Military, masseuses bring tones that spread across series

Showman of the Year 2012: A+E Networks - Lifetime

As Lifetime prepares for a wide new range of programming, its tried-and-true shows remain firmly in the mix, from six seasons strong flagship drama “Army Wives,” which recently celebrated its 100th episode, to reality hit “Dance Moms,” poised to spin off further shows.

Of these, and series such as “The Client List” and “Project Runway,” Lifetime exec VP of programming Rob Sharenow says, “They’re programs that you can’t get anywhere else, presenting different voices and unique characters.”

That’s certainly the case with Jennifer Love Hewitt’s protagonist on “The Client List,” a single mother in a priggish Texas town, who sidelines as a pleasure-providing masseuse. At first a two-hour movie, Lifetime launched it as a 10-episode series this year to rewarding numbers. A 15-episode second season was ordered to debut next year.

Its hold with viewers, says Sharenow, has to do with a key mixture of tones.

“There’s an engaging character at the center of it, and she’s got a moral complexity that viewers are responding to.”

“Army Wives,” meanwhile, is a case of the right show at the right time.

“I don’t know that there’s ever been a show that spoke so directly to the military and their families and loved ones in a time of war, which we’re in,” Sharenow says. “No one else has this backdrop and tells these stories.”

Another milieu that Lifetime struck gold with is the world of stage mothers with reality hit “Dance Moms,” which debuted last year and made a star of forthright teacher Abby Lee Miller.

Says Sharenow: “We’re really proud of that show. It brings together a great central character, amazing drama, and true artistry and competition at the same time.”

Then there’s reality icon “Project Runway,” which Lifetime has been airing since 2009 and is now in its 10th season. With competition shows everywhere on the dial, “Runway” still has the cache of focusing on the creative process as much as interpersonal drama.

“One thing that doesn’t get talked about a lot, and I think is critical to the success of the show, is that on every level it’s completely authentic and valid in the fashion world,” says Sharenow. “It’s a show where you’re seeing what real fashion designers do, and they’re being evaluated by the most insightful voices in the industry.”