Archive for Tuesday, March 13, 2012

‘Fashion Star’ is new, yet completely familiar

March 13, 2012

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I have seen the future of television, and it is “Fashion Star” (8:30 p.m., NBC). Not really. But every so often you have to write the “I have seen the future ...” line or they take away your critic license. This began in 1974, when writer Jon Landau claimed he saw the future of rock in the presence of Bruce Springsteen. The rest, as they say, is history. And history shows that Landau started making serious money when he hung up his pen and started producing music -- for Bruce Springsteen, among others.

In its own small, glitzy way, “Fashion Star” is trying to reinvent television. It’s hard, though, to resist history’s gravitational pull when you carry the ballast of so much reality television, namely Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie.

How can “Fashion Star” claim to be pioneering anything when it is essentially the 99th remake of “Project Runway”? “Star” also borrows just as furiously from “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” as it does from Heidi Klum’s show.

As on “Runway,” this show pits 14 designers against one another as they try to please three judges: Simpson, Richie and John Varvatos. But what sets this show apart is the presence of three department store buyers who evaluate every new mini “collection.” The buyers can either bid a dollar amount or hit the button that indicates “No Bid” and results in a rude noise. It’s not unlike the big X on “America’s Got Talent.” And as on “Shark Tank,” the buyers can bid against one another for the designer’s wares.

The show’s major hook is that any outfit given a bid will be available the very next day either in that department store or in its online shop. It’s a little like an “American Idol” performance being available on iTunes at the end of each show. But to date, you can’t download a miniskirt, so this is a new wrinkle in the blending of TV merchandising and entertainment -- not to mention rapid- fire garment industry manufacturing.

All of the judging and auditioning for product placement doesn’t allow much time for designer backstories. “Fashion Star” moves at a demon pace, complemented by frantic music and oddly paced puffs of smoke. At the beginning of the show, we’re barely introduced to its novel approach when a jarring fashion show erupts from nowhere. The stage fills with young models, barely clad and slouching with sullen contempt to the deafening refrain of a new version of the 42-year-old song “American Woman.” Out walks super-host Elle Macpherson, who isn’t an American woman at all. She’s Australian. In the world of “Fashion Star,” such details hardly seem to matter.

• TV-themed DVDs available today include the complete collection of the Saturday morning cartoon “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.”

Tonight's other highlights

• Parenting by proxy on “Raising Hope” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Schmidt feels used on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A cannibal problem emerges on “The River” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Mistaken identity on “Body of Proof” (9 p.m., ABC).

• Ava gets tough on “Justified” (9 p.m., FX).

• “Wild Serengeti” (9 p.m., Animal Planet) follows a massive annual migration.

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