Reality Check: Writers Strike Won't Sink 'Project Runway'

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Writers strike got you down about the prospects of catching up with the folks on "Grey's" and "Heroes" this season? Here's one beacon of hope: Bravo's "Project Runway" starts its fourth season Wednesday.
Tea and sympathy: Elisa (right) shows off one of her dresses.
Tea and sympathy: Elisa (right) shows off one of her dresses.

It's been a little more than a year since the top-rated season three went off the air, but it somehow seems even longer than that. Probably because Bravo was forced to fill the hiatus with mediocre imitators such as "Top Design," "Shear Genius" and two seasons of "Top Chef," none of which could offer up memorable characters on par with season one's Jay McCarroll or season two's Santino Rice. Even Ulli, the German runner-up from season three, was somehow more compulsively watchable than anyone from those other shows based on her ├╝ber-cute accent alone.

As if to make up for the lost time, Bravo held its first public "Project Runway" fashion show last week in a tent outside New York's Lincoln Center, showcasing three designs from each of this season's new crop of 15 contestants, complete with sponsor swag (a gift certificate from new sponsor Bluefly, an assortment of M.A.C. makeup and chocolates from Hershey's). Show regulars Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn and Nina Garcia all showed up, but Michael Kors was a no-show; he was in Korea launching the latest extension of his namesake collection.

The tent was packed with hard-core "Runway" fans who weren't afraid to voice their approval of their favorite designs. Haute couture was the clear favorite, with the showiest gowns earning the loudest applause. Most popular was the designer who crafted a shimmering copper-toned dress with sleeves and a hoop skirt -- like a Disney princess gone seriously glam.

Having seen the season premiere, Water Cooler can safely say this cast already measures up to the quirky designers who came before them. Prediction: Elisa will be portrayed as season four's token whack-job. She's a talented designer who garnishes beautiful, high-fashion pieces with one eyesore of an extra feature. All three of Elisa's models came out shoeless and in dresses made out of what looked like burlap bedsheets. One was even flecked with noticeable tea-dye stains. Guess who's getting a harsh critique on the runway this season.
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