Now, in the late '90s-early 2000s, the channel changed hands a few times, before eventually getting sold to NBC-Universal and a transition began to take place after Andy Cohen became the head of programming and started turning the channel into a reality-based cable channel; one of the real first cable channels to really embrace Reality too. Now, to most people this would represent the death nail of a network that they previously admired, and I can list other networks that have gone and made this transition that I can probably legitimately argue have ultimately worsen their network's brand and quality. Here's the thing, at least in the beginning, not only did Bravo do it well, the transition from an snoddy high-brow artistic network into a more pop-culture-oriented reality-based network, actually was done really, really well. To some degree, the transition was actually seemless and natural and produce really good shows.
For one thing, they didn't change entirely overnight, the channel still aired popular movies that were beloved by the Indy crowd, they still aired some of the more popular programming, including most notably, "Inside the Actors Studio" which I'll get to in a bit as well, 'cause there's some changes that have happened there lately, but also, the reality shows they did air, well, they all kinda fit the motif and themes of the network. They were reality shows that not only focused on artists, but also showcase the art and often the process and skill in making it. It was different forms of art then what the network would used to shocase, but it still seemed like it fit. It made perfect sense to me that the network that would air Gilbert and Sullivan performance would now be the home of Kathy Griffin's standup specials. Shows like "Top Chef", "Flipping Out", "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" and others all seemed and felt like natural evolution of the old channel, and used the medium of reality television to it's biggest advantage
And the centerpiece of this new popular and critically-acclaimed channel was "Project Runway". The surprise breakout hit had become one of the biggest and most important brands on television in the last twenty years and remains one of the biggest American-originated reality shows ever.
Now, I've talked about "Project Runway" before on this blog, several times in fact, including a two-part blog where I tried to analyze why, from an artistic perspective, Season 8 of the series is the best reality season of all-time.
It still is btw. And, I've even mentioned a few times in passing just how major it actually was that "Project Runway" switched channels from Bravo to Lifetime after The Weinsteins Company bought the rights for the series out from Bravo's nose. In fact, the move ranked number three on my Top Ten List of the Most Landscape-Altering Times a Television Show Changed Networks.
So, unfortunately due to the other news involving the Weinstein Company, (Eye roll) the future of "Project Runway", was a little bit up in the air for while as the rights of the show had to reanalyzed again, but eventually Bravo finally got "Project Runway" back to it's original and rightful home recently. So, it took awhile, but perhaps, finally, this might be the beginning of Bravo's new Renaissance, a rebirth and renewal of the old and past and perhaps move the network from punchline to what should've been it's rightful place as the proprietor of premiere quality of reality television-
Ooooooh, shit! Um, is this for real or just rum-
Nope, this is real. Oh-kay, this is something that I honestly didn't, really consider before. I don't know why I didn't exactly, but-eh, well now....
So, let me briefly um...- well... hmmm.-
Okay, this could be, not good.
Could, not necessarily will be, but-eh,...- yeah, we have an issue here.
So, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn have the left the series to create a new series on Amazon Prime. Honestly, that makes some sense. Amazon is also not the only ones digging into Bravo's past for their current reality lineup. Netflix has brought back "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" with a whole new cast, successfully I might add, and OvationTV, which is basically what Bravo could've been had Andy Cohen not gotten his hands on it, has picked up "Inside the Actors' Studio", the last holdover of Bravo's previous incarnation. (Oh, James Lipton's retiring from that show too, they're searching for a new host at the moment.) That said, is the "Project Runway" brand, big and major enough still, to try to continue it without Heidi & Tim,- well, I mean, on the surface yes. Lifetime has certainly worked at making sure they aren't the only ones in the position to host. They've had a few different hosts and mentors for "Project Runway: All-Stars" and after an original botch attempt at a kid's version of the series, they finally succeeded with "Project Runway Junior", which is, frankly amazing, and really good at making you feel completely inept at life. ([Sigh], I really should've learned to sew.) It's definitely too big a brand and series to not have brought back, the series, which Heidi Klum originally conceived of and created by-the-way; she doesn't get nearly enough credit for that, it does have a huge cultural and critical benefits, not-to-mention, it's generally a ratings winner.
That said, Bravo, doing "Project Runway" without Tim Gunn or Heidi Klum, well....
