How Project Runway went from flop to hit

Project Runway debuted to dismal ratings 10 years ago this December, but it grew into a hit show that, before it was poached by Lifetime, defined Bravo, at least until Bravo devolved into a network that showcases rich assholes.

Lauren Zalaznick, the former head of Bravo and other networks who left NBCUniversal last fall after having her networks taken away from her, has written about How Project Runway “Flopped” as part of LinkedIn’s series of “Career Curveballs.” (Yes, LinkedIn apparently exists to do more than send harassing e-mail messages.)

When she started as Bravo’s president at Bravo, Project Runway was in development, and she thought it could become a hit. But its first episode was watched by a tiny audience, getting a .17 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds.

Zalaznick explains how they changed that, and the solution is somewhat well-known and ultimately simple: Bravo re-ran the show over and over until it caught on.

But the details are fascinating, including how they selected the original air date in a pre-DVR era. Zalaznick skips over all creative decisions (such as Tim Gunn’s near-accidental casting; he also wasn’t paid for season one) but gives us a lot of information about the strategy and decisions she and her team employed.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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, 36, 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.