Lifetime’s Project Runway finale down from Bravo, but was 2009’s top cable reality show

After a spectacular debut that was up 44 percent over Bravo, Lifetime’s version of Project Runway concluded with an episode that just barely surpassed its record-breaking opening episode, and was down from the season five season finale on Bravo–though not by as much as some would have you believe. And really, that just continues the trend of season finales losing viewers.

Project Runway 6‘s finale averaged 4.275 million viewers, which Lifetime said makes it “cable’s most watched reality program in 2009 among Women 18+, Women 25-54 and” overall. (Lifetime also cites a bunch of ratings stats about how well the show did among the only people it cares about: women.)

But the fifth and final Bravo season’s finale had 4.787 million last year–or, if you buy Bravo’s spin, 7.158 total viewers, which added a repeat broadcast in with the live finale. That inflated number prompted some overreaction, such as James Hibberd’s claim that Lifetime’s numbers are “40% lower, however, than the fifth season finale that aired last year on Bravo,” which in turn prompted Movieline to say that “To begin the season 45% higher than Bravo and end it 40% lower — that’s quite a slide. Somewhere, Bravo figurehead Andy Cohen is looking at the pin-stuck Jaclyn Smith action figure he redressed as a Lifetime executive … and thinking this has all been worth it.”

I have no doubt Andy Cohen is thrilled, even if his lousy attempt to create a copy didn’t catch on. But Lifetime isn’t exactly crushed, especially with the show’s performance among women.

The real question is whether Lifetime can make the show relevant and engaging again, and we won’t know that until Jan. 14, when season seven debuts.

Season Six Finale of Lifetime Television’s Project Runway… [Lifetime press release]
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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.