Andy Cohen Hedges on His 'No New Housewives' Edict: 'Never Say Never'
by Joel Keller, posted Apr 7th 2011 11:00AM
Because Andy Cohen is not only a "Bravo-lebrity" -- he's host of the loosey-goosey talk show 'Watch What Happens Live' -- but he's also the network's executive vice president of original programming, it's hard to pin him down on certain issues.
For instance, when asked about his assertion last month that 'The Real Housewives' series won't be expanding into new cities, he backtracks a little bit. "Um, I mean, you know, look, I mean, look, never say never, but I think we're really good right now," he told me earlier this week. He also won't mention the fate of 'The Real Housewives of DC:' "You know what, we have not made any announcements and we haven't really gotten into it." (Update: 'The Real Housewives of DC' was officially canceled on April 7.)
One thing is certain, though: if the show is pushing into Toronto, as was reported last week, it won't be produced by Bravo: "You know what, I don't know if that's a license deal. I don't know what that is. But that was the first I had heard of it too."
On Thursday, April 7 at 11PM ET, Cohen celebrated the 100th episode of 'WWHL,' and he's enjoying every minute of his side gig. "I love it that right now it's kind of somewhere between 'Wayne's World' and a Fellini movie," Cohen said.
Cohen spoke to me a few days after Bravo's upfront, where they announced 11 new shows and the renewal of five others. Since then, the network has announced the development of eight more new shows, including their first scripted show.
Joel Keller: One of the new shows that intrigued me was 'The Therapists.' How are you going to show their clients ... how is that going to work?
Andy Cohen: Well, this is amazing. They're going to open up not only their lives at home, but what goes on in their office with clients. And I think that's a phenomenal ... you've never seen it on an unscripted show before. And I think some of the therapy that's going on on 'Bethenny Ever After' is some of the most real, and raw, and poignant that I've seen in an unscripted show. And you know, it's kind of an amazing journey that she's on, and I think her therapist is great. And so that's an example where it works with a client.
How tough is it to get people to give permission to have their therapy sessions on camera?
I think it's, yeah, I mean, I think we'll find out as we go into production on that show. But we've already had some interest from some patients of the therapists that we've chosen.
Because Jeff Lewis has a new show, 'Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis', does it mean that 'Flipping Out' is on hiatus?
No, 'Flipping Out' is in production right now.
The previous seasons of 'Flipping Out' show that he seems to be over-scheduled as it is.
Yeah, I know.
How is he dealing with that?
I'll let you know. I'll let you know soon, when I start getting calls from him. [Laughs]
Obviously Jeff is a pretty honest guy. What are you looking for in that new show?
Oh, it's great. It will wind up being the realest makeover show on TV Because it's no B.S. I mean, we shot a pilot already, and Jeff and the people whose home he was making over hated each other. He called them pigs. And it's hilarious. And it's just how he deals. It's how he kind of interacts with people.
What is the status of 'Millionaire Matchmaker?'
'Millionaire Matchmaker' is a very important part of what we do. And we hope to be working with Patty [Stanger] for many, many years to come. All this means is that we love Laurie Zaslow [of the new show 'Project Soulmate'], who is a great matchmaker on the east coast. She has a different philosophy than Patty, and the show will be different, and it's its own thing.
Any truth to the rumors that were going around that Patty, especially this year, had become a little more difficult to work with, or there was some tension?
You know, I think it's just standard ... when shows are really successful and have big success, then people love to start speculating.
Are some of the incidents that we've heard this year with the Jersey 'Housewives,' the arrest of Joe Giudice and the arrest of Caroline Manzo's sons down in the Bahamas, was that part of the shooting of this coming season?
Mmm-hmmm. You have to wait and see, my friend.
When you say that, there's definitely an assumption there that it's going to be in there.
Well, I don't know. I mean, you know, look, we typically don't comment about shows that are in production, I'll tell you that. So it just doesn't, it's all speculation. Eventually the show's going to come out and then that's the time that we're really going to want to talk about it. [Laughs]
You always strike me as half executive, half fan. So when you hear about incidents like this happening, and you know that it could perhaps end up on the show, what does the executive say, and what does the fan say?
Well, I mean, incidents like what?
Let's say the hair pulling incident last year on Jersey 'Housewives,' or the Grammer divorce on the Beverly Hills 'Housewives' ...
I think my first reaction is always, "just make sure like is everybody OK." You know what I mean? I don't want anyone to go through any pain. In terms of [being] an executive, look, real life is shocking. And so when we're shooting for the amount of time that we're shooting, with the amount of people, you know, you're going to get a lot of different things happening. So you could never predict. I could never predict. I can't predict a hair pull. I can't predict a marriage falling apart. I can't predict when someone's going to fall in love. I'm sad when I hear that [Orange County Housewife] Tamara's marriage was falling apart in front of our cameras, and I'm happy to hear, eight months later, that she's madly in love with someone and just thrilled to death. So I think that both as an executive and as a fan, I have similar feelings.
