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'Fashion Star': Will the glitz wear well?

THE SHOW "Fashion Star"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday at 9:30 on NBC/4; moves into its regular 10 p.m. time slot next Tuesday

REASON TO WATCH It's bells and whistles galore in this "Project Runway" meets "The X Factor" meets Home Shopping Network meets game-show fashion competition that offers a new kind of instant gratification for viewers.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Searching for the next big brand in fashion, model and lingerie-company mogul Elle Macpherson hosts this flashy fashion fest that begins with 14 wannabe designers competing to become the next "Fashion Star."

Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos and Nicole Richie are mentors, and three elite buyers from some of America's top retailers (Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and H & M) bid -- or don't -- on designers' runway looks each episode. Natch, there's a weekly challenge . . . and . . . as the tried-and-true format goes, one designer is eliminated, in this case, by the buyers, with the kiss-off line, "You are not our fashion star."

What's new? During each episode, the buyers compete with each other to purchase the looks they think will be hits at retail. These are sold in stores and on their websites the next day. At the end of the whole shebang, one lucky contestant receives $6 million in orders for a capsule collection.

MY SAY Let's start with sensory overload: Dancers, pounding music, flashing lights, game show podiums and a boisterous studio audience are dizzying in this somewhat overproduced series. Along with all that jazz come some pretty high-profile people doing the mentoring and buying on the show. They detract from the "getting to know and care about the contestants" moments, though snippets are woven in with the glitz. But the mentors are good, particularly prickly designer Varvatos, who doesn't mince words -- he calls one collection "hootchie" (it was). Richie also surprises -- she's smart and rather funny, though her signature flapper headgear looks a bit ridiculous, while Simpson, though sweet as pie, is quite frank.

If the celebs are good, the buyers are stellar: Caprice Willard (Macy's), Terron E. Schaefer (Saks Fifth Avenue) and Nicole Christie (H&M) make on-the-spot big-buck offers (or not) to purchase collections, rendering that designer safe (or not) for the week.

And some of the clothes are lust-worthy, so much so that we plan to buy a dress that will be available after the first show . . . for real.

BOTTOM LINE If you can see the forest through the trees, it's good, wearable fashion that's the real "fashion star" on this show, and it gives viewers an unusual glimpse into the world of retail despite all the superfluous hoopla. You might just end up with a great, new wardrobe.


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