America’s obsession with competition-based reality television shows has seen series that run the gamut, from “Survivor” to “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. For the more fashion conscious viewers, “Project Runway” gives audiences the chance to enjoy being a part of the design process, from a distance at least. But last week, while trying to tap into the sartorially-obsessed demographic, NBC put its money on the highly hyped “Fashion Star” to disastrous ratings.
Sales on the clothes featured on the show, however, are sky high.
The concept behind the series is eye-catching. While viewers engage in the hijinks that ensue while designers rush to have their fashion declared the winner on Tuesday night, by Wednesday those same designs will be available for viewers so they can run to the mall and snap them up.
The show is hosted by Elle MacPherson. It also features Jessica Simpson and Nichole Richie as mentors who oversee fourteen nobodies seeking to become somebodies as their collections are sold at Macy’s, Saks, and H&M. Reps from each of those stores are also on hand to help with the selection process.
For the department stores, the gimmick worked: Macy’s has sold out of one of the skirts from the show, a New York City H&M is running low, and Saks reported that sales were plugging steadily along.
On the show front, meanwhile, the situation remains grim.
Jaimie Hilfiger, the niece of exemplar fashionista Tommy Hilfiger, was not impressed. Her career as supermodel and fashion expert, in addition to her heritage, gives her the street cred to seriously impact the show in a negative way. Which is exactly what happened when Ms. Hilfiger spoke about her poor impression of the show following its debut, citing her feeling that it felt like a giant infomercial designed with corporations in mind rather than newbie designers.
Hilfiger also reported that the format of the show felt stale, even with the promise that shelves would be lined with winning designs the day after.
Other critics, however, have supported the “infomercial as reality programming” concept. According to them, as home viewers zip through all available channels without truly taking in the advertising that pays for their programming, product placement and traditional advertisements are failing to have the desired effect on consumers. According to TV insiders, desperate companies are starting to utilize the content of TV shows to advertise in addition to the advertising itself. Like that pair of designer frames the host of your favorite reality series is wearing? This isn’t surprising to execs – you’ll be able to purchase them tomorrow, or from a website as soon as the show wraps up.
These same insiders speculate that the wiser media moguls will take this opportunity in the zeitgeist to reach for the stars by creating interesting television that proves lucrative at the same time.
This isn’t the case for the unfortunate “Fashion Star”, which may find itself on the scrap heap in weeks to come, despite the sunny sales seen by the department stores. Just goes to show that being boring in TV Land, despite other changes to your regular viewing schedule, remains a cardinal sin.