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August 4, 2006

Secret deals aren't part
of this reality show

‘Project Runway’ joins two other shows in DVD release

One of the great joys of living in the DVD age is the ready availability of television shows in easy-to-handle sets.

Back in the Paleozoic Age, when VHS ruled the world, three or four episodes of a sitcom could fit on a single clunky tape, meaning that a season of 26 episodes could take up seven tapes.

There’s no reason to get technical and give the actual volume of space taken up by those cassettes. Suffice it to say, DVDs can fit a show’s entire season into the space taken up by one tape.

For instance, Project Runway: Season Two collects the entirety of Bravo’s reality competition on four discs, giving a field of hopefuls the chance to become a world-famous fashion designer.

Project Runway is one of those guilty pleasures, much like America’s Next Top Model. Part personality portrait, part competition, the audience can get to know the various wanna-be designers as they battle each other for supremacy.

However, unlike shows like Survivor or The Amazing Race, the contestants compete based on their skills in their chosen fields. There are no secret machinations, allegiances or loyalties in Project Runway, just a group of people pitting their design skills against each other.

For the most part, there is little animosity between the contestants. American’s Next Top Model is much more famous (or infamous) for personality clashes, with at least one completely reprehensible and unlikable diva each season. On Project Runway, however, virtually everyone seems to like everyone else.

Certainly, there might be personality traits that rub other contestants the wrong way, but overall, each designer is likable.

The true joy of it is, without resorting to stereotypes, just about every male on the show is gay, gay, gay. Even the heterosexual guy on season two (who actually returned after being voted off early on season one) is pretty darned gay. It’s amusing watching the other contestants express their secret surprise that he likes girls.

And for the women, Heidi Klum is supermodel-hot, which is understandable, since she is a supermodel.

Margaret Cho’s all-American sitcom

Another fun boxed set is the complete series of All-American Girl, Margaret Cho’s short-lived sitcom and the subject of many a reminiscence in her comedy act.

Set in San Francisco in the early-to mid-90s, Cho plays Margaret Kim, a Korean-American who lives with her parents, two brothers and grandmother. She attends college while working at the cosmetics counter at a department store with her ditzy best friend and their Amazonian colleague Gloria, played by lesbian comedian Judy Gold.

Margaret’s mother (portrayed by Jodi Long, who looked nowhere old enough to be her parent) is in a constant battle of wills with her daughter, trying to get her to be a bit more “traditional.”

There is an intensely amusing piece in the pilot where a handsome young Asian man hits on Margaret at work. She is suspicious of him, believing that her mother sent him. When he slips and uses her first name before she has told him, she catches him in this deception and threatens to tell her mother of his error.

In addition to the Sapphic Ms. Gold and bisexual Ms. Cho, the older of her two brothers, Stuart, is played by B.D. Wong, the man who took Gedde Watanabe’s title of “Best known gay Asian actor.”

Queer drama in full color

Finally, there is the Season One set of Noah’s Arc, Patrik-Ian Polk’s queer drama about a circle of African American gay men and their lives, loves and travails.

Noah (Darryl Stephens) is the adorable waif, in love with a closeted thug; Chance (Douglas Spearman) is the suburban professional; Alex (Rodney Chester) is the drag/drama queen, and Ricky (Christian Vincent) is the slutty boutique owner. Not that most of the rest of the cast don’t get to be slutty, it’s just that Ricky is the “Brian” of Noah’s Arc, to use a Queer as Folk reference.

Noah’s Arc, shown on the MTV-owned Logo LGBT cable network, has something that is sorely missing from QAF: people of color. Folk is far whiter than its Pittsburgh setting, and waaay the hell whiter than Toronto, where it was filmed.

One of the biggest problems with Noah’s Arc as an episodic series is that, being on Logo, not that many people can watch it on a weekly basis. On some cable systems, Logo is in the high-end digital package, unlike its basic-cable parent. Other systems just don’t carry it at all.

Now, however, everyone can watch Noah’s Arc. Well, assuming they have a DVD player. Plus, in season two the series added Keith Hamilton Cobb, the dreamboat from All My Children, The Young and the Restless and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. At this time next year, that DVD set will be out.


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