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The Bravo network's senior VP of production and programming, Andy Cohen, doesn't just watch his successful Housewives franchise rack up the ratings from atop an ivory tower -- Cohen presides over the show's increasingly hostile reunions. During the two-part reunion for The Real Housewives of New Jersey that first aired Monday night, the genial gay host gets in between Teresa "table-flipper" Giudice and Danielle Staub, the controversial villainess of the series. Cohen talks to The Advocate about Teresa, Danielle, and what's next for the Housewives franchises, including a (slight) turn to more serious subjects than weave-pulling.
The Advocate: Hi, Andy.
Andy Cohen: Hey there. I have an Emmy hangover.
Congratulations on Top Chef. Who was the person who fell?
Oh, it was a great producer of ours named Erica.
It looked like she saved herself before she kissed the ground.
Yeah, she almost face-planted. I can't believe, after all the Emmys I sat through, this was the one I didn't go to and it was the one I actually won a trophy at.
The RHONJ reunion looks bonkers. Does the shove heard round the world happen tonight?
It happens tonight. [Giudice] threw me down! I've been in hard-core training for the last four months, so it was amazing to see how I could be pushed down like a feather. Teresa is very strong. I can see how that table flipped so easily; she's a strong girl. She was very angry.
The reunion looks really rough on Danielle. Does she get a worse rap than she should?
I think there are layers of the story on both sides -- we will never know the whole true story. I know she is a lightning rod for [the other women] and she felt very ganged up on by them. It was a year of tension coming unraveled there because they all had not been in that same room since the last reunion show. From the first question I asked, it was "go." We started talking about Jersey Shore and they got into it on a tangential issue. I posted a video on my blog of a flipcam that I took of the three of them, and then when Danielle comes. There's little to no interaction between all of them outside of when we're shooting the actual show. What happened was very real and very tense. I think ... look, when you have three people on one side and one on the other, I can see how Danielle can feel ganged up on and feel attacked. That must have been a hard day for her.
Kelly Killoren Bensimon of The Real Housewives of New York recently came to the defense of Danielle; some people posted online how they should get their own spin-off. Thoughts?
I think the reason the shows have been successful is they're real microcosms of life in a certain community. So the idea of just putting people together because they're both representative of things in their own cast is a construct that wouldn't fly with viewers. I get tweets from viewers all the time that you should put together Gretchen Rossi [of the Orange County show], Danielle, Kelly, and Kim Zolciak [of the Atlanta show] and see what happens. It's too artificial; it's not Big Brother. Regarding the whole notion of spin-offs in general. I think there is great strength for all of these women to be in an ensemble cast. When you look at Friends, it was a great ensemble cast, and then you look at Joey, which was a spin-off that wasn't successful -- no one wants to be Joey.
But Bethenny Frankel from The Real Housewives of New York did well with her spin-off.
Bethenny did great. But she's one of 26 housewives that we've spun off. We just have to be very deliberate and careful about it, and that'll be the exception, not the norm.
Can you comment on the casting of the next season of RHONJ?
We're waiting for the dust to settle, and it won't until September 7, when the final part of the reunion airs. You just need that to happen, take some breaths, and start thinking about next season.
Do you have a favorite Housewives show?
It's usually the one I'm looking at rough cuts of. So right now we're still cutting D.C. and the next season of Atlanta. So right now those are the ones I'm obsessed with because they're in post-production and I'm actively involved with them. Like any fan of the Housewives, it's the one in front of you at the moment. I'm really excited about D.C.; it's really layered and goes places that none of the other series go. There are elements of racial dynamics that are coming into play. There are serious social dynamics happening that are different from anything else. There's about to be a big debate on gay marriage that's going to surprise a lot of people. I really love D.C.
It seems that the Southern shows -- Atlanta and D.C. -- have fabulous gays running around. But not so much in New York, New Jersey, or California; maybe gays are too ubiquitous in those places?
It's funny, right? Well, tonight you see Danielle's hairdresser and Teresa's. There's a lot of backstage stuff happening, and I do a fair amount of backstage wrangling, so you see their gays.
By the way, in part 2 of the RHONJ reunion, we really talk about the use of the f word as it played out on the show.
Caroline used it recently, not disparagingly but referencing when her son was called that word.
I asked GLAAD about when I'm discussing the use of the word, should it be bleeped out. They said, "We believe it should always be bleeped." I produced a documentary called The N Word and you had Chris Rock and Whoopi Goldberg talking about that word, and we certainly didn't bleep out the word in the documentary. It's an interesting discussion.
Changing gears, has the Beverly Hills show starting shooting yet?
Yes. Announcement [on cast] imminent.
Maybe I can be the gay on Beverly Hills.
It's already shot, and there's a great gay on Beverly Hills; he's really sexy.