Back on the Runway

Heidi, Tim, and company make it work again.

By Tim Brookover
Photo by Brook Pifer

ChristianSirianoIt seems only weeks since the young and flamboyantly gay Christian Siriano captured the top honor on the fourth season of Project Runway. Now the fashion-design-competition series returns for a fifth season, which debuts Wednesday, July 16, on Bravo. The familiar elements that made the show a hit are back: host Heidi Klum and her Teutonic glare; the insightful judicial team, designer Michael Kors and magazine editor Nina Garcia (who, fortunately for viewers, can also be wickedly catty); and presiding over all, the great gay mentor, Tim Gunn, whose line “Make it work” has entered the queer lexicon.

The big news, though, involves the future of Runway. With its sixth season, scheduled to begin in November, the series moves to Lifetime (where the Weinstein Company, which owns the show, scored a better financial deal, according to media reports). The Runway faithful are distressed, to put it mildly, burning up the blogosphere with remarks that range from snarky to anguished.

“I’m guessing that now they’ll be choosing contestants not on their designing abilities, but on how many abusive husbands they’ve murdered or how many times they’ve slept with danger,” sniped a poster at Gawker. Other observers have expressed concern that a move from the urban-skewing, queer-positive Bravo to a network better known for programming that appeals to red-state America might imperil the gay nature of Project Runway.

“I am ALSO afraid that Lifetime will try to ‘tone down’ the fierce gayness of the show. Let’s face it, Bravo is NBC/Universal’s ‘Gay Network.’ How will little old ladies in Kansas respond to people like Mango and Big Chris?!?” wrote a poster at the blog Opalescent, referring to two recent gay Runway designers. A planned season-six change in location from New York to Los Angeles has also jarred the Runway faithful.

For their part, the producers have announced no immediate changes for season five. So the elements—including the sky-high gay quotient—that have made Runway the highest-rated reality series on cable are likely to remain, at least for now.

Photo caption: Christian Siriano, winner of the recently concluded Project Runway fourth season, models the new T-shirt that he designed for the Human Rights Campaign. The organic-cotton shirt features a drawing of a fabulous superhero named Fierce Equality and is signed by Siriano (whose favorite approving term on the show was “fierce”). $38. Proceeds support the work of HRC, the GLBT advocacy organization. Order: www.hrc.org/siriano.

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