If it were up to us, "Project Runway" would never be "out," it would just play on a loop 24/7/365.
Sadly, Season 14 will say auf wiedersehen on Thursday, November 5th, so now seems like a good time to take stock and rank the previous 13 seasons, with the expectation that the 2015 season will probably fall somewhere in the middle of the pack once it's done. (Tim Gunn "hated" Season 14, but there have been worse.) Every season of PR is a precious, unique little rhinestone, but, like the judges, we have our favorites -- and now it's OUR turn to be biased.
So here's our very subjective but still definitive worst-to-best ranking, which may only be challenged by a glare from Nina Garcia, an eye roll from Michael Kors, a "make it work" from Tim Gunn, or an "out" from Heidi Klum.
13. Season 11 (aka 'Teams')Maybe it seemed like a good, or at least dramatic, idea at the time, but "Teams" was a problematic concept for a full season. It brought out the worst of the show without really giving the designers a chance to be truly creative and show their individual talents to the audience. It was frustrating, and even though the season gave us a strong winner in Michelle Lesniak, a good winner can't save a troubled season. Plus, this was the first season without Michael Kors as judge and even though Zac Posen is wonderful, once you've tried Kors, Kors Lite just isn't the same.
12. Season 6This was the L.A. season and showed why PR is strongest in New York. Swatch (the dog at the NYC Mood), the heart of the show, wasn't there and things just weren't the same in L.A. There weren't too many standout moments this year, other than eventual winner Irina Shabayeva getting the nickname "Meana Irina" even though she wasn't even that mean... compared to others in the franchise.
11. Season 9The 2011 season had a tough start when we had to watch the 20 designers pitch themselves to the panel to earn one of the 16 spots. There's a reason we usually skip that part. But it was really frustrating that so much of this season focused on Anya Ayoung-Chee having no sewing experience and not even knowing how to make a sleeve. She still won the whole season, despite doing a very basic (but still very Anya) collection that belied all the usual construction/improvement criticism. The season had a lot of big personalities and engrossing drama, but overall it was more frustrating than fun.
10. Season 12This is another one with a great winner -- Dom Streater -- but a mixed bag along the way. Kate Pankoke was voted back from Season 11, for whatever reason, and she bonded with Helen Castillo, who spent so much of her time getting emotional that it was a struggle to watch. But she wasn't even as bad as time bomb Sandro Masmanidi, who quit, or Ken Laurence, who just got way too mad. Justin LeBlanc was a welcome respite, but, overall, this season seemed more about dramatic personalities than design.
9. Season 13There was some drama this season from Korina Emmerich vs. Char Glover, Sandhya Garg vs. everyone else's taste, and Kini Zamora being robbed (at least from here). But it also produced some fantastic designs, especially from Kini and winner Sean Kelly in "The Rainway" challenge, and from Amanda Valentine, who wasn't really an obvious choice to return but turned out to be great. It's a bonus that this season had so many likable but still unique and different people worth rooting for, with not that many "reality TV personalities," especially toward the end.
8. Season 7Why did Maya Luz quit?! It still seems so random when she was doing so well, but there were a lot of strong designers this season, a lot of big but still likable personalities to root for, and a little bit of controversy to keep things interesting. Seth Aaron Henderson did some standout work in 2010 (and he'd go on to win "All-Stars" Season 3) but Emilio Sosa, Mila Hermanovski, Maya, Anthony Williams, Jay Nicolas Sario, and -- bless her -- Ping Wu made for a memorable season (in a good way).
7. Season 5This season had some standout designs -- Suede's cocktail dress for the Natalie Portman challenge, Korto Momolu's amazing seat belt coat -- but it's still a little surprising that Leanne Marshall of Team Ugly Brown Fabric managed to win over both the perpetually robbed Korto and the retro fabulous (if abrasive) Kenly Collins. Leanne's wave-inspired finale collection was stunning, but her full season work was eclipsed, from here, by more creative designs. Not a bad season, but not a great season, and it suffered in comparison to the one before.
