Weinstein promises ‘servitude’ to make up with Zucker

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NEW YORK—Producer Harvey Weinstein doesn’t appear worried that he made enemies at NBC Universal by moving his hit show “Project Runway” from NBCU’s Bravo over to Lifetime.

NBC Universal Chief Executive “Jeff Zucker has been a friend of mine for many years,” Weinstein said today at a lunchtime programming presentation hosted by Lifetime Networks at a posh midtown Manhattan restaurant. “Over the next three years, once I finish my servitude of cleaning his house, driving him to work every day, baby-sitting the kids and taking [his wife] Karen shopping, I think we will be friends again.


“And when I come back in my next lifetime, the years that I want to be single and have fun again, I want to be Ben Silverman,” a grinning Weinstein added for good measure, referring to the notoriously fun-loving NBC Entertainment co-chairman.

NBC Universal filed a lawsuit last week against the Weinstein Co., claiming the producers violated Bravo’s right of first refusal by signing a five-season deal with Lifetime beginning this November.

In the claim, NBC cited a promise Weinstein made to Zucker over lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills in January 2007, when he allegedly told the network honcho: “You can only have in your life five true friends, and I consider you one of my five friends. And I’m telling you, I will not embarrass you.”

Weinstein declined to comment on the suit Monday, but said, “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”

“As I’ve said before, Jeff Zucker has been one of my best friends for many years,” he added. “The show was never going to be renewed for Bravo anyhow. . . . We wanted to grow the show; we have the rights to leave.”

The “Runway” team appears onboard with the move to Lifetime. Weinstein said that designer Michael Kors will be returning as a judge, and he hopes to also bring back Elle’s Nina Garcia, though he noted that he needs to meet with the magazine about reports that Garcia has lost her position as fashion director there. (Women’s Wear Daily reported today that Garcia has been offered a smaller consulting role at the magazine.)

At the lunch, “Runway” mentor Tim Gunn remarked on the welcome from the network, saying “the warmth, the grace with which we’ve been embraced by Lifetime is simply phenomenal.” (When asked whether he would be attending a Tuesday programming breakfast hosted by Bravo, which still plans to air one more season of “Runway” this summer, Gunn said he wasn’t invited.)

In a video message, “Runway” host Heidi Klum said, “Fashion is about change, and ‘Project Runway’ moving to Lifetime is an awesome change.”

“One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. And Lifetime is definitely in,” she added, giving a thumbs-up.

Beaming Lifetime executives said the arrival of “Runway” would help make reality programming a central part of the network’s lineup.

“As a pure fan of the show, I could not be more excited and thrilled,” said Susanne Daniels, Lifetime’s president of entertainment. “I’m tempted to get Tim Gunn’s autograph today, that’s how bad it is.”

“I believe Lifetime is in some ways going to be a better home to ‘Runway,’” she added, as Weinstein applauded. The network is available in 7.5 million more homes than Bravo and has more female viewers. “We really believe we offer the perfect environment to grow this hit show, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Lifetime also announced today that it has picked up two pilots that are under consideration to be paired with “Army Wives,” the hit drama series that returns to the network June 8. “Mistresses” is based on a BBC series about a group of longtime college friends, while “Drop Dead Diva,” from “CSI’s” Josh Berman, is about a beautiful actress who dies and is reborn as a brilliant but awkward attorney.

The network has two comedy pilots in the works. “Rita Rocks” stars Nicole Sullivan as an overloaded mom who starts a garage band. “Libertyville” features Christine Ebersole as a divorced mother trying to venture back into the dating scene.

Not included in Lifetime’s official announcements were two other Weinstein shows the producer said have been picked up by the network: “Models of the Runway,” a “Runway” spin-off that will air with the fashion competition in November, and “Project Pygmalion,” a “My Fair Lady” competition that will launch in 2009.

-- Matea Gold

Read more on Lifetime’s CEO, Andrea Wong here.