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Archive for Thursday, August 20, 2009

‘Project Runway’ finally returns to TV

August 20, 2009

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Neither a network shift nor a legal battle could prevent “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime) from returning for a sixth season. We’re not in New York anymore, and it’s not on Bravo. Lifetime won the right to poach the popular cable competition series and has moved it to Los Angeles. As if prompted, one of the frantic designers chimes in with the factoid that Los Angeles has a much bigger garment industry than New York. We’ll just have to take his word for it.

Except for a brief visit to the red carpet of the upcoming Emmy awards, this “Runway” avoids too many location shots, so perhaps the change in venues won’t really matter. As most fans surely know, most of the drama takes place around sewing machines.

Familiar faces and voices, including Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, are back. Judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia return, too. In the opening episode, “Runway” invites Lindsay Lohan to be a guest judge, an act that has to be a nod to its new Hollywood locale. The truncated episode made available for review did not include the panel’s commentary, so we have no idea of Lohan’s judgment, or lack thereof.

At the risk of making snap judgments myself, I have to admit that the whole franchise seems exhausted after the long wait. None of the contestants stood out as either a fierce competitor or as an eccentric colorful enough to care about for an entire season. One would-be finalist seemed to have wandered off the set of “Intervention” and turned the situation into a chance to talk about his shaky recovery from drug abuse. While this gave Gunn a chance to be his warm and avuncular self, I’d rather see him using his quick wit and expansive vocabulary to put a poseur in his place than to babysit a fragile soul.

The most notable shift in tone from the Bravo series is the perceptible decline in the number of product placements. Compared with the QVC-like onslaught during “Top Chef,” this “Runway” seems practically unsponsored. I have a feeling that will be rectified as the season progresses.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton’s whimsical visual style are the real stars of the 2005 adaptation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (6:30 p.m., Family).

• On two episodes of “30 Rock” (NBC), foreign relations (7 p.m.), an engaging situation (8:30 p.m.).

• The Colts host the Eagles in preseason NFL action (7 p.m., Fox).

• The Western miniseries “Lonesome Dove” (7 p.m., AMC, part 3 of 4) continues.

• Michael’s two sales forces clash on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• A sci-fi convention becomes a crime scene on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Car thieves don’t stand a chance on “Jacked: Auto Theft Task Force” (8 p.m., Speed). It’s catching.

• A game cast (Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper and Jeff Bridges) fail to save the 2003 historical epic “Seabiscuit” (8 p.m., TNT) from its “tasteful” self-importance. The true story, based on a book by Laura Hellenbrand, was better told in an “American Experience” documentary on PBS, narrated by David McCullough, whose voice is also heard in the Hollywood version.

• The queen of a country club faces bloody regicide on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Hank returns to New York to discover some unfinished business on “Royal Pains” (9 p.m., USA).

• Filmmaker Bruce Weber offers a mixed dish of his favorite things in the 2001 documentary “Chop Suey” (9 p.m., Sundance).

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