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'Project Runway': Tim Gunn talks about losing his cool this season

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Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Fourteen seasons into a reality TV competition, most shows can be forgiven for defaulting to an “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but the new season of Lifetime’s design series will feature something unprecedented: a seriously pissed-off Tim Gunn. Ahead of the new season, which begins on Thursday, Gunn gave us a preview of the upcoming competition and his very uncharacteristic freak-out.

I’m personally excited for the show to be back because you might be the single nicest person on TV.

You may change your tune a bit, because the one characteristic about this season is I grow very impatient with the work that the designers are creating because I find that it’s not up to their potential, and I actually lose it in the work room one episode, with each and every one of them individually. I just lose it, and it’s not pretty. It woke them up, I’m happy to say.

So you yelled at every designer individually during one visit to the work room?

It was the end. Quite frankly, I see my interaction with the designers in many ways being in collaboration with the judges’ interaction. I kept repeating, “What’s wrong with you judges? Why aren’t you helping me with this whole issue?” We just keep thinking it’s as good as it can get. It’s not as good as it can get. It needs to get a lot better. I kept pushing and pushing, and it still wasn’t happening. Finally, I just thought, “It’s time.” I went off.

What happens when Tim Gunn goes off?

I certainly don’t scream or throw things. I could have my moments, potentially. I’m just steadfast and relentless in my position regarding their work, and I just don’t respond well to excuses, and I don’t want to hear about their time constraints, and I don’t want you to go into a sulk about. Just rally and get this work done.

I think that’s really true to the spirit of the show, because you really just want everyone to be as good as they can be.

Exactly. So when the judges are rewarding work that I think is really inadequate, then the designers think, “Oh well, now we’re being enabled to work at this pace.” When there are that many designers, it takes between four and four and a half hours to make one round in the work room. But even when I’m not there, I’m on set all of the time. I’m in the production room, looking at what’s going on and what’s not going on. I see the chatting and the visiting and the snacking and the smoking, and I lose my patience with it. But there hasn’t been a season prior to this where it’s been so egregious. I’m still puzzled by what’s at the core of it.

Something must have been systemically wrong if the entire group was off their game.

Oh, yes. I kept saying to the judges that there was one designer in particular that needed to go because I felt that once that designer left, it would A) send a resounding message to all of the remaining designers about how serious this is and B) the laziest of the lot would be gone and it would help eradicate all of the other laziness. I was so surprised. These designers had seen the show. It’s season 14. You come with your game.

I feel guilty because I know how personal this is for you, but I’m sitting here thinking that sounds like good TV.

Well, it is. The producers are very happy.

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