it almost feels like a spin-off show. It's incredibly frustrating to watch people being forced together for multiple weeks in a row. There were also some people this season who seemed to be so outside of what PR usually casts and seemed to be set up for failure from the start. 

Anyway, after that whole spiel, you're probably wondering how this ended up falling higher in my rankings than the other two. Honestly, it's simply more likable designers. Sure, I don't think that there are a ton of super strong designers on this season. I'd say that there are 4ish standouts. However, I really enjoyed a few of the designers. I love Michelle. I love her, I love her aesthetic, and she's definitely my favorite this season. I also really enjoyed Benjamin and Amanda and thought that there were a few more likable people. And despite it being such a different format, the recency of it is a definite advantage. It's definitely a bit more enjoyable to watch the snappier editing and more current aesthetics than to watch seasons 5 or 6 (IMO) so it edged those out just a bit. 

11) Season 14

While I have a definite ranking here, this list has some pretty definite tiers, and this one closes out the bottom tier, which consists of the 4 seasons that are my least favorites/ the ones I think are the worst. We've now reached the highly-contested, most recent season of Project Runway. Tim Gunn has declared this his least favorite season, and I can totally understand. There were definitely people who weren't working up to their full potential and that's just very disappointing. I wasn't very impressed with this season as a whole, TBH. And it's also really hard to know what all to say about it because it is such a recent addition, and therefore it is a little less solidified in my mind. 

I had super high hopes for Swapnil pre-season, and he definitely was rather successful throughout the show but it was disappointing that he wasn't working that hard. Especially after seeing that finale collection. He could've easily won with that finale collection and it's a downright shame that it was just a decoy. It was phenomenal and beautiful. That being said, one bright shining light in this season was Ashley Nell Tipton, the first winner with a strong leaning toward plus-sized designing, which I really appreciated. There were several aesthetics that I really liked this season, but overall I didn't find many of the characters that compelling. And sure, I've only watched it once, but I honestly have trouble coming up with any extremely memorable moments, which is never a good thing. 

10) Season 12

To be quite honest, season 12 is nearly tied with the season just above it. They're at the bottom of this middle-bottom tier of seasons, and I found myself constantly flip-flopping them. The only reason that I chose the other one above this one is that I have some favorites in that season that I like more than people in this season. There were definitely some pretty big moments this season. The Tim Gunn Save being used for the first time was a very touching moment. The Sandro freakout was another one. And then on top of that, just everything about Ken and his drama, especially that fight with Alex Pope. Also, my personal favorite is all of the silliness surrounding Timothy and his oddball designs and his obsession with unicorns. 

Despite this being rather low in my rankings, there's still quite a bit to like about this season. There are a lot of strong designers. There are handful of likable people. If you want drama, there's definitely drama. I think the reason that this falls so low is simply because everything is just not quite as good as other seasons. There are several likable people, but definitely less than in stronger seasons. There's drama, but it's not always fun to watch because of how mean-spirited it could be. There are strong designers, but for every strong designer, there are 2 fairly weak designers. It's just a very watered down version of what Project Runway has the potential to be, and what it has been in the past. 

9) Season 13

Three words describe why, despite being tied with season 12, this one won out. Sean. Kini. Amanda. The end. I think that quality-wise, season 12 might be a better season. If I had to re-watch one of them now, I'd probably watch season 12. BUT. Sean, Kini, and Amanda completely ran the table this season and I loved all 3 of them. They were all so very strong and I loved a lot of the designs that they created throughout the season. And the rainway challenge was outstanding. Of course, given that it's Project Runway, there's drama. Korina creates a lot of drama, especially with Char. But the craziest drama was the drama with Sandhya, the designer from all the way out in left field that no one understood and everyone attacked. 

When talking about season 12, I mentioned that it was basically watered down version of what the show has been in its heyday. And, in general, I think that this might even be more watered down. The designers who transcended that are the reason that it's found itself higher than 12. As stated, I'd be willing to say that objectively, season 12 is better. But Sean, Kini, and Amanda were just so awesome to watch. Even Korina was rather strong. The rest were almost completely forgettable. I liked Alex, Char was alright, Sandhya at least brought some entertainment, and Fade was quirky. If that's the best I have to say about a season's cast, it doesn't bode super well for that season. Fortunately for y'all, this is the completion of the bottom-middle tier of the list. These bottom 6 seasons are leagues below the other 8, in my opinion, so let's not talk about them anymore and let's get into the solid seasons. 

8) Season 1

The season that started it all! I found it really hard to figure out where to place season 1, because it's so incredibly different from the other seasons. While the other seasons' focus was almost solely on the design competition, in season 1 we got several segments in the apartments during the designers' extremely brief downtime. We also got to see a lot more of the drama with the models- Olga hating everything, models not wanting their hair changed, and of course, all of Morgan's crazy drama. The runway was also rather different, because it takes up a sizable percentage of today's episodes, but a minute percentage of season 1's episodes. In fact, half the time, it was difficult to tell who was in the top and who was in the bottom. 

That being said, there are so many standout moments of season 1 that help it stand the test of time. First off, we have the complete insanity that is Wendy Pepper. She was that "I'm here to win, not make friends," person in the most cut-throat, mean-spirited way possible, and it added so much entertainment. And then, there was Vanessa who was just off-the-wall bonkers. But we also had the ever-wonderful Austin Scarlett, who has become a fan-favorite. I could continue explaining why almost every designer on the show made it interesting, but instead I'll just say that the casting on this season was really great. There were so many stand-out characters, and they really made the show. The big dock on this season, for me, is the fashion. Obviously, it's been 12 years since season 1, so a lot of the fashion looks really outdated. That's to be expected. But even then, the designs this season don't stand up to some later seasons, and some of the challenges weren't exactly ones that suited themselves to fashion. For example, the postal worker challenge is questionable at best. Even the best design- which was admittedly good for a postal worker's outfit- wasn't incredibly fashionable. That being said, despite the fashion being dated at this point, the entertainment factor is definitely there.  

7) Season 4

Yes, I'm prepared for the torches and pitchforks for season 4 barely making my top half. You would've been even more upset with me if you'd seen where it was when I originally made this list (aka behind S12). But, since it had been a long time since I'd watched it, I went back and did a re-watch and it moved up my rankings. One of the reasons that it moved up is because of the general vibe to the season. The way that the show is shot, the editing, etc, everything feels like the first few seasons, which for me is extremely nostalgic and very endearing. And it reminds me that I enjoy the way that the first few seasons are put together. And honestly, from #8 (S1) on this list, these are seasons that I genuinely enjoy- the ones that I gravitate toward and want to re-watch. And upon that re-watch, I realized that season 4 definitely belonged among those... but not quite at the top. I debated moving it one spot higher, but I'll explain why I didn't when we get there.

Since this is a fan favorite season, I feel the need to explain why it's not higher on my list, so that's what I'll do. Each season, I tend to find one or two people who are my people. Not only do I enjoy their personality, but I like their aesthetic. And this season... there wasn't really anyone that fit my type of person. Sure, there were personalities that I liked, and sure, there were aesthetics that I enjoyed, but despite several extremely strong designers, none of them came together into the total package. There was one little thing about each of them that I didn't quite love (Christian could be a bit obnoxious, Rami was likable but a little one note, Jillian was sweet but I didn't dig her aesthetic that much, etc.). And quite honestly, I don't agree with the people that hold this season up as a beacon of spectacular fashion. Sure, this is one of the stronger seasons fashion-wise, but I definitely wouldn't argue for it being the strongest. 

And yes, there are a lot of things to like about season 4. You have Elisa's kookiness, Victorya steamrolling team challenges, that amazing avant-garde dress from the Chrises, etc. But for me, this was just a solid season of the show. Definitively a strong season, but not one that I completely fell in love with. The only reason it's this low is because I personally really enjoy the seasons that fell ahead of it on this list. My top 5 is an impenetrable wall of awesomeness, so this would only get 1 spot higher at most. 

6) Season 9

As mentioned in my explanation of season 4, this one slightly edged that one out. I went back and forth between these two, trying to figure out which one I liked more. And what's funny is that argument-wise, this season is the exact opposite of season 4. Season 4's biggest pros are its strong fashion and the fact that it has the vibe of an older season, and its big con (for me) is that I didn't latch on to anyone. With season 9, it definitely doesn't have the advantage of the production of an older season, and has moments where the designing is weaker. But, there are several people among this cast that I do think are strong designers and that I did latch onto. Anthony Ryan is one of my absolute favorite people to be on the show, Viktor isn't far behind, and Josh M brings insane drama. But, while season 4's finale was super strong... season 9's wasn't. Arguably the strongest and most-liked designer of the season, Anthony Ryan, got the auf wiedersehen at #7 in what was (IMO) a very controversial decision. And while the remaining designers were strong for their season, I'm not sure how well many of them would do if placed in a stronger season. 

