January 08, 2012 7:00am PT by Jethro Nededog
Bravo's Andy Cohen Calls Out the Copycat Shows; Addresses Reports of Replacing Regis Philbin
Andy Cohen inhabits a unique space at Bravo where he is both a network executive and an on-air talent.
Known to be very candid on the network’s late night show, Watch What Happens Live, and its reunion specials, he’s also quite adept at putting on his executive hat when speaking about the show’s rapidly growing list of original programming -- especially when controversy hits the network.
On Sunday, Bravo will expand Watch What Happens Live, which regularly attracts more than a million viewers an episode (including one of the strongest followings among female viewers for late night shows), from two to five nights a week. At the same time, Cohen has let go of some of his executive duties at the network. In doing so, it would seem that he has tipped his hat as to where his real ambition lies. But, Cohen would say that the situation isn’t so clear-cut.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Cohen during the TCA Press Tour in Pasadena about the direction his career is taking, the hard decisions he has made surrounding the controversy of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Russell Armstrong’s suicide, and the many reports that he’s on the short list to fill Regis Philbin’s vacant co-hosting spot next to Cohen’s friend, Kelly Ripa, on Live.
Describe the intensity of the talks that surrounded Bravo’s decision-making after Russell Armstrong committed suicide.
Andy Cohen: Those talks were as deep as they could be and the process hasn’t ended. It’s something you continue discussing every day. It started the moment it happened and I would say it was incredibly intense for two months – significant intensity.
Looking back, is there anything you think Bravo should’ve done differently?
Cohen: At the beginning, there was so much misinformation flying around. And we wanted to keep quiet, because we felt like we’d let the show speak for itself. So, I wish we would have spoken out and cleared up a lot of things that were being reported.
It’s clear you’ve given up some of your executive duties to expand Watch What Happens Live to five nights. Can you describe what those are?
Cohen: I’m remaining an EP of Top Chef and the Housewives, I will be in charge of all development still and talent, which means finding new talent and working with our existing talent to make sure they’re happy and taken care of. So, what that means is I’ve taken off my plate twenty-something other series. It’s funny. Jeff [Lewis] has an incredible new show coming on, Interior Therapy, we’re in post on that show, I can’t imagine stopping watching rough cuts of that show. I’m very invested in it and I want it to be right. I just got two new episodes of [Bethenny Frankel’s] new show today, I’m seven in already, and I probably want to finish that season out. So, there’s a lot of work that I feel I will probably continue doing.
Does taking on Watch What Happens Live five nights a week come closer to what you’re really meant to do?
Cohen: I think I’m the luckiest guy. I get to do two of the things I like doing the most, which is producing television and being on television. And the being on television part started later in life. I’m very lucky. And in terms of what I’m meant to be, we’ll see.
Your name has been floated as a possible replacement for Regis Philbin on Live. What does that mean to you?
Cohen: It’s incredibly flattering to be in the discussion that the press is having about this. The truth of the matter is I’ve never actually spoken to anyone at Disney about it. And I’m flattered that the press keeps mentioning my name, but it’s the press that’s mentioning my name and I thank them for that. And now, I’m lucky enough to have something to do five nights and a great day job, so that’s what I’m really focusing on.
The network has really grown a lot under your watch with its appeal to gay men and female audiences. Have you noticed other networks nipping at Bravo’s heels in that niche?
Cohen: I think there are like 25 Housewives rip off shows on TV right now. I’ve noticed that. I think that when Top Chef came on, and you can thank executive producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz for this, that the whole look of food competitions, I think six months after, there were other food competition shows that completely looked different. So, I’ve noticed that. I try to stay focused on what we have coming up next, keeping things fresh and different. By the way, there’s a tremendous amount of other channels I watch where I say, ‘Oh my God, that is brilliant.’ There’s a zillion shows that I say, ‘I wish I could do that’ and ‘That’s Amazing.’
Watch What Happens Live kicks off its first five-night week on Sunday at 11 p.m. with guests The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss and The Roots’ Questlove.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro