After more than a year of off-screen drama, Lifetime welcomes Project Runway to its network with 3.5 hours of the show tonight: a two-hour all-star competition at 8 p.m. ET followed by the sixth-season premiere at 10. That’s followed immediately–no commercial break–by the half-hour Models of the Runway, which picks up exactly where the show left off, but gives us the show from the backstage perspective of the models.
I talked to two of the show’s executive producers for a story in Metro, and both promised that the show will not change. The only difference: the Los Angeles location, which both said refreshed the show with new backdrops and inspiration for challenges.
While the producers “figured out a way to work in fashion that takes advantage of the location without simplifying or dumbing down the casual fashion part of Los Angeles,” executive producer Jane Cha told me they also got something even better out of the location, in addition to more space for runway shows in a soundstage. “Viewers will be happy to know that they will even get a glimpse of Mr. Tim Gunn in flip-flops for the very first time. We tried to go for the whole beach-Speedo look, but he wasn’t going for it,” she said.
As to the new network, executive producer Sara Rea told me it’s “the same show that viewers loved for the previous five seasons. It’s a great show with a great format; and [Lifetme] didn’t buy it because it was broken.” She added that producers have an “obligation to viewers” to keep it the same and Lifetime “really wanted the same show with the same level of intensity and integrity.” Rea also admitted that while the apprehension makes sense (“I understand that; I actually do”), “it’s hard for me to convince anyone” that nothing’s changed so we should “just watch the show.” She said it “really is one of the best formats out there” and “I give the Magical Elves a lot of credit” for their “very clean format.”
Jane Cha, who has been executive producing the show since it was just an idea, agreed, saying it’s “the same model we’ve been using for one through five” because “we didn’t change any of the elements.” When I asked if Lifetime requested changes to target the network’s female demographic, she said, “we never had any conversations like that at all, quite honestly,” and said they were only focused on making the best show with the most interesting challenges possible. “We don’t really think in those terms: now that we’re on Lifetime, we have to target women more.”
Cha previewed the season by saying “there is a lot of drama on the runway” and “more than one instance of crying and fighting on the runway,” because the designers had “no problem throwing each other under the bus” and “when things did not go right on the team challenges, they would let the judges know.”