Speaking at the 92Y last night, Project Runway mentor and all-around great human being Tim Gunn said of Season 8, "I had never been part of a season of the show where I found the judges' decision-making to be more...incomprehensible."
"If anyone thinks that I take this for granted, and think, Oh this show is just simply going to continue — I'm shocked every season," said Gunn, the former head of the fashion design program at Parsons. He continued, "And actually, after the conclusion of this season — no-one knows-" and here, Gunn's voice was drowned out by cheers from the nearly full house crowd, although it sounded like he said, "if we'll even be back again." More cheering. This audience was in the tank for Mondo. "Talk about the truth being stranger than fiction!" Gunn joked. "If it were fiction, I would fire the writers."
Bear in mind that Gunn has not actually seen the last four episodes of the season in question, which ended with the viewer favorite HIV+ contestant Mondo Guerra losing to print-happy Portland resident Gretchen Jones. Gunn says he doesn't get sent DVDs, was traveling a lot this fall, "and the hotels I was staying in didn't have Lifetime." (Since its controversial move to Lifetime, the show has been streamed free online.) But he shed a little light on what went on during the filming:
"Heidi came to me during the judges' deliberation for the finale, and I have to say, I was...truly incredulous about how this judging was going. And I was miffed. So I wasn't exactly user-friendly when dear, lovely, adorable Heidi, when she came to me. And I sit behind the crew, the camera crew, in the literal and metaphorical dark, and Heidi came up and asked, 'Who do you want to have win?' And I said, 'Well, why do you care? I'm not a judge.' And she said, 'No, really, who do you want to have win?' And I said, 'Well, Mondo of course!' She said, 'So do I! I need your help with Nina [Garcia] and Michael [Kors].' And I said, 'Oh, no, they're going to get really annoyed with me if I go with you and start to talk to them — it's not, this will not be pretty. For me.' So I followed Heidi. And she held my hand. And I tried to make a case to Nina and Michael while they were looking at me like 'Die, scum, die.'"
Klum had read about Gunn's little crack about how she and the other judges might as well be, uh, smoking crack. "When she walked me back to my seat in the dark, she had my arm and she whispered in my ear, 'So am I no longer a crack-smoker?' And I said, 'No, you're not. But unfortunately you passed your pipe to Nina and Michael who now have a double dose!' Completely crazy outcome." He added, deadpan, "I'm happy for Gretchen."
Controversial moments in judging aside, Gunn is clearly very proud of Project Runway. He remains in contact with many of the past contestants, almost all of whom are still working in the industry. (This was confirmed when, later that night and completely by chance, I happened upon Chris March, a Season 4 finalist. Meryl Streep wore one of his dresses to this year's Academy Awards. Gunn still keeps in touch.) None has become a breakout star — though Christian Siriano comes close — but Gunn believes the show does a good job portraying the business faithfully.