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Those crazy Catens


If I were a Bravo executive, when Project Runway left for the Lifetime Network, I would've felt a little like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk after his golden goose was repossessed. The show was the network's centerpiece. But rather than let the desertion ruin them, Bravo countered with a new fashion show, hoping it will be Project Runway's runaway replacement.

Hosted by fashion-designing twin brothers Dean and Dan Caten, Launch My Line premiered at the beginning of December 2009. Rather than duplicate their prior success, Bravo has taken a different route. This time, contestants aren't even designers. Well, half of them aren't. Ten individuals, successful in their own areas of expertise--choreography, music, writing, architecture, business--are selected to design their own clothing line. Paired with actual designers, many who have clothed the famous, the contestants compete in weekly challenges.

If you're a fan of Project Runway, Launch My Line's glaring differences are offensive at first. Who are these contestants? Why are they so bitchy? Why would I want to wear clothes designed by a disc jockey? And who are these pint-sized hosts? They look and sound like little boys playing dress-up.

But all of the things that were annoying at first, slowly became charming after watching a handful of episodes. The Caten twins--uber-famous designers of their own Dsquared2 clothing line--are quirky little Canadians. The fact the contestants aren't fashion insiders makes for interesting designs--or, sometimes, an interesting lack thereof. And as the paired designers range from quiet pros to loudmouthed prima donnas, the unavoidable personality conflicts--while perhaps hindering the design process--sure make for fun train wrecks.

Because the contestants were asked to select their lines' fabrics in only a few minutes at the show's outset, and were not even given a choice on who they were partnered with, expecting a coherent fashion line to result seems farcical. But again, this is no Project Runway. It either isn't meant to be, or it isn't allowed to be.

So then, can Launch My Line fill the void left by its popular predecessor? It's hard to tell for sure. Though it may be the worst reality competition on Bravo--which isn't saying much given the appeal of Top Chef, Top Design, Shear Genius and now-gone PR--it has room to grow into something good. Clearly, if it doesn't, it'll be saying "auf Wiedersehen" (a la cancellation) as well.