Snippiness Delays 'Project Runway' Season 6

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Season 6 of "Project Runway" will tape its New York Fashion Week finale tomorrow --

It will? But I've heard nothing!

Shhh. We'll get to that.

-- and we hypothesize several things will happen:

1) The "fragile" contestant will have a meltdown;

2) Someone will make bold but ultimately tragic use of a bizarre material, such as human hair or Twinkies;

3) The episode will liberally feature a word like "fierce," except that it won't actually be "fierce," because that's so Season 4 -- it will be a totally new catchphrase you have not yet heard of.

But what contestant? Which material? Why hair? If the schedule had gone according to plan, we would already know the answers to those questions, because we would have been watching the season since November. We would have been second-guessing Michael Kors (one of the show's judges), cultivating a love-hate relationship with whoever wound up being this season's Christian Siriano wannabe . . . (What do you think the new catchphrase is? Saucy? Cruel? That asymmetrical halter is so cruel.)

But none of that happened, because nary an episode of the contest for amateur fashion designers has aired, because the show is trapped in a juicy legal battle that has dragged on for nearly a year. The episode taping tomorrow will be cloaked in secrecy until -- well, even infinitely wise co-host/mentor Tim Gunn doesn't know. "I haven't a clue," Gunn says in a phone interview from New York. "I hate to disappoint you, but I haven't a clue."

Drama began back in April when Lifetime Networks announced that it had licensed rights to future cycles of the reality show -- currently on Bravo -- from the Weinstein Co., which produces "Runway." This was a huge coup: "Project Runway" is a flagship program for Bravo (4.8 million viewers tuned in for last season's finale) and the first reality show to win a prestigious Peabody Award. Lifetime paid a reported $200 million for the rights to five seasons, plus other non-"Runway" projects that came as part of a package deal.

According to Lifetime, the new season was expected to premiere in fall 2008. (We remember this. We remember thinking: Lifetime? Really? How long before the design challenges become: "Create a comfy, pre-menopausal pair of drawstring pants"?)

The very same day, NBC Universal, which owns Bravo, filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Weinstein Co., claiming that it had been denied right of first refusal, that the show never should have been sold to Lifetime.

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