ONCE IN A LIFETIME: The big hairy news on the cable reality front last week was the defection of Project Runway from Bravo, its longtime home, to Lifetime, the female-focused U.S. cable network better known for "victim-of-the-week movies and Golden Girls reruns," as Tom Fitzgerald of the Project Rungay blog described it to the New York Times.

Lifetime, for their part, insisted to the Times they weren’t going to change a thing about the show when its sixth season makes its debut there in November, and at their upfront presentation for the network’s new shows in Manhattan on Monday, Runway was positioned as their crown jewel. "I really want to evolve this brand to a much more contemporary, vibrant, aspirational, optimistic place," Andrea Wong, CEO of Lifetime, told the Times.

Bravo’s corporate parent, NBC Universal, has filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against Weinstein Productions, the show’s creator, and at Lifetime’s presentation, Harvey Weinstein declined to talk about the suit, though he did make good on his earlier promise to expand the show’s potential on the new network according to a Hollywood Reporter story, announcing several Runway spinoff ventures at the upfront. The most obvious is Models Of The Runway, which will (you might have guessed) look at the show from the perspective of the models — Project Runway going all Rashomon on us (look it up) — and is slated to debut alongside the sixth season on Lifetime. Project Pygmalion (look it up), in development for a 2009 debut, is a makeover show which will award its winner an “entre into high society,” which sounds like a booby prize to me.

In a TV Week story covering Bravo’s Tuesday upfront, the former home of Project Runway said they’d be giving the show’s fifth season, now in pre-production, full promotional treatment when it starts airing in July. If this weren’t enough, the fate of Nina Garcia as a judge on the show remains up in the air after her dismissal from her position as fashion director of Elle last week.

A Women’s Wear Daily story paints a confused little picture. Finding a replacement for Garcia on the show was considered a low priority for the few hours or days when it was assumed Bravo would be dropping its option on a fifth series in light of the lawsuit, but as soon as they announced they’d be pressing ahead, Garcia’s services were called for — dependent on her position at Elle.

The WWD story reported her gig on the show and the publicity it garnered the magazine was one of the few things keeping her at Elle. Getting fashion news director Anne Slowey to once again substitute for Garcia proved impossible, since she was committed to filming Fashionista, a new reality show for the CW network. After letting Garcia go, Elle is trying to find her a spot — “albeit a symbolic one” — on the masthead to justify her Project Runway gig. The spectacle is fascinating — like the chicken and the egg question, but with botox.

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