By Alynda Wheat
August 28, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT
Mike Yarish/Lifetime Television

The hand-wringing was for naught. Now that Lifetime has Project Runway in its clutches, the network has done…practically nothing to it. Tim Gunn still motherhens the designers, the dramatic arcs feel familiar (one designer is a recovering addict, another gave up a career as a surgeon), and — wonders to behold — there’s even a branch of the fabric store Mood in Runway’s new Los Angeles home.

Change, for those looking for it six seasons in, comes with the new companion series, Models of the Runway, which gives the catwalkers their own spotlight. But do they really need any more illumination? Models‘ problem is that its weaknesses are Runway‘s strengths: While the designers’ fates are almost entirely in their own hands, the models depend on needleworkers to keep them in business. And the stitchers have tightly focused challenges, like making red-carpet wear in the premiere, but the mannequins often seem like they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. (Big mistake — Tyra Banks keeps those Top Models hoppin’.) The new series does succeed, though, in personalizing the ladies. For instance, we see model Yosuzi’s classy reaction after Runway snipper Mitchell accuses her of lying about her measurements and then forces her to walk in a sheer garment. But so what? By virtue of Runway‘s rules, when it comes to her elimination, there’s nothing she can actually do to save herself. Ultimately, we realize, we’ve spent 30 minutes watching people who have as little power in this world as we do, and there’s no drama in that. Project Runway: A?; Models of the Runway: B?

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.
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