By Tom Gliatto
Bravo (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)
A seamless match of Survivor
's competitive hunger and Zoolander
's vogueing nuttiness, Project Runway
is currently propelling forward to its March 8 conclusion like a model marching along to notions of destiny, however vague. This second season has been fabulous. What viewer can forget design hopeful Andraé Gonzalo's grandiose fit of laughing sobs? It put Diana Ross in Mahogany out of my mind forever.
Divas aside, Runway
is an instructive, inspiring look at fashion at its roots, its subsoil. Literally: One challenge required contestants to make dresses from fresh plants. But design requires not only a sensibility's growth, but its disciplining. Lately we've seen Santino Rice, whose aesthetically overreaching designs look like something Dali might have made for H&M, slapped by the judges again and again. And from Nick Verreos we learned that you can only go so far with Paris Hilton
and Mykonos as inspiration. But isn't it wonderful that he got anywhere with that concept? There are losers here, but no perfect zeroes.
PBS (Feb. 15, 8 p.m. ET)
How slowly the royal year seems to pass at Windsor. Airing in three hour installments, this prettily filmed documentary dawdles about the gilded halls of the queen's home and pokes around in every corner: the kitchen (where the clocks are always set five minutes fast), the stables, the deer park. We meet the bell ringers who chime even when the royal family is back at Buckingham. The third hour is best: A staff debate, politely muted but pointed, breaks out over the redesign of the gift shop of the castle's cloister. A proposed logo of St. George is dropped; the face is too effeminate. This has the silly urgency of a classic British comedy of manners.
HBO (Feb. 25, 8 p.m. ET)
Just a few weeks after Judy Davis whooped it up as murderess Sante Kimes in Lifetime's A Little Thing Called Murder
, Annette Bening stars in another weird, dark satire about a woman notoriously on the verge. She plays Jean Harris, the prim headmistress who spent nearly 12 years in jail for the 1980 shooting death of her straying lover, Scarsdale Diet doctor Herman Tarnower. The tone here can be offputtingly strange: brittle, flinty yet over the top. (Cloris Leachman, in particular, plays Tarnower's sister with reptilian ripeness. A hoot.) But Ben Kingsley makes a convincingly seductive brute of the womanizing doctor. And Bening, who has the bitter, mellow voice of a swan that's given up hope of ever flying again in moonlight, is quite moving. Shortly before trying to purchase a gun, Harris sits alone in her car, brooding on suicide. "Most people get used up and spat out by life pretty quickly," Bening says in voice-over, "but they don't have a clue it's happening. I was born with all the clues. And I was cursed with the singular ability to watch all the clues play out."
It's a crystallizing moment: a woman of tremendous self-knowledge about to cede self-control.
1 That voice: coated in caramel, unironic and just a smidge nasal. Den father to the Project Runway
contestants, Gunn could read aloud a box of Rice-A-Roni and make it sound like a manifesto for good design.
2 His calm in the face of the stressed-out, needle-wielding designers. Now, when my own deadlines loom, I hear his signature directive: "Okay, people, it's make-it-work time!"
3 He's the real deal. When he's not wrangling his TV charges, Gunn is chair of fashion design at New York's Parsons The New School for Design. So, if he says your lingerie line evokes "Park Avenue octogenarians," you know it's time to reach for the seam ripper.
(ABC, Feb. 13, 9 p.m. ET) Dr. Travis takes the three finalists to Venice, Vienna and the Alps.
(CBS, Feb. 15, 8:30 p.m. ET) Season finale (even though it's only February) for the family sitcom.
The Tonight Show
(NBC, Feb. 15, 11:34 p.m. ET) This year's cover model from the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Swimsuit Issue drops by.
Half & Half
(UPN, Feb. 13, 9:30 p.m. ET) Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child stars in the first of three episodes as a record exec with HIV.
Inside the Actors Studio
(Bravo, Feb. 12, 8 p.m. ET) Dave Chappelle, having broken his silence with Oprah
, now sits down with the bearded one.
A Dr. Phil Primetime Special: Love Smart
(CBS, Feb. 14, 9 p.m. ET) Dating tips for none other than Paula Adbul.
Hosting the History Channel's archaeo-adventure show Digging for the Truth
, survival expert Josh Bernstein, 34, has hacked through jungles and scaled mountains. He talked to PEOPLE about his exploits.
WHY WORK IS NEVER A CHORE I visit the greatest sites from the Andes to the Alps to the Arctic. Despite the illnesses and exhaustion I've had to endure, I'd still do it. Every day that I'm still alive, it's a good day.
ON HIS BIGGEST THRILL Being in the upper chambers of the Great Pyramid at Giza, that was special. Almost no one goes up there. That was a "Thank you, this is a great job" moment.
ON WHAT SCARES HIM I don't know if I could bungee jump. I have no problems skydiving. There's something about the snapping of that line!
WHY HE DOESN'T NEED BUG REPELLENT I have this relationship with insects. They just know not to bother me too much. Mosquitoes will land on everyone and not me.
HOW HE COPES WITH THE RIGORS OF TRAVELING I need good food, a good night's rest and some classical music. Oh, and maybe a hot shower. Anywhere you can take a shower is a good place.
ON THE SURVIVOR CASTAWAYS I think all of them should learn survival skills [beforehand]. It's embarrassing every time I see them try to make fire and fail. It's not that hard.
ON HIS DREAM ASSIGNMENT It would be fun to explore the moon. Tell NASA they should put me at the top of their list!
Bravo (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)