When Shows Jump Networks, Viewers Win

By now, you've probably heard the news: After one more cycle of Project Runway airs this summer on Bravo, the show will move to Lifetime. I have to admit that I couldn't quite believe it when I heard. Bravo is the go-to network for highbrow reality programming. Lifetime is the go-to network for TV movies about crazy nannies. Project Runway is Bravo's flagship show, and the network is not going to let it go without a fight. NBC Universal (Bravo's parent company) has filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein brothers, who produce Runway, alleging that the deal with Lifetime didn't follow proper procedures. But for now, it looks like we'll be tuning into season six of Project Runway following a Golden Girls rerun.

Prior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's move from The WB to UPN in 2001, I didn't realize that a show could jump networks. The move gave showrunner Joss Whedon bargaining power to maintain the quality of the series; when the WB wasn't willing to cough up the budget he wanted, UPN was.

NBC Universal lost another show to a competing network this year, as well. Scrubs will air its eighth season on ABC next fall. ABC, by the way, can almost be forgiven for greenlighting the abomination known as Cavemen. With the acquisition of Scrubs, they're gathering an impressive slate of clever comedies, including Samantha Who? and Miss/Guided, which reminds me of nothing more than Scrubs set in a high school instead of a hospital.

Other shows are able to extend their lifespan by moving from networks to cable. Law & Order: Criminal Intent now airs original episodes on USA, not NBC. Jericho fans are waiting with bated breath to see if the SciFi Channel will pick up everybody's favorite post-apocalyptic ensemble drama. CBS is still in talks to find a new home for Jericho on SciFi, or possibly The CW. The latest possibility is that Comcast will foot the bill for part of the production, in exchange for airing the episodes in HD (presumably through their "On Demand" service) before they air on CBS. This is similar to the deal NBC recently made with DirecTV for Friday Night Lights.

As we all know, Project Runway is not threatened with cancellation the way some series that change networks are. Frankly, I haven't read anything that indicates that Bravo behaved unreasonably. Rather, the disagreement with the Weinstein Co. seems to revolve around the producer's insistence that Runway be packaged with films and other, unrelated programming. In this case, the network may very well be the wronged party. Nevertheless, showrunners having the freedom to shop their show to another network if they aren't getting what they want is generally a good thing for viewers. As we've seen with Buffy, L&O:CI, and hopefully Jericho, it allows our favorite shows to air longer, with better budgets.

I've read some fan comments that indicate a reluctance to follow Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime. I think this would be a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Yeah, the Weinsteins may have behaved unreasonably, and yes, Lifetime is not exactly a hip network (I happen to love those movies about crazy nannies, but maybe that's just me).

To borrow a phrase from Christian Siriano (the recent winner of PR) however, the show is still going to be the same hot tranny mess we know and love. The same creative team will be in charge, and the same faces will still be in front of the camera. Well, for the most part, at least. It remains to be seen whether Nina Garcia's recent departure from Elle magazine will affect her spot on the judges panel. Not to worry, though. I'm sure they will easily be able to find someone else with an equally impressive collection of gigantic costume jewelry.

As for me, I'll be watching Project Runway regardless of which channel it's on, and I'll continue to be glad that my favorite shows have the option of moving to a new network in order to get the support they need.

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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.