UPDATED 1:27 p.m. PT April 15, 2008
NEW YORK — “Project Runway” made a splash at Lifetime Networks’ upfront presentation Monday, in some ways overshadowing the cable network’s new development slate that includes “Trump Tower,” a soap executive produced and narrated by Donald Trump.
“Runway” exec producer Harvey Weinstein and co-star Tim Gunn took the stage in midtown Manhattan a week after the bombshell announcements of “Runway’s” moving from NBC Universal’s Bravo to Lifetime and of NBC Universal filing a lawsuit against the Weinstein Co. to block the switch.
Declining comment on the lawsuit, Weinstein said that “Runway” at Lifetime and Disney (which owns 50% of the cable channel) would be “bigger, better but still keeping the idealism” that has made it a hit during its three years on Bravo.
In remarks to reporters, he called NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker a personal friend and joked that he had three years of servitude to him that included cleaning Zucker’s house, baby-sitting for his kids and shopping with his wife.
“I think we will be friends again,” Weinstein said.
In addition to “Runway,” the Weinstein Co. is bringing two new series to Lifetime: “Project Pygmalion,” which will remake a plain girl and give her entree into high society, and a series looking at “Runway” through the eyes of the models called “Models of the Runway.”
“Pygmalion” is in development for 2009; “Models” is slated to appear in November, around the same time as the premiere of “Runway’s” sixth season. Gunn, “Runway” host Heidi Klum and judge Michael Kors are on board to segue to the new network, though the fate of judge Nina Garcia remains uncertain after a reported change at Elle, where she worked and which is a major sponsor. Weinstein said he still was trying to work that out.
“Trump Tower” is set in a fictional penthouse at the real Trump Towers in Manhattan.
“Think ‘Desperate Housewives’ in Trump Tower with the Donald narrating, and you get the idea of what we’re after,” Lifetime entertainment president Susanne Daniels said.
The project has been around for about four years and was originally set up at NBC.
Also in development is the comedy “Burnt Toast,” an adaptation of Teri Hatcher’s book, which the “Desperate Housewives” star is attached to executive produce.
Lifetime announced two new pilot orders. “Mistresses,” from Fox 21 and writer Melissa Carter, is based on the BBC drama about two women who are childhood friends. “Drop Dead Diva,” from Sony and Josh Berman, is a supernatural-themed drama about a dead aspiring actress who gets reincarnated in another woman’s body.
They join recently greenlighted comedy pilots “Libertyville” and “Rita Rocks,” which are set to be tested next week. As part of Lifetime’s deal with producer MRC, one of the pair could go to series soon, Daniels said.
Also in development are “Chambermaid,” based on a novel by Saira Rao about a law clerk; “The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard,” based on a British miniseries about a woman who accidentally becomes governor of her state; and “The Skin I’m In,” about a Harvard medical school student.
On the original telefilm side, Lifetime plans “Trading Up,” based on the novel by Candace Bushnell; “America,” a story of a runaway helped by a doctor, which will star and be executive produced by Rosie O’Donnell; “Terrorist,” based on the John Updike novel; and “Maneater,” based on Gigi Levangie Grazer’s book. Also in development are two true-life movies: “Amish Grace,” about the families who lost daughters in a schoolhouse shooting and how they forgave, and “The Julie Roberts Story,” about the country music star.
New reality series include “The Big Match,” in which 100 single men compete for a woman; “Cook Yourself Thin,” giving one woman help from a group of chefs and food stylists every week; “Salsa and the City,” a so-called docusoap about Los Angeles salsa dancers; and the makeover show “Total Knockout,” hosted by former supermodel Roshumba Williams.
On the digital side, Lifetime said that it would offer 15 original series of webisodes, including “Hollywood Tails,” “Mommy Madness” and “Street Doctors.” That will follow a new broadband channel launched in June that will have full episodes of “Army Wives” and eventually “Project Runway.” It also will launch Lifetime-Glam Network, a group of 12 women’s Web sites and blogs tied together.
In other Lifetime news, “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” based on Kim Edwards’ book, became the network’s most-watched original movie since 1995 in its premiere at 9 p.m. Saturday. The movie averaged 5.8 million total viewers, including 4.5 million women ages 18 and older. In the key female demos, “Daughter” pulled in 1.7 million in 18-49, 2 million in 25-54 and 474,000 in 18-34.