Don't remember that? Probably for the best. You see, unlike cooking or police or um-, well, cooking I guess, being the most successful, um, the thing is "Project Runway" is basically the only really successful and in many ways, quality reality show that's based around fashion designers. I mean, maybe there's one or two others that aren't Reality-Competition Series, but mostly they're few and far between and those usually are limited series ideas to begin with. And-, I guess there's things like "America's Next Top Model" that are fashion-related, to some degree, but let's be blunt, I really don't know yet if this series can work beyond Heidi Klum and especially beyond Tim Gunn. Gut instinct, I think the structure of "Project Runway" still holds up. It's a great show, and should be a great show now that...- wait, who do we have replacing them?
Oh God! SIRIANO! (Sigh) I know, he's a better designer now, he still shouldn't have won Season Four! Okay, my bias aside, that makes sense, and-eh, um-, eh-, Kar-lie Kloss? Who...- Um,- okay maybe this is just me, or just a sign of the times of how unimportant and non-celebrities most supermodels are, but I have no idea who this girl is.
I'm just saying, I damn sure knew who Heidi Klum was before "Project Runway" started, but then again, this is a different time, so...- Okay, this Karlie Kloss, she seems, young and interesting. Good friend to Taylor Swift, that's something...-
Kloss began dating businessman and investor Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner (Donald Trump's son-in-law), in 2012. On July 24, 2018, she announced their engagement, one month after she had converted to Judaism (her future husband's faith). Kushner and Kloss got married on October 18, 2018.
Ah, well, she was a good friend of hers, before marrying a Kushner.
(Long awkward pause)
Alright, I should probably just move on from that.
I do think that ultimately, the structure of the series helps, and Heidi Klum's right, the series actually grew, and technically, yeah it's begin enough that, it probably doesn't need them. That said, the show also evolved into what it is today. The basic concept of "Project Runway" was mainly just, let's create a show with a bunch of fashion designers and they didn't really think that much further ahead. The idea of Tim Gunn being a mentor was more-or-less an accidental discovery of the series than anything else. They didn't realize they'd have a strong sets of judges, they didn't really recognize that the show was going to even be anything more than an experiment. That's one of the huge advantages of the series, it was the first of it's kind and because it was the first to dive into fashion, every other show, including Bravo's other flimsy and forgettable attempts to do a fashion designer-based reality show have flopped. Structurally, it's all worked out, but they did in fact get lucky with Tim Gunn. They've tried other mentors on other versions of the series, including other past contestants in "Project Runway: Under the Gunn", a whole series where the contestants were acting as the mentors in their own competition, but honestly, it's never really worked out.
That's kind of the one thing I didn't really think about until now, just exactly how important is a reality star, to a reality show. I guess, obviously it varies. Any attempts of E! bringing back "The Anna Nicole Show" after Anna Nicole Smith's passing, were probably scrapped pretty soonafter. But a Reality-Competition Series, should be able to survive stuff like this. I mean, is anybody really gonna miss Jeff Probst if he ever leaves "Survivor"? Or Phil Keoghan on "The Amazing Race", probably not. The same way "The Tonight Show" has had mutliple hosts over the years, I'm certain a lot of these Reality-Competition Series can also do that. Even "Top Chef" didn't originally have Padma Lakshmi until Season 2. It's weird though when somebody as integral to the series as Tim Gunn is to "Project Runway" leaves. Not just because he's placed in the role of mentor and advisor, but he's probably one of the more trustworthy figures on TV. There's a quality to him that frankly other mentors on other series, just don't have. It's not impossible, but it's a noticeable difference, one that-, frankly I'm curious to see if "Project Runway" could survive.
Or, maybe it's time. It should move on and walk on it's own. I stand by my assertion that it's the best Reality-Competition Series of all-time, but I'm not gonna lie, the last couple seasons of the series, they haven't been as great as it once was. Not for lack of fashion talent either, if anything, one of the cruel fates of the series is that, it's become so major and respected in the industry, even if they haven't founded too many huge superstars in fashion, (Although they certainly have found quite a few people that are still working regularly in the industry in one capacity or another) but the designers have uniformly and across the board, just gotten better. At this point, everybody knows the standard and you have to be this good to even really get seriously considered for the series. The series itself, it's been easier and more rewarding to find more consistent and fascinating narratives in seasons past than it has been. (Honestly, if you put a gun to my head, I'm not even sure I watched the last season of "Project Runway: All-Stars".)
