The sixth season of the fashion series Project Runway had been in limbo for the past year. In 2008, NBC Universal sued for breach of contract when the Weinstein Company announced it would move the series from NBC-owned Bravo to Lifetime. The Weinstein Company countersued NBC Universal, charging that it hadn't properly promoted season five. Then Lifetime sued both the Weinstein Company and NBC Universal. Geez, even Project Runway's cutthroat contestants get along better than this.
The dispute was finally resolved last spring, allowing Project Runway to find a new home on Lifetime (Thursdays, 7 p.m.). But it's hard to believe the rancor won't seep into the series itself. Host Heidi Klum is prickly in the best of times, and God knows what kind of mood the lawsuit has put her in. If I were a contestant, I'd be sure to keep scissors, pins and any other sharp objects out of her reach.
Saturday, 8 pm (Lifetime)
This playful TV movie is set in one of those high schools where students feel an absurd amount of pressure to get into Ivy League colleges. "Absurd" is the key word here. The movie makes the parents, kids and counselors just a bit more extreme than they are in real life, and the result is a wildly funny satire.
Our heroine is Taylor Rockefeller (Mae Whitman), who's not, unfortunately, one of those Rockefellers. In voiceover, Taylor explains that her status-conscious mother (Joan Cusack in high-dotty mode) taught her to spell "Y-a-l-e" in kindergarten. She's a nervous wreck as she prepares her college application, and her classmates are no better. When Taylor's friend Maya comes home with only a 3.7 grade point average, Maya's mother has a nervous breakdown. "Where did I go wrong?" she wails. "It was a normal birth...."
Colleges reportedly want to see that you've "given back" to the community, so the students make a mad scramble for charitable activities. Maya sets the standard, having volunteered in an African leper colony. "Yeah, yeah, lepers!" muses a fellow classmate. "Why didn't I think of that?"
Will real-life status-seekers laugh at this gag, or merely take the suggestion and head off to Africa themselves?
Sunday, 8 pm (NBC)
In last spring's Miss USA pageant, Miss California spoke out against gay marriage and paid the price. A pageant judge reported that her comments cost her the crown, and the ensuing controversy cost her the Miss California title as well.
We all know that pageant contestants will do anything to win, and they've surely learned something from the Miss California debacle. Expect to hear fulsome tributes to gay marriage in this week's Miss Universe pageant. I wouldn't be surprised if one or two contestants even came out as lesbians during the Q&A session.
The Rachel Zoe Project
Tuesday, 9 pm (Bravo)
Rachel Zoe is an L.A. "stylist" who puts together red-carpet outfits for the likes of Anne Hathaway and Demi Moore. That's a fairly low-level job on the Hollywood totem pole, but you wouldn't know it from watching Zoe's reality series. She stomps around like a spoiled Marie Antoinette, imagining herself at the center of the universe.
Zoe bosses around her assistants in a nasal voice that sounds like a Valley Girl whining through a kazoo. And she throws a foulmouthed fit whenever the slightest problem arises. "This is going to absolutely make me scream my head off! Where the f*ck are my dresses? We're always getting f*cked!"
Zoe's self-pity is mixed with a strong dose of condescension. She considers a Karl Lagerfeld gown too sophisticated for Golden Globe viewers to understand: "This, for the American public, is a little complex." Zoe's assistants are just as snobby as she is. "I hate awards shows," sniffs mean-girl Taylor. "It's not about fashion, it's about pleasing the masses."
As a member of the masses, I'm not at all pleased with The Rachel Zoe Project.
Wednesday, 8 pm (Bravo)
Top Chef is one reality series that doesn't need any extra gimmicks. Its format is already mildly gimmicky, with contestants put through a series of cooking competitions; but the silly stuff never obscured the show's seriousness regarding food. The judges are dignified experts, not posers. You sense that they truly want to find the most talented chef on the premises.
This season, sad to say, the gimmicks take over. Top Chef sets up shop in Las Vegas and lets Sin City kitsch go to its head. Contestants are asked to cook dishes based on their personal vices, and Stardust showgirls sashay through the kitchen in a classic jump-the-shark moment.
The producers forget what usually happens when you go to Las Vegas: You lose.