'Project Runway: Junior': TV Review

Project Runway Junior - H 2015
Courtesy of Barbara Nitke/ Lifetime
The title tells you all you need to know.

Tim Gunn and company make it work once again, this time with teenagers.

Project Runway: Junior is one of those ideas that seems so obvious I actually had to double-check and make sure this was the show's first season.

Following on the success of shows like MasterChef Junior, the fashion-design competition takes the tried-and-true Project Runway format and applies it to teens ages 13 to 17. The talent these kids possess is daunting. I have trouble sewing on a button, so to see the season's youngest contestant, 13-year-old Maya, whip up an intricate and stunning ensemble with $200 worth of fabric is pretty inspiring.

But except for a new host (model Hannah Davis) and a new set of judges (Kelly Osbourne, Christian Siriano and Aya Kanai), the series is an exact replica of the mother ship, just with younger contestants. There are the frantic trips to Mood, the tears in the workroom when something doesn't go according to plan and the words of encouragement and pithy remarks from Tim Gunn. If you like Project Runway, you'll like Project Runway: Junior. If the long-running reality competition isn't for you, you probably can just move along.

The 12 competitors are the reason to watch. There's Jaxson, 15, who says he designs for "badass" women, and Zach, 16, who is "inspired by the feminine body" (but probably for different reasons than most teenage boys). Some are funny intentionally: "I really hope my model feels comfortable with walking down the runway naked," Samantha, 16, says when her outfit doesn't fit her model. Some are funny unintentionally: Sami is designing for an "older woman in her 30s." (Remember when 30 seemed so old?) Others seem to know that flattery will get them everywhere. During his first check-in with Gunn, Matt, 17, says he's better, now that he's "in the presence of a god."

In the premiere's first challenge, the contestants must use the city of New York as inspiration. The resulting ensembles feature everything from skylines to taxicabs. The teens hold themselves to high standards and are encouraging of each other. They offer a different and refreshing perspective on the millennial generation.

The judges promise to be honest, straightforward and "in some cases even tough." But there is a lot of gushing in the premiere episode. "Hands down that was the best first challenge I have ever seen," Osbourne exclaims. Gunn also has the chance to save one contestant if he doesn't agree with the judges' decision. "I'm already smitten. I'm already attached," says Gunn of the group, joking that he would like 12 saves.

When the first contestant is eliminated, Gunn is the supportive shoulder to cry on. "I don't want you for a moment to doubt your talent and your future because you have a fabulous shiny future, and I feel it," says Gunn tearfully.

Heidi Klum is definitely missed. Davis lacks the oomph needed to bring her time on the screen to life. She's reading from a script, and it sounds like it.

The prize is a good one. The winner walks away with a full scholarship to FIDM in California, $25,000 to help launch his or her own line, a home studio provided by Brothers and a feature in Seventeen magazine.

That's more than enough reason to make it work.