I usually at least try to appear supportive of these recommendations, but goddamn, I hate Netflix’s reality programming. I hate how cheap and exploitative it is and how they shoehorn that fucking neon circle into each show. Every time I see it, it feels tackier.

I’ve seen the contracts for these shows, and I know they’re shot for next-to-nothing, and very rarely do contestants get nothing but grief, even if they win — come on, $200K? In this day and age? — but Netflix itself almost always turn a massive profit, which makes it even worse.

That said, I have been watching reality shows since the modern makeover in the early naughts — yes, I’m old enough to have live-watched the first season of SURVIVOR (which I’ll note had a $1M payout) — and watched more than my fair share of PROJECT RUNWAY seasons — most of them live — as well as wanna-bes like one-season weirdos like THE CUT.

NEXT IN FASHION is very clearly Netflix’s very cheap take on PROJECT RUNWAY.

I’ll note: I am married to a fashion historian. When she was in college I helped her with her collections, because she needed more hands and mine were the closest, and I take instructions well. I’ve worked on websites for a bunch of designers, attended a number of illustrious fashion events — I’m very familiar with this world in a way I never would have expected.

The thing about PROJECT RUNWAY is that: both of the leads were not just experts in their field, but proper and established mentors. That was the allure. You’d actually learn from them, as opposed to simply being judged.

So, NEXT IN FASHION is very lucky to have Gigi Hadid. Tan, while engaging, is clearly out of his element here. He has nothing to offer but mild quips and grey tips. Gigi, on the other hand, succinctly explains — and articulates — why certain looks do not work.

That said, reality shows are built on the backs of their contestants. And I’ll note that NEXT IN FASHION’s contestants have a better reputation than most. They’re not starving artists or fresh-out-of-school; most of them are far more established than those you’d see in early seasons of PROJECT RUNWAY.

That’s what makes the show far more interesting to watch, because you know you’re watching seasoned workers just here for promotion instead of thirsty amateurs that barely know what they’re doing. I’m so used to the latter regarding reality TV shows that I was absolutely surprised to realized — halfway through the season — that no, that’s not the tact they took.

I love watching skilled people do what they love, but that’s a rarity with reality TV! I realize most just want to see people fuck-up via terrible shit, but I don’t! I want to see people revel in doing what they thrive for; I want to learn from them, even from their mistakes! I’m a stupid nerd, but I endlessly want to be taught, and this show helps with a bit of that, despite Netflix’s shenanigans.