In this fashion show, flacks trump frocks
Fashion reality programming has given us everything from budding designers making couture from potato sacks to stylists scrambling to find frocks for starlets. Having exhausted nearly every aspect of the industry - and knocking off its dearly-departed “Project Runway’’ with pallid imitations - Bravo finds a new way to bring viewers into the rapid, vapid world of fashion: a show focused on fashion publicists.
“Kell on Earth,’’ which premieres tonight at 10, captures the drama and meltdowns you’d hope to see from a pressure-cooker office staffed with employees of varying intelligence. Bravo delights in preying on underlings in these settings - waiting for the slightest hint of dissension before cutting away to the confessional cam. Those hoping to see a focus on fashion may be disappointed, but the show has one very strong element in its favor: Surprisingly likable taskmaster/boss Kelly Cutrone, head of the PR firm People’s Revolution, is the glue that holds the chintz together. If Cutrone’s pale visage looks familiar, it’s because we’ve seen her no-nonsense approach in a supporting role on MTV’s kind-of-reality show “The Hills.’’
“The fashion industry is a war, which is why we have a take-no-prisoners kind of attitude,’’ the crusty Cutrone says in voice-over in “Kell on Earth,’’ as we see those standard shots of people with shopping bags shoving their way around the Big Apple. A few minutes later, she brusquely tells her staff of effete gents, delicate young women, and career-hardened ladies about her no-crying-in-the-office rule: “If you have to cry, go outside,’’ she announces. “If you’re sensitive and somebody hurts your feelings, I don’t give a [bleep].’’
For all her bluster, however, Cutrone is viewed as a mother figure by her staff, and also by her 7-year-old daughter, who lives with Cutrone upstairs from the bustling office. You can see how she cares for her staff, particularly her gay Goth assistant Andrew Mukamal, who accessorizes his full-length sequin gown with bondage jewelry (“What I’m wearing has the power to entrance,’’ he purrs).
The rest of the staff is not as easy to digest. Robyn Berkley, the self-professed “Snow White with razor blades,’’ seems to be witchy simply for the fun of it, while her assistant Andrew Serrano, who resembles Chris Kattan with a spray-on tan addiction, tries pushing Ativan on fellow employees to calm them down when seating charts for New York Fashion Week go awry.
The show’s big weaknesses may turn out to be a lack of A-list designers (People’s Revolution does not handle top names) and a heavy reliance on contrived conflict. But watching the makeup-less Cutrone bulldoze her way through problems and dispense stern wisdom is a relief: finally, someone in the fashion industry more interested in playing the salty sage than the glamour girl.
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.