Bravo has announced Project Runway's fifth season will premiere Wednesday, July 16 at 9PM ET/PT -- however it still isn't ready to reveal exactly who will be doing the judging on what will likely be the last Bravo edition of the network's flagship reality series.

The network revealed Project Runway's fifth-season debut date in a commercial that aired during last night's Top Chef: Chicago finaleProject Runway's fifth-season will be the first edition to air in the 9PM ET/PT time period. 

Until now, every previous Project Runway edition has aired in the Wednesdays at 10PM ET/PT time period.  The second season of Shear Genius -- a Runway-like hair-stylist competition that the network presumably hopes to grow into its next Runway-level hit -- is scheduled to air in Runway's former Wednesdays at 10PM ET/PT time period beginning June 25.

In April, Lifetime Networks and Project Runway's Weinstein Company production company allegedly surprised Bravo by announcing a five-year deal to bring cable's top-rated reality show to Lifetime beginning with its sixth season, which the women's network announced would debut in November 2008. 

Then, the same week Lifetime and The Weinstein Company announced their deal, Project Runway judge Nina Garcia was fired from her position at Elle magazine.

Shortly thereafter, Bravo confirmed that Project Runway's fifth season would premiere in July and include the return of fashion guru Tim Gunn and lead judge Heidi Klum.  However, while the network later stated it expected both of them to also return, the fifth-season announcement failed to make any mention of Garcia or Michael Kors, Runway's third regular judge.

Given Garcia had initially been selected for Project Runway's judging panel due to the fact that Elle was a founding sponsor of the show, her Elle departure created uncertainty about whether Garcia -- who like Kors, was reportedly still officially unsigned for the show's fifth season -- would return for what will likely also be Project Runway's final Elle-affiliated season.  (The magazine's existing sponsorship deal ends with Runway's fifth season, and similar to its Lifetime broadcast deal, The Weinstein Company has reportedly been aggressively shopping the show's sponsorship rights.)

The drama appeared to end when Garcia and Elle released a May press release in which they announced they'd reached a temporary agreement that would allow Garcia to serve as the magazine's Project Runway representative through the show's fifth season, however Bravo has yet to formally confirm Garcia's fifth-season participation.

When reached by Reality TV World on Thursday, Bravo once again declined to provide any additional information about Project Runway's fifth season -- including confirmation on whether Garcia and Kors will reprise their roles.

The announcement of Garcia's temporary Elle pact also came on the same day that -- in a move that seemed to indicate that it will likely eventually be named Project Runway's new magazine sponsor -- Marie Claire announced it had hired Garcia to serve as its new fashion director beginning September 2, the day after her temporary Elle position ends on September 1.

In the meantime, Bravo's NBC Universal parent company is continuing to pursue a lawsuit that claims NBC Universal still has "continuing legal rights related to Project Runway, including a right of first refusal to future cycles of the series" against The Weinstein Company.

The Weinstein Company has countered NBC Universal's lawsuit by claiming NBC declined to compete for the rights to future Project Runway editions beyond the upcoming fifth season to which the parties were already contracted.
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In its lawsuit. NBC Universal also alleges that a Weinstein Company request that Bravo debut Project Runway's fifth season in July is the reason that show's fifth season will debut only four months after the March finale of the show's fourth season.  With the exception of Project Runway's Summer 2006 third edition, all of Project Runway's previous editions have premiered in November or early December.