As 'Project Runway' returns, it's still the cut that counts

Nine seasons into "Project Runway," it's no longer enough to be able to design and construct an outfit out of your own navel lint.

Although Heidi Klum would love to see you try.

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Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn of Lifetime's "Project Runway"

"Because we're a little bit mean," says Klum, Thursday's season premiere (9 p.m., Lifetime) brings 20 wannabes to New York and ditches four of them before the navel-lint challenge even begins.

(Non-spoiler alert: It's not actually a navel-lint challenge. But it's way too close for comfort.)

There's no one from Philly this season, but contestants with interesting back stories include a Mormon ex-banker who's in New York for the first time (did he see Broadway's "The Book of Mormon" while he was in town?), a former Miss Universe contestant who's only been sewing for four months, a guy who's both a testicular-cancer survivor ("I rock one now") and, more significantly on this show, colorblind, and a 57-year-old recovering alcoholic who jokes that he's 102 and who used to work for Bill Blass and Halston.

But as any "Project Runway" fan knows, it's not your back story, it's how your model looks walking away that makes the difference on a show that still (sometimes) puts creativity first. (Gretchen who?)

Let the games begin.