If you watched Bravo during its early days, you found foreign and independent films, jazz, ballet and stage productions. Who could have guessed when it was created by Cablevision in 1980 as ''the first television service dedicated to film and the performing arts'' that Bravo would become the creative cauldron of reality TV?
For better or (mostly) worse, a sampling of shows Bravo has foisted on the American public since NBC acquired it in 2002 includes Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The It Factor, Battle of the Network Reality Stars, Being Bobby Brown, Blow Out, Shear Genius, Make Me a Supermodel, Top Chef, The Real Housewives of Orange County et al, Step It Up and Dance, Hey Paula and Boy Meets Boy.
In December 2004, Bravo launched Project Runway, which touched a chord with a public suddenly obsessed with not only the celebrities who walk the red carpet prior to awards telecasts but also with the designer couture they wear. Project Runway was a huge hit, helping to move Bravo mainstream.
But in 2008 The Weinstein Company, which produced the show, signed a contract to move its runway to Lifetime. NBC Universal sued, eventually receiving a cash settlement in exchange for losing the show. Project Runway may be gone from Bravo, but obviously it has never been forgotten. Bravo is still trying to replace it with something comparable, if not nearly identical.
Its first attempt was May 2009's The Fashion Show, hosted by designer Isaac Mizrahi and former Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland. Like Project Runway, it featured design competitors assigned a specific task each week, before facing a panel of four judges (Mizrahi, Rowland, IMG VP Fern Mallis and a guest judge) for elimination. Although the similarities were glaring, the show did exhibit some originality through its weekly Harper's Bazaar Mini Challenge judged by the magazine's Laura Brown. Still, it lacked Tim Gunn's incisive mentoring, while Kelly Rowland was no match for supermodel Heidi Klum, in either the personality or fashion expertise department.
Bravo next tried Launch My Line on for size last December, but it was a schmatta better left hanging on the rack or, better yet, tossed on the garbage heap. Hosted by twin designers Dean and Dan Caten of DSQUARED2, the show matched non-fashion ''industry professionals'' with ''established fashion designers'' to form twosomes who competed against each other in weekly challenges. The hosts were annoying, as were gimmicks such as the large digital countdown clock and the trim room (no going out to shop at Mood on this show). Some decent designing did go on, but it was difficult to sit through an entire episode with so many other irritating things -- though they do get points for a guest appearance by Lady Gaga.
To our surprise, last week Bravo announced The Fashion Show is returning, albeit with host and format changes. Perhaps not so surprising, it premieres Nov. 9 (at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo), on the tails of Project Runway's season finale this Thursday (at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime).
Supermodel Iman replaces Rowland to co-host with Mizrahi, and in a move that mirrors Project Runway's judging panel of a supermodel (Heidi Klum), a designer (Michael Kors), a fashion magazine editor (Nina Garcia) and guest judges, The Fashion Show panel now consists of Iman, Mizrahi, Laura Brown of Harper's Bazaar and guest judges.
Bravo's press release for Season 2, subtitled "Ultimate Collection," splits 12 designers into two fashion houses. Each house must create a cohesive collection and produce a live fashion show each week.
This Project Runway-meets-The Apprentice format will no doubt accentuate the tension and infighting between the team members, a real drama-queen bonanza. Frankly, where creativity is concerned, we prefer singular players.
But we'll have to wait and see. As Tim Gunn might say, ''Bravo, make it work.''