I thought this last season was much better quality than previous seasons. As much as I love PR (and I hate reality television in general, this show being the only exception), they really have been phoning it in, so I was pleasantly surprised this year. They seemed to emphasise the creative side rather than putting too much focus on the drama, and I feel like the contestants were more talented than in previous seasons. I felt a certain renewed energy about the show that I hadn't felt in a long time, I felt the contestants were chosen for their talent and not because they'd make for 'good' TV or because they had a good personal story that was 'inspirational' and made them cry on screen a lot, and like the show found its balance between wanting to be progressive and fashionable.
I love that they took the time to find diverse contestants and to make sure they were all there because of talent, whereas before it seemed they were guilty of some 'tokenism', for lack of a better word. Ashley won because they decided they were going to give it to the plus size designer, and because they thought her sob story would inspire. I think it backfired because most of the people who watch the show watch for the fashion, not the 'inspiration' sob story. It also backfired because Ashley was a cry baby and a passive-aggressive nightmare. I felt similarly about Justin Leblanc (though he had a much better personality than Ashley) who didn't win but was allowed to remain for far longer than his talent warranted - I felt the producers wanted them there not because of their talent but because of what they represented. Which is commendable, but there are many plus size and disabled designers out there who are much more talented and that's who they should have chosen to feature.
I think Project Runway is at its best when it's at its most stripped down and natural. When they forget to plug their many sponsors. They've also stopped doing a lot of bullshit that had gotten tired, like having the designers create stuff for Heidi Klum's godawful fashion lines. The unconventional challenges are the best, because they show you who is truly creative and can work outside of their comfort zone.
I like the menswear challenges, if anything they're always fun. I also think there should be plus size challenges and that it should be seen as a routine part of fashion rather than something they address a few times when they have contestants like Ashley or when they have to dress their moms or other 'real' women and some of them are plus size. I think the show has been really successful in bringing attention to the negative aspects of fashion but they could do a little more, at the very least with one plus size challenge a season. And maybe instead of dressing their moms they would get professional plus size models.
As for the judges, I still think Heidi Klum is the worst. I know they can't get rid of her since she's the face of the franchise but she really is clueless and I hate her obsession with tacky, short and 'sexy' shit. Nina Garcia is the one to impress and the one whose opinion I value the most. Zac Posen is pretty great, way better than Michael Kors who was a good TV personality but is tacky as fuck. They need to stop having so many inarticulate and idiotic actresses and pop singers on the show as guest judges, they're clueless and add nothing to the proceedings.