September 15, 2007

TV review: Tim Gunn's Guide to Style

Okay, it's no secret that I have a huge crush on Tim Gunn. He's my one and only IBF (Imaginary Best Friend). We go shopping together all the time. Why, just the other day we were enjoying lattes and biscotti at Starbucks when he shared the funniest—oh, um, sorry. Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, my point is yes, I was predisposed to liking, even loving his new show, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style. (Thursdays, 8pm Central, on Bravo). But I do have an obligation to my readers to approach all reviews with a degree of objectivity, and I made every effort to do so here.

Even with my most stiffly-starched skeptic hat firmly in place, I found very little not to like about dear Tim’s latest contribution to the fashion-loving public. (Which ties in neatly with the release of his book, Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style; stay tuned to Hellooooo, Gorgeous! for a review.) Here we have what the reality show universe has been crying out for: a makeover show that can boast both credentials and heart.

More after the jump:
Indeed, in the world of makeover shows, few can match Tim’s pedigree as former dean of the Parsons School of Design, current chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne, and, of course, everyone’s favorite mentor on Project Runway. And yet, even though his spot on the Mount Olympus of fashion is uncontestable, he never comes across as supercilious or overbearing. He exhibits a genuine interest in understanding each subject’s unique physiology, lifestyle, and goals, and in gently guiding her toward optimal fashion choices.

And yes, I said “gently guiding,” for on Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, there are no ambushes, no trash cans, no hidden camera footage. Each subject is self-nominated, so precious little air time is devoted to confronting the “unsuspecting fashion victim,” maximizing the time spent on the actual transformation. Not that the show is completely devoid of catty comments (e.g., “That print looks like you should be serving mai tais in Maui” and “I’m getting woozy just looking at it.”). But such bons mots are carefully paced to surface only after the hosts have established a certain comfort level with their subject, and are always delivered with caring and humor.

The show really shines when Tim’s personal fashion-world connections come into play. For example, Week 1’s subject was treated to a personal consultation with design diva Catherine Malandrino, and Week 2’s enjoyed a lesson in runway walking from America’s Next Top Model regular Benny Ninja (which included the classic exercise of walking with a book on her head—nice to know some things never change). It’s these special touches that really set Tim Gunn's Guide to Style apart from the makeover-show crowd.

If I had to cite one fault, it would have to be that I found Tim’s cohost, “supermodel” Veronica Webb, difficult to warm up to. (BTW, is anyone else sick to death of reality shows featuring “supermodels” whom no one has actually heard of?) No, it’s not jealousy—really, it's not, I swear—it’s just that I can’t get a reading on her vibe. If she’s trying to be all girlfriend-y, her interpersonal demeanor and physical appearance don’t always follow suit. And if her objective is to be more “I know fashion; listen to me,” then why do we need her when Tim’s around? Hopefully this particular rough edge will smooth itself out in due time, because this show does have so much going for it.

To sum up, if you’re a makeover-show junkie like me, there is much to enjoy, as the transformation is truly remarkable and there are many delightful surprises along the way. And if you’re totally over the drama, trauma, and general humiliation that often pervade such entertainments, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style will likely prove a welcome breath of fresh air. Either way, it’s definitely an enjoyable way to spend a Friday evening. Not to mention a source of ample inspiration for Saturday morning shopping.

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