One of my favourite “reality” TV shows – in fact one of the few I watch – is Project Runway. Filmed in New York, the show pits aspiring designers against each other with seemingly impossible sewing challenges, with each episode culminating in a runway show and elimination. Like many such shows, the contestants are housed in the sponsor’s serviced apartments for the duration. With a dozen or more “artistic types” living, working and competing with each other, it is not surprising when tempers fray.
Season 12 saw several designers lose their cool, and each time it has been mentor and producer Tim Gunn who has stepped in to resolve the tensions. Jessica Rawden writing for TV Blend website observes:
Sure, Project Runway is about the fashion, but it’s also about sticking a dozen or so people into a room and asking them to compete against one another day in and day out. The competition aspect isn’t supposed to be easy, and getting along with people can be pretty difficult, especially when team challenges are involved. I know Gunn is trying to do the right thing here and keep people on task, but would it hurt him to let people deal with their emotional problems in their own ways? For once, I wish he wasn’t so good at his job. It would make for a better hour of television.
In my opinion, Tim Gunn genuinely cares for the health and wellbeing of the designers. Whether he is a natural mediator or has been trained I do not know; what I do know is that he can defuse tense situations and manage High Conflict Behaviours with a calm grace that would serve him well in any dispute resolution setting.
From discussing a designer’s garment in the work room to brokering peace between bickering contestants, he is a deft hand at reflecting and reframing people’s statements, reality testing a person’s position, and using silence as an intervention.
I would happily have Tim Gunn as my co-mediator any time!