Bravo programming chief and “Watch What Happens Live” host Andy Cohen flew into Atlanta this past weekend to receive an HRC Visibility Award at the Atlanta dinner Saturday at the Hyatt Regency downtown.
I talked to Cohen, senior vice president of programming for Bravo, last week before he came into town. He was in great spirits given that Bravo has been on the ratings rise, even with the loss of “Project Runway” to Lifetime.
“We lost one of our flagships and had a bigger year without it than with it,” Cohen said by phone from the Kentucky Derby in Louisville last Friday. And while its most obvious replacement “Fashion Show” failed to generate much buzz its first season, he isn’t giving up on it yet: “We’re going to make it better. We’ll going to keep what worked and build on it.”
He said the appeal of the “Housewives” franchises stem from “independent, strong, interesting one-of-a-kind women who are living sometimes aspirational lives that may be seem outsized in the beginning but wind up being incredibly relatable in the end.”
He considers New Jersey’s women focused around family (since most are actually family members). The New York crew is very “cosmo and chic and in your face.” Atlanta is defined by “fun. It puts a smile on so many peoples’ faces. You never know what any of them will do on any given day.” Orange County is basically modern-day “Knots Landing.”
As a network exec, he decided to start blogging about shows on Bravo, providing him more direct contact with Bravo fans. It segued into an online-only show which featured guests such as Sandra Bernhard. He then hosted the “Housewives” reunion shows. This led to the “Watch What Happens Live” shows which now air on Thursday nights.
Cohen is enjoying his on-the-screen fame. In fact, he wanted to be in front of the camera at first but found greater success early on behind the scenes. He worked as a producer for a decade at CBS producing the morning show and “48 Hours.” He then went to short-lived cable network Trio for four years. When the boss there left for Bravo in 2004, he joined her.
At that point, Bravo had “Queer Eye” and was about to introduce “Project Runway.” The thematics of the network have not changed since: fashion, food, beauty, design and pop culture. And this formula has worked, drawing increasing numbers of 18 to 49 year old women.
The non-profit organization HRC and Bravo, he said, follow the same sensibility: “It’s a kind of world in which gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people can live happily along side their straight counterparts. And the gay people we have on Bravo are talented, not simply there because they’re gay.”
Of new upcoming shows, he’s most excited about a competition focused on art using the producers of “Top Chef” and Sarah Jessica Parker. “It makes art acceptable and fun,” he said.