Lifetime announced today that it plans to air Project Runway All Stars, a spin-off series with all new judges and 13 of our "favorite" contestants returning to compete again. Naturally, the idea made me a little bit excited, but then I realized, why do we need to watch these losers again?
Project Runway isn't the only one. Big Brother is currently airing a season in which six popular players returned to play with newbies, and Tyra Banks is doing bizarre publicity stunts in Times Square to draw attention to America's Next Top Model's upcoming all-star season. These shows aren't by any means the first. Survivor has done two and Big Brother already had one of their own, Top Chef indulged in the trend, as did Project Runway with a one-time all-star showdown. We're sure that the assorted also-rans circling around American Idol will be back at it in no time.
But the cast of Project Runway All Stars highlights all the troubles we have with dredging up the remains of past seasons. While there are some delights (Mondo! Austin Scarlett! Suzanne Sugarbaker!) there are even more snoozes. We didn't even enjoy watching some of these people the first time around and we certainly can't remember their faces or even one thing they designed. It was even worse when reading the casting announcement for ANTM. I've watched every damn episode of that show and I must have asked myself, "Who?" thirteen times while reading the cast—and then went into a fury that Jade wasn't cast. An America's Next Top Runner-Up All Star Edition without Jade is nothing short of a sham!
Also, none of the people who we really want to see come back for a second whirl. Christian Siriano would never do PR again, nor would Jay McCarroll. Anyone who has has any sort of success following the show wouldn't bother giving it another shot. It's not really an "all-star" edition at all, it's the "stupid and/or desperate enough to do it again" cast. The people who turn up aren't designers or chefs, they've become professional reality show contestants, just like the awful automatons on MTV's Challenge who have never held a real job in their lives other than airing their fights and feelings on The Real World and it's attendant franchises.
For those that do return, the grist that has already been churned through the mill once, and they're too self-aware of what this experience will do to their lives. They're beholden to the "character" that they played the first time around and play it to the hilt, giving the audience what they think it wants. Or, even worse, they're trying to revamp the negative image of themselves that followed their first go-around. (Just ask Big Brother's vile screech factory Rachel how that's going for her during her second time in the monkey house.)
While it's especially cruel to pit people who have been on a competitive show before against people who haven't (historically the veterans always win), let us not forget that these people are almost all, quite literally, losers. These people weren't the next top model or designer or chef or outlaster on a desert island the first time around, what makes us want to root for them again? Have they learned something great in the years since their ouster? Most likely not. This is no longer about finding great undiscovered talent (shouldn't they have been discovered by now?) but judging which is the tallest of the remaining midgets.
When it comes to reality television, what the audience loves the most is the new. We want to meet the best talents, the craziest bitches, the lovable heroes, and the people out there that have something entirely different to offer. We want them to dazzle us for a season and then quickly forget about them as soon as the next cast is announced. An all-star cast completely ruins the element of surprise. Now, if I could only find a way to force myself to stop watching these reunions, they might stop doing them altogether.