Fashion Star

Tyler Golden/NBC

Ben Silverman returns to NBC with a crass take on the fashion reality genre.

You know how, after a season of Project Runway, you're left with anxiety about which of your favorite budding designers will get their collection produced and have an actual career, rather than a TV moment? Well, NBC's Fashion Star is an elimination show that eliminates the guesswork by having department stores buy or reject the work on the spot. You can go out the next day and buy it. And then everybody's happy, right? Well, maybe not viewers.

Given the staying power of Bravo's Runway, it's no surprise that some of the show's creators would want to replicate that with a splashier network version. This team, led by Ben Silverman -- the short-lived NBC entertainment chief whose expertise rests more in masterfully "packaging" talent, ideas and advertising than it does in top-shelf programming -- takes its shot but falls in to the X Factor trap by amping up a tried-and-true format until the final product has all the subtlety of a Victoria's Secret runway show. In fact, the series starts with Elle Macpherson presenting her lingerie line and calling it a "multimillion-dollar business."

Once Macpherson gets her infomercial out of the way, it's on to the rest of the show. Which is, not so strangely, almost exactly like an infomercial. The "beauty" of Fashion Star may come down to its ballsy, nearly transparent attempt to be one glorified ad. In many ways, it's totally brilliant Silverman. You can be appalled or impressed.

And what would this be without finger-snapping commentary from its judges? "It looked like the top half of him was going to a rock concert and the bottom half was going line dancing," fashion icon Nicole Richie tells one designer.

Joining Richie in the sassy-mentor role are Jessica Simpson and John Varvatos, that hip purveyor of rock 'n' roll style. For the first two episodes, anyway, Michael Kors' title as the queen of fashion snark is not in danger from the likes of these three.

"Those dresses," Varvatos tells another designer, "they're like 4 a.m., and they're hoochie."

After the panel has weighed in, buyers from Macy's, H&M and Saks are given the chance to bid to sell each designer's outfits. The bidding process is less than thrilling, but none of that matters. The people who put this together are thinking about how to "incentivize" people to buy. Whether that makes for good TV -- or any new "fashion icons" -- will be up to the viewer.

Airdate: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13 (NBC)