PASADENA, Calif. -- At a time when millions are sheltering in place -- laid off from jobs or working from home without a reason to change out of pajamas -- Amazon's "Making the Cut," streaming Friday, offers escapism made more enticing by the show's stars: Former "Project Runway" mainstays Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum.
With two episodes debuting each Friday through the April 24 season finale, Amazon's "Making the Cut" is more international -- contestants are from countries worldwide with episodes set in Paris and later Tokyo -- and supremely self-indulgent.
While some viewers complain about too many commercials, streaming series can hang themselves when given a more leisurely running time. "Making the Cut" indulges in watching contestants in forced sightseeing outings and forced conversation as Tim and Heidi go on a "date night" to the Moulin Rouge. And that's after an introduction where they break the fourth wall, cooing to viewers about their excitement over their new show.
Yes, a bigger Amazon budget is evident with all the travels and eye-popping settings for runway shows (the first one uses the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop) but that's all gingerbread atop what viewers tune in to see: designers and their creations.
The good news is the fashion competition at the heart of "Making the Cut," as in "Project Runway," remains strong. The competitors are mostly serious designers. They're not gimmicky distractions to be laughed off stage (except maybe one).
The prize is bigger than "Project Runway" ($1 million on Amazon's new show) and the eliminations are staged somewhat differently. Instead of being "in or out," designers are either told they're "making the cut" or not.
Despite episodes with long-ish running times, "Making the Cut" doesn't show the judges offering post-runway critiques to every designer, just the top two and bottom two.
As head of the judging panel, which includes Nicole Richie and Naomi Campbell, Klum tells contestants the judges have already conferred and basically decided contestants' fates, but she encourages them to try to change their minds, saying, "A conversation can change everything."
The biggest difference from "Project Runway" is that designers, now with the help of a seamstress, create two outfits each week: one runway, one ready-to-wear with the latter available for purchase on Amazon.com.
"Finally our audience can shop," Klum said in January at an Amazon news conference during the Television Critics Association winter 2020 press tour. "That was very important for me that we're gonna go with a company, such as Amazon ... in order to have that component for these designers, because that was never possible before. You see something, you want it, but you can't have it. So here, you have a winning look every week and people can buy it around the world."