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Model behavior: 'Project Runway' still struts, shines

In the dog-eat-dog world of high-end fashion, designers fight it out to be the best. And as Project Runway, the fashion competition reality show, enters its 10th season, its contestants look to do the same.

This season builds on the successful elements of the show’s past, starting with 16 talented designers and whittling the field down by one each week with tough and creative design challenges. In each episode the contestants typically have a day to create a look to present to the judges. The stakes are high: the winner receives a number of prizes, including $100,000 to start his or her own fashion line.

With only the sage yet honest advice of mentor Tim Gunn to guide them, the budding designers must be quick on their feet to wow the judges.

The show’s strength has always been in its stellar casting and this season’s cast of zany contestants never fails to disappoint. The most entertaining aspect of the series is not seeing the contestants’ designs but learning their true characters as they are forced to cope with high-pressure situations.

This season’s cast certainly mirrors previous seasons, featuring the flamboyant gay man, the kind and quirky woman over 50, the class clown, the eccentric and the quiet yet talented underdog, to name a few. Placing so many strong personalities in the same small work space is bound to lead to some entertaining brawls. And just a few episodes in, the season has already laid the ground for some heated rivalries that will no doubt lead to more drama in a workroom made up of flying needles, lost tempers and down-to-the-wire designs.

The competitors’ designs ultimately end up on the runway in front of the judges, where things get even more heated than in the workroom.

From the show’s inception, host and surprisingly quick-witted supermodel Heidi Klum has judged the looks along with Marie Claire fashion director Nina Garcia and fashion designer Michael Kors. Their uncensored criticism continually provides laugh-out-loud moments, especially when competitors who have felt the sting of the judges’ sharp tongues attempt to defend their design choices. The verbal sparring never ends in the contestants’ favor, but it makes for the most entertaining portion of the show.

Project Runway’s major flaw is its length: the first few episodes of the season are an hour-and-a-half long to give each designer adequate airtime. The 90-minute time commitment is a turnoff for many viewers, but if audiences can get through the lengthy initial episodes, Project Runway will in no way disappoint its tried and true fans. And even in season 10 it is still fresh enough to appeal to new viewers as well.

Project Runway airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.