THE SHOW "In Vogue: The Editor's Eye"
WHEN | WHERE Tonight at 9 on HBO
WHAT IT'S ABOUT As Vogue celebrates 120 years of fashion coverage, this one-hour documentary directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato seeks to shine a light not on iconic Anna Wintour (focus of 2009's "The September Issue") but on the fashion editors behind the throne, eight staffers from past and present who oversee the magazine's elaborate photo shoots, and who "have always been our secret weapon," says Wintour.
MY SAY When it comes to helming a behind-the-scenes look at the tony mag, Bailey and Barbato don't seem the most obvious choice -- their credits include "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." They track Vogue's growth from 1890s Gibson Girl covers to World War II pictures (of Buchenwald) to 1980s supermodels and today's celebrity focus. Along the way, we glimpse into the homes and memories of editors like 100-year-old Babs Simpson (don't get her going on Lady Gaga), steely Diana Vreeland protegé Polly Mellen (who recalls the famed snake-with-a-nude-Nastassja-Kinski shoot), and outrageously French Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele ("I meexed everyzeeng . . . put couture weeth ze jeans").
We get backstories on famous shoots -- the one with the Doberman that nearly sank its fangs into Christie Brinkley's ankle, or Liz Taylor nearly sinking hers into editor Jade Hobson during a clash of wills. Wintour provides historical context, and celebs like Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker pop up. But the filmmakers seem to struggle to get past the sleek, chic surface. What fuels and frustrates these women? The closest we get to drama is with Mellen, who reveals "a certain loneliness to being a fashion editor" (Vreeland told her to buck up) and admits some displeasure with Vreeland's abrupt firing and the arrival of more service-oriented Grace Mirabella.
Still, the sumptuous fashion spreads are eye candy for fashionistas. And just as "The September Issue" made fiery redhead Grace Coddington a star, this doc's standout has got to be editor Hamish Bowles, who is at once articulate, amusing, candid, human even. And, oh, yeah, as charming as David Niven.
BOTTOM LINE "In Vogue" doesn't get quite as far "in" as one might hope, but the mag and its polished crew never fail to intrigue.