Some observers are inclined to dismiss Models of the Runway as conceptually DOA, and if they look at the show solely as a reality competition, they'd be justified. After all, the eliminations of the models are something of an afterthought on Project Runway, and the format for this season hasn't helped: When all designers can pick any model after a challenge, the model of the winning designer could conceivably go home, so Models has an added layer of arbitrary fatalism on top of the usual reality arbitrariness.
This very fatalism, though, ought to signal to viewers that we should watch Models of the Runway differently, something that's more documentary than competition. I like seeing the girls in their time away from Project Runway, either in moments of free leisure or when we see them going off to other modeling gigs/auditions (something we won't ever see on ANTM, har har) (which seems also to be the reason why so many designers are stuck without models -- they book other jobs). Actually, allowing for the external world to surround the boundaries of the show helps to situate it in a much less absurdist reality tv context.
Strangely enough, though, this same fatalism gives Models an ethnographic flavor. On this show, the designers are these remote entities that seldom interact with the goings on depicted on Models, but given the reverent tone with which the girls speak of the Designers (well, most of them speak about most of the designers in hushed voices), you almost get the sense that the girls see them as a pantheon of gods whose whims they serve, hoping that they'd done nothing to anger that remote bunch of sewers. Which is funny and where we get the ethnography, because we see what goes on with that entirely fallible pantheon and their own insecurities. It's like watching an unfamiliar culture worshiping its set of deities that turn out to be cast-off cargo, or else, we're watching contemporary Greek epic poetry in 21-minute installments.
Indie rating: Kylie Minogue - "Can't Get You Out Of My Head"