Anya is also a somewhat polarizing winner. Some people champion her for learning to sew rather quickly and being able to fight her way through the competition to her eventual win. However, other people argue that her skills weren't as strong as they should've been and that her finale collection was a bit one-note. And I kinda agree with both sides. I think it's amazing that Anya was able to do what she did with as little sewing experience as she had, but I feel like she was constantly praised relative to her skill-set rather than objectively on the same level as the other designers. I feel like some of her success can be attributed to less-complicated designs that were executed in an interesting way. And her finale collection winning, IMO, is due to an overall weaker finale. I'll still argue that Viktor's was the best, but drop any of the collections in any other finale, and I don't think any of them would take the prize. That being said, this season is really entertaining to watch, and there were certainly moments of very strong design. The unconventional challenge gave us some really great designs from Anthony Ryan & Olivier. Viktor and Anthony Ryan were rather strong throughout as well. Plus, we got the drama surrounding a designer quitting, and all of the drama that Josh M created on his own. Overall, this is probably a more controversial opinion on my part, but I'm OK with that. 

5) Season 8

As aforementioned, this top 5 is super solid in my mind. I absolutely love season 8. This is one of the most controversial seasons of the show, but that's what makes it so amazing for me. I do have to say that I absolutely despise the finale decision. Tim Gunn has called out the judging on this season, both throughout the season and in the finale. This finale decision is the most highly-contested finale decision in the history of the show, and it was so controversial that Project Runway All-Stars was practically created for Mondo to come back and get the last laugh on Gretchen by winning a lot more money than she got. But aside from that sour spot, there were so many great things about this season. The most prominent is the drama. There was a mean girls clique (really just Gretchen and Ivy) and they spent the entire time they were there just badmouthing everyone. While it was super mean-spirited, it made the show extremely interesting to watch.

The target of most of their rudeness was the poor lil' baby, Michael Costello. They constantly complained about his construction skills and berated him for not being a good designer. It hit a low point when Ivy returned as an assistant and proceeded to accuse Michael of cheating. And part of what made the drama enjoyable is that the underdog got the upper hand in the end. When paired up with Mondo, they didn't get along because Mondo was very wary of Michael with all the drama, but by the end of the challenge, they were besties and it was adorable. Even better, Michael made it significantly farther than Ivy. And, despite just missing out on the finale, Michael has gone on to become one of the most successful designers post-show, regularly designing for major celebrities like Beyonce.

But, of course, there was more than just drama. The fashion this season was really great. Sure, most of the strongest designs came from our eventual top 2, Mondo and Gretchen, but there were some really outstanding looks. There were also several likable people outside of the mean girls. Valerie was a great designer and really likable, as was Andy (now Ari). Peach might not have been the strongest designer, but she was a lovable underdog. Mondo's emotional moment on the runway in the design-a-fabric challenge is still a standout among all of the seasons. There's just a lot to love about this season, and even though there was some mean-spirited stuff going on, the resulting drama makes the show even more entertaining. I think this season is the total package-- great designs, rootable characters, and some really great drama.

4) Season 7

I'm not sure how much of an unpopular opinion this is, but if loving season 7 is wrong, I don't want to be right. I was super torn between this one and the one that got 3rd place, and I even originally had this one in 3rd place. This was the season that I started watching Project Runway. This used to be my favorite season, and it's fallen just a little bit. I think season 7 is criminally underrated. Sure, there are a lot of weaker designers, but the top half of the pack are super strong. There are so many standout designs-- hello, Seth Aaron's mommy & me look & Jay's trashbag couture. There are a ton of really likable designers. Even Janine, someone that I didn't gravitate toward, was an incredibly sympathetic character. And we also had people like Ping who were just totally out of left field oddballs that created drama. On top of all of those, I can't say enough about the top 3 and how much I love them. They were strong designers on top of being really likable. 

There wasn't too much drama this season, which is pretty unusual for a season that winds up this high on my rankings. But the personalities on this season are really what got the season up this far. If you've seen my designer rankings, you'll know that Seth Aaron Henderson is my favorite Project Runway designer. He's such a strong, immaculate designer. There's a reason that he was the first person to win 2 Project Runway seasons. On top of that, Emilio Sosa was also one of the strongest designers to be on the show. He completely killed the competition... ignoring the washer bikini. And Mila was really strong too! A bit one-note, but still very strong. And you can't forget Anthony, one of the most endearingly hilarious designers to be on the show. Plus, the heartbreak of Maya quitting when she was killing it left and right. There's just so much to love on this season, and I definitely did love it. 

3) Season 10

I. LOVE. SEASON 10. For me, the top 4 are the like... holy grail seasons. I've mentioned that season 8 is kinda a total package for me, but season 10 is a definitive total. package. I would argue that season 10's finale episode is one of the strongest in the history of the show. Even then, there were also a handful of designers who could easily have taken one of those slots in the finale as well. I would definitely argue that this season progressed as it should have. The weak designers were out early, and the strongest designers made it to the end. And drama? Oh, the drama. Designers quitting? Check! Designer that causes total chaos all season? Check! Designer shamelessly berating their model? Check! Nearly identical designers who bicker constantly? Check!