Now, that leads to the next question as to, whether or not there's actually room for a second major fashion-designer-based reality-competition series. (Shrugs) I mean, it hasn't been proven yet, but there might be. God knows there's way too many goddamn cooking competiton series out there. Then again, only like four of them I really consider good in that subgenre, so what do I know. (P.S. Unrelated issue, Food Network should really get much more "Iron Chef America"-centric.)
Reality television, more than anything, I think is about niche. I think we'll definitely watch something that might be a trainwreck, Paula Abdul's short-lived reality series "Hey, Paula", comes to mind, but in order to really be memorable, they gotta stick out. "Project Runway" stuck so far out that anything that's come after seems like a copycat, however that wouldn't have necessarily been a bad thing had it remained as the centerpiece series for Bravo, I suspect.
To go back to Bravo a second, the real problem with their channel, more than anything else, isn't just the copycats of their shows, from them and others although, sure they're out there, and several channels like TLC for instance have just blatantly stolen their formula for Reality success on cable, but it's that they strayed away from the thing that made them unique, this focus on reality through an artistic lens. Shows that don't just celebrate the arts, they showcase it. Not just the behind-the-scenes dramas of people, but the actual work of what people in interesting jobs do and make them compellin. Not even just arts, often work. One of my original favorite reality shows they had was "Workout", which was a behind-the-scenes look at a popular Los Angeles gym. Honestly, good show for most of it's run, interesting characters with interesting lives, and the drama involved in running a high-scale exercise gym, and having to control a bunch of crazy, hormonal fitness people.... That was legitimately interesting.
Does anybody even remember why they're called "Real Housewives"? It has nothing to do with them being housewives, btw. That term has sorta become synonymous, 'cause Bravo's beaten that one to death after making it the centerpiece of their network after "Project Runway" left, but it was a play on "Desperate Housewives". Yes, the TV series; back when it was the biggest show on television, Bravo decided to create a reality series that essentially was a reality show about the kinds of characters that "Desperate Housewives" had. (BTW, "Desperate Housewives" was the term most porn sites used before MILFs became a common, and Real Housewives, sounds like a porn site itself, so it's derivative in a few bad ways.) It's actually kinda petty to be honest, and the only time I can think of a reality series that blatantly tried to pawn off the fame of a scripted series like that was "The Real L Word", and at least that was the same network that aired "The L Word" and they were trying to capitalize on their own success. Honestly, I can't remember if I ever sat through a full episode of any of those series, but my issue was never just the content; my issue was that, it was the first reality series on Bravo that I simply couldn't find a way to justify, being on Bravo. It really didn't fit in with anything else that went with it; I could not justify it on the same channel that aired "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" and Kathy Griffin, even "Queer Eye...", a lot of work goes into making over people, even some of the other unscripted reality series on that network, what was the appeal? Less interesting "Real" versions of fictional characters? Exaggerated reality, over-the-top dramas. (Sigh) It might've been popular, but it really should never have been the centerpiece of the channel. Not just because it's not-as-good as the other series, although that certainly doesn't help but because it just didsn't fit. (Okay, other shows like "Boy Meets Boy" didn't fit either, but that was so goddamn stupid that's it's not really worth remembering. They're bad attempts at dating shows BTW, gay, straight, bi...- I mean, it's a low bar, but have they ever gotten over it? [And I should count Cohen's work on the new "Love Connection" as well in that regard; btw, I 100% believe everything Kathy Griffin has said about him.])
It was a transition too soon, too far; It never seemed like an evolution from where Bravo was and where it was supposed to go next, at least until it suddenly became the change, and it still weird honestly. It's the franchise that probably alienated me from Bravo as much as possible. There's still some good shows on the network, but it's not what it was, and I don't know if it ever will be again.
I'm not expecting miracles here; "Project Runway" is not going to reclaim it's spot tomorrow as Bravo's flagship program, it certainly won't now without it's big stars, but it's probably for the best that the series and it's stars and the network at least begin to take what the previous 16 years of the series has done and turn the corner to the next phase. If anybody is capable of making a quality and successful fashion-design-based reality series to compete against "Project Runway", it's Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. And we'll see for real if the series is truly quality enough on it's own, or if it really needed these two to make it successful, by any standard, or if the result is somewhere in between.
Let's see who makes it work.