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'Runway' Finale Flies Into Record Books

October 23, 2006 12:00 AM

The third-season finale of "Project Runway" sashayed to a Bravo record of 5.4 million viewers Wednesday night, capping a season in which the series also went into the cable network's record books as its most-watched-ever (averaging 2.41 million viewers), according to Nielsen Media Research. The highly anticipated hour also ranked as the No. 1 program on cable that night. In its three short seasons, "Runway" has become a certified pop culture phenomenon. Writers have mused prose-aically about how it reflects the New York ethos, ego and id in ways no other reality show has. The showing of the finalists' collections on the runway has become the hottest ticket during Olympus Fashion Week in New York. No one even bothers to pretend to be too jaded to care anymore, and the result is a crush as big (and insistent) as any of "The Sopranos" season premiere parties ever provoked. Well-regarded Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan penned a column Friday about why winner Jeffrey Sebelia was the right choice. (For an opposing—and correct—view, consult this week's Insider column on Page 8.) "Runway" mentor Tim Gunn sat in for Regis Philbin as Kelly Ripa's co-host on "Live" Friday morning, and made it work so well no one would have suspected it was his first time in that role. Mr. Gunn's body language was priceless when Ms. Ripa confessed she owns the sartorially indefensible Ugg boots in several colors. Reflecting on the series' success, Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick said, "Trying to deconstruct the reasons for something that's become a 'phenomenon' is tough—the formula of a hit is all the definable, controllable things—great story, great characters, great execution, great marketing, great press—with an essential dash of the uncontrollable things—chemistry, emotion, creativity, and zeal. And that's why we're all in this business, so we can pretend we can control the controllable things but always know we'll never know the unknowable ones. All of it together is no less than wonderful."- Michele Greppi

Now, It's What You Know

Once upon a time, back in the days of The Big 3 and only The Big 3, it was nearly impossible to break into the television or film biz unless you had nepotism (or some very well-placed friends of your parents) on your side. Apart from film appreciation or traditional broadcast journalism courses, very few colleges offered instruction in such useful disciplines as scriptwriting or production or the business of film and TV. Well, times have changed: the first edition of "Television, Film and Media Programs," a joint effort of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation and the Princeton Review, offers the lowdown on no fewer than 556 such programs at colleges and universities ranging from Arizona State to Western Kentucky. The book, which features a foreword by HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht, also includes thumbnail profiles of 16 industry professionals, a step-by-step guide from high school graduation through higher education to real-world job search and a useful glossary. Apparently the chapter devoted to the value of nepotism was omitted, but a word to the wise: It still don't hurt.-Tom Gilbert

All 'Sleeper Cell,' All the Time

As part of an ongoing strategy to find new ways to take advantage of the shifting new media landscape, Showtime is making its entire "Sleeper Cell" miniseries available on-demand to coincide with the first episode's premiere. The tactic affords VOD subscribers the option of binge-viewing the entire eight hours when the show debuts Dec. 10, which is typically an option only after a series is released on home video. Even though "Sleeper" airs nightly instead of weekly, this could open the door to other networks experimenting with such an all-at-once release schedule. "We thought about the fact this is a show where you're gripped from episode to episode … having them all on demand allows [viewers] to personalize their viewing experience," said Laura Laura Palmer, VP of distribution marketing for Showtime. -James Hibberd