6. Season 10The Boris and Natasha dynamic of Dmitry Sholokhov and Elena Slivnyak was worthy of its own spinoff, and they were both incredible designers. (Neither one was a "one-way monkey," although we now use that phrase all the time.) It was frustrating to see Dmitry denied challenge wins for so much of the season, but he was rewarded in the end ... and then rewarded again in "All-Stars" Season 4. This season also holds the dubious honor of two designers quitting, when both Andrea and Kooan left between Episode 3-4 for personal reasons. This show is like "Survivor: Fashion" sometimes, and you have to know that going in. Toughen up!
5. Season 8It's so hard to know where to put this season because, on one hand, it had arguably the most controversial winner ever in Gretchen Jones and a lot of clique-ish bullying (especially of Michael Costello), but, on the other hand, it also introduced the talents of PR superstar Mondo Guerra and gave us several memorable designs. There was a lot to talk about this season, for better or worse, from personal drama to garment debates. It still seems like they had an "All-Stars" season right after this to placate angry fans with a Mondo win.
4. Season 1If Season 1 hadn't been so strong, "Project Runway" would've been one-and-done and our lives would've been the lesser for it. PR hadn't quite settled into its groove in 2004, but it introduced the format and personalities we've loved for more than a decade. From Austin Scarlett's corn dress to Jay McCarroll's colorful finale collection, and Morgan's model drama to Wendy Pepper owning her role as reality TV villain, this was one for the books. Plus, amid all the big characters were down-to-earth talents like Kara Saun to show us that PR was really serious about fashion and not just drama.
3. Season 3As SNL's Stefon might put it, Season 3 had everything -- memorable unique designs, big personality clashes, major controversies, and a few heroes and villains of note. Jeffrey Sebelia ended up winning, even though he fought with Angela's mother, his "everyday woman" client (leading her to cry) and was accused (but cleared) of cheating in the finale. His final collection was strong, but so were the very different but still impressive pieces all season from Laura Bennett, Mychael Knight, and the perpetually robbed Uli Herzner. (Lifetime, please give a spinoff to Uli and Korto. They could do anything and we'd be here for it.) Keith Michael was disqualified for rule violations, including having pattern-making books, but, overall, this season is still more memorable for the good things -- like the fan favorite designers and the strong fashions -- than the controversies.
2. Season 2Lighten up, it's just fashion! Season 2 of "Project Runway" is hands-down the funniest and one of the most entertaining seasons of any reality TV show ever. Even someone who doesn't care about fashion would get a kick out of Santino Rice's Tim Gunn impression (Where's Andrae? At Red Lobster, on his date with Tim), enjoy the tension of Santino's showdown with Nina Garcia (I'm SORRY, Nina!), get "Daniel Franco, where did you go" stuck in their heads, and eat up the delicious drama of Zulema Griffin trying to steal Nick Verreos's model. (It's a motherf--king walk-off!) There was great fashion too, especially from Daniel Vosovic, who kinda choked in the finale, giving the edge to the quietly powerful Chloe Dao. The only reason this isn't No. 1 is because, fashion-wise, it wasn't the strongest, and fashion should always win out on a fashion show.
1. Season 4Uber fierce! The 2007 season is still the gold standard when it comes to fashion, especially from the final three -- Christian Siriano, Rami Kashou, and Jillian Lewis. Any one of them could've won and been one of the strongest winners ever. In the end, PR created a superstar in 21-year-old Christian, who made that ridiculously amazing finale collection from his tiny apartment. Mind-boggling. The creativity this season was so inspiring. You had to just be in awe of the artistry, especially in the candy challenge, the avant-garde challenge, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art visit. It's still crazy that Jillian's Twizzler dress didn't even win anything. This season didn't just have great fashion, it also had its share of big personalities, drama, Elisa Jimenez spitting on her clothes, and Jack Mackenroth having to leave for medical reasons, bringing back beloved Chris March... who proceeded to make a final collection out of human hair.
Season 4 wasn't as funny as Season 2 or controversial as Season 3 or 8, but -- from here -- Season 4 is what PR is all about.