Here’s a secret: I enjoy watching What Not To Wear. I know, they can be needlessly cruel and body-shaming, but I enjoy some snark and the clothes are always fantastic.
Here’s another secret: I don’t enjoy watching Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. I don’t even have a defense for this one! I should like it! In fact, I do like it– I just don’t enjoy it.
Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style is the same general premise as What Not to Wear– fashion disasters get shopping advice and makeovers. But on Tim Gunn’s show, the attitude is totally different. The whole show approaches its participants with a great deal of respect– they’re not “turned in” by their friends; they volunteer themselves. They aren’t subjected to creepy secret photography; they take the pics themselves. They aren’t ridiculed for their beloved clothes, no matter how ugly; Tim will patiently explain why it doesn’t flatter them the way they think it does, but if they still want it, they can keep it. Actually, they’re not forced into doing anything with their clothes; they make all the fashion decisions themselves, with Tim and his co-host in purely advisory roles. Although there are still tears sometimes, they’re treated with respect and sympathy, and it’s clear that neither Tim no his co-host are at all happy to be the source of unhappiness.
It’s also got a lot more exciting components to it than What Not To Wear.
Stacey and Clinton eviscerate their participants’ old closets, send them shopping, rescue them from their own terrible shopping, send them to hair and make up, and then it’s runway time.
Tim gives a high-end gift at the beginning, sends the participant off for some kind of specialized confidence-building experience (one woman learned to walk like a model on a runway, another put together an outfit for In Style magazine’s “instant style” feature, and so on), shows them different clothes on a computer-modeled version of their body, marks on a printout of that body exactly what cuts are most flattering, sends them bra shopping with the female co-host, sends them clothes shopping alone or with a friend, visits them in the dressing room to offer advice, takes them to meet a high-end designer and pick out a couture gown to keep, sends them for hair and make-up, gives another high-end gift, and then does the “runway” show in front of their friends, family, and everyone they’ve met during the show.
Plus, Tim does the whole thing while focusing on building the participants’ confidence and helping them express their personal styles, without ever once insulting them or their clothes. It’s about learning not to be ashamed of your looks, and learning to present yourself the way you want to be seen, not about mocking the fashion-challenged.
Any rational person would conclude that clearly, Tim’s show is both better and more interesting. Except, somehow, I’ve got ten of them in my Tivo DVR list and I never get around to watching more. And even once I do start watching, half the time I’m wondering what else is on or if I should go get a snack. What’s up with that?
I’m not totally sure, actually. I think it has something to do with the editing– for every thirty seconds of actual show, we get ten seconds of Tim in front of this awkward blue-screened background explaining what we just saw. So, he’ll show the participant the computer model of her body, and say, “This is what you really look like! But this is what you make yourself look like when you wear those shapeless clothes! See how gorgeous you are when you wear this instead, and don’t hide your body?” And then we’ll get the blue screen, with the title “3D-Body-Image-O-Matic” (or whatever it’s called), and Tim will expound to us, “I wanted to show her how she really looked, and how the baggy clothes she wore obscured her wonderful body.” And I’ll be sitting there, thinking, “Yes, Tim. I know. You do this every episode. Also, you just said all that to her.”
I refuse to believe that it’s necessary to stretch their content out to the full time– on the contrary, I think they’re cutting the best bits in order to fit in these silly exposition shots. Tim has a great personality, funny but still always professional and even sweet, and I started watching this show entirely because I wasn’t seeing enough of Tim on Project Runway. So give us more Tim! Not more of Awkward Exposition Tim, but actual Tim, giving advice and commentary and interacting with other people. I know you filmed these things, because they’re on your website as outtakes. Stop taking them out!
I’ll probably watch all the recorded shows my Tivo’s got for me, but if I find myself knitting at the same time to keep from being bored, I’m blaming the editors. It takes a special kind of talent to make Tim uninteresting, but somehow, they’ve done it. And they’d better fix it, or I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them.