Are you surprised after a particularly tumultuous season that almost all the cast of a 'Housewives' show come back? And what do you think is their motivation to come back?
I think for some of them, they have other businesses that they want to launch, or there are other things that come along with being a Housewife that they enjoy, like fame and being, you know. I think a lot of them have charities they're involved with that receive a tremendous amount of publicity as a result of this show. Some of them are working on books, some of them have clothing lines, so I think there are ulterior motives for all of them in various ways.
Can you explain the announcement that the next season of 'Top Chef' is going to play out on multiple platforms?
We're going to make an announcement a little bit later, giving more specifics. But I'll say we have the most tech-savvy audience on cable, they're all early adopters of new forms of technology, and new ways of doing things. So suffice it to say, this is going to be a breakthrough innovation that not only changes how you're going to watch 'Top Chef,' but it's going to change the format of the show, of the next season of the show in a pretty cool way.
How do you follow up an All-Star season?
You just go bigger and better, and I mean, the good news is, for us, it's been nine months to a year since we've cast a season of 'Top Chef.' So now, the people auditioning for 'Top Chef' are going to be, I mean, they're going to be even hungrier to make it on the show. So we expect our strongest round of auditions yet.
OK, let's talk about 'Watch What Happens Live.' How have things changed for you since the show started, now that you're basically kind of in that same realm of Bravo-lebrity, as you guys call it, as everybody else on the station?
You know, weirdly, it's funny. It hasn't changed within Bravo at all. I'm still doing what I do. I think for new people who come in, it's funny for them when I show up at a meeting and they're like, wait, this is a sales meeting, or this is a marketing meeting, or this is whatever, and wow, Andy's at this meeting? It's like, yep, this is what I do. So for everybody that I've worked with for years and years, it may get a little more surreal, and it's kind of amusing. But in terms of my day job, it just means I'm kind of pulled from more directions. But otherwise, I'm still watching rough cuts of every show and doing notes on them. In a million different ways, I'm still involved.
Did you think that you'd be celebrating 100 episodes? Or some sort of milestone?
No way. Look, I didn't think we'd have done it 100 times, I didn't think that we would have beaten the competition we've beaten, I didn't think that we would've moved to 11:00, I didn't think we'd be on twice a week, I didn't think we would have gotten the guests that we've gotten. So no, no. We were doing this as a 12-episode experiment
What can you bring that others in that timeslot, like Jon Stewart and Conan O'Brien, may not have?
I think what's different about this show is that we are live. And there is no other live show on in late night, besides 'Saturday Night Live.' And you know, we're live and we're interactive. And so I think that when you're live at 11:00, with Jerry Seinfeld, with Tina Fey, or Joan Rivers, or the Housewives, or Amy Sedaris, or Diane Von Furstenburg, it just gives you an ability to ... obviously we're totally up to the minute. But also, anything can happen. It's totally spontaneous. And it's just fun.
What was the most shocking guest that you got?
When Levi Johnston was on Skype once and a viewer asked if he would ever pose nude, and then he said "for the right price." And then the next day started a bidding war over him posing nude. I think that was kind of amazing. And I think it was a live TV moment when Jerry Seinfeld was sitting across from me, telling me about his disdain for the Housewives. And I think that was kind of hilarious, actually. At first, I was sitting there thinking, oh my God, I have to be a gracious host, but you know, as the guy who's in charge of programming and responsible for the show, I can't let him offend this thing that I feel great about. And so I think finally once I started standing up for myself and telling him he needed to be drinking alcohol instead of coffee, and this wasn't fun, I think that's when I started having fun.
Was it intimidating for you at first when you had those big guests on, to mix it up with them a little bit?
Yeah, absolutely. It was intimidating, it was funny. I remember the night that Joan Rivers was on, and it was when we were still on at midnight. And she came on and it was a huge snowstorm. Massive. And she had just done a show somewhere, a stand up show in New York. And I just couldn't believe that she came in this snowstorm to be on the show. I was sitting there, and I was looking at her, and I was just remembering watching her on Carson, when she would sub when I was growing up in junior high and high school. I always used to love it when she was guest hosting for Carson. And then to have her there with me on my show at midnight, that she made an effort to come ... That was one of the times where I was just blown away.
Who would be your dream guest?
Michelle Obama. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love a first lady. I love a first lady.
Do you think she'd ever admit to watching Bravo shows?
I don't know. There's an election season coming up.
'Watch What Happens Live' usually airs Tuesdays and Sundays at 11PM ET on Bravo... except when it doesn't. Check your listings for airings.
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