And the fashion this season? Amazing. As alluded to earlier, there were some extremely strong designers this season. I'd argue that any of the top 8 designers could've made it to the finale with little to no argument from me. The only argument would've been that Ven was super rude- and that's nothing to do with his design ability. In the end, I do definitely think that the strongest designers made it to the finale, but put some of the other designers in another season and they'd be a finale shoo-in. I mean, the eventual winner of this season, Dmitry, also handily won his season of All-Stars. Seven of those top 8 designers ended up on All-Stars, and most of them did really well on All-Stars as well. I think it also helps this season that I really loved a lot of the designers' aesthetics- once again, especially the top 4. 

And on top of all of that, there are so many likable people! Christopher Palu gave us some of the best confessionals we've ever seen- a beautiful combination of sarcasm, wit, sass, and humor. Dmitry, our Belarusian ballroom dancer, was also a great personality, giving us great lines like "Ven is one-way monkey" and bringing humor to pretty much every scenario. Fabio was this lovable odd-ball- weird but quirky in the best way possible. Even Gunnar, the constant antagonist to Chris, was fun to watch in the Christian Siriano archetype. And Elena was off-the-wall bonkers, screaming at people and running around like a maniac. And I haven't even mentioned Melissa and Sonjia, who didn't have the hugest personalities, but were both inherently likable. Like I said, this season is just the epitome of the total package for me. The drama is there- and it's enjoyable drama! The personalities are big, bold, and lovable. And the designing is some of the strongest we've seen in the history of the show. 

2) Season 2

If anyone has any qualms with my rankings on this post, it's probably not with season 2's placement, unless you think it should be at #1 (and trust me, I seriously considered it). The first 4 seasons are typically the most-loved seasons, and many people consider season 2 to be their favorite. And there are tons and tons of reasons to love season 2. Once again, total package. This season has some of the most memorable, note-worthy designers to appear on the show, both design-wise and personality-wise. Although the fashion is dated at this point, the fashion was extremely strong for its time. And there are also so. many. memorable moments. Dramatic moments like Andrae's meltdown on the runway, Santino's fight with Nina, and Zulema's infamous walk-off. Endearing moments like the designers attempting to ice skate and Project Runway: The Musical. And, of course, the infamous... "What happened to Andrae?" Santino's impression of Tim Gunn will live in infamy forever, in or out of Red Lobster.

The designers this season were incredibly memorable. Santino Rice is a standout designer from the show, with a bigger personality than any past or future designers combined. Daniel Vosovic was this lovable 20-something fresh out of design school who walked in and mostly demolished everyone else. Chloe didn't have the biggest personality, but she was inherently likable and very strong. Nick was the obvious pro with a great personality. Andrae was... Andrae. Zulema was... Shetangi. And Daniel Franco followed his bliss. The cast was amazing, and led to some awesome designs. Unfortunately, the favorite to win got robbed (IMO) in the finale, but that's a small smudge on one of the craziest, most memorable and well-loved seasons of Project Runway.

1) Season 3

And finally, coming in at first place is season 3. This is definitely high up on most people's favorites list, but I'm not sure if this would be many people's number one season. But, I absolutely love it. There are so many big personalities this season- Vincent's kookiness, Kayne's hyperactivity, Keith's cockiness, Mychael's likableness, Angela's... Angelaness, Jeffrey's aggressiveness, etc. etc. There were just so many characters, and a ton of great designs as well! And even the personalities that weren't as big were really likable. We got some big drama, some great fashion, and a really strong final four. 

Once again, there are also so many great moments this season. This was the first time that a designer was disqualified- Keith was found with design books and left the set, so he was eliminated from the competition. We also got that great drama surrounding Jeffrey and his interactions with Angela's mom and all of the crazy drama surrounding Jeffrey and Angela in general. Even more, we got all the controversy with the claims that Jeffrey cheated in the finale. But despite the drama, we also had some super strong designers. Poor Mychael Knight was a front runner the entire season, only to deliver his disco safari finale collection and get axed at fourth. But despite that flub, the final 4 of season 3 are one of the strongest group of finale designers. Sure, Mychael's collection wasn't great, but in terms of his design ability, he was elite. Even the pseudo-villains this season are only pseudo-villains, as many of them still end up being likable/enjoyable at the end of the day. I just absolutely love this season. I've watched it so many times and each and every time I absolutely love it. The reunion episode this season is one of my absolute favorite episodes of the show. Everything about it is so entertaining and there's a reason that it's one of the most beloved seasons of the show. 

So, that's my list of the Project Runway seasons, ranked from worst to best! Let me know down in the comments which season of Project Runway is your favorite, and what you think of my ranking of these seasons! 

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