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Man With a Plan

Man With a Plan


Bravo's head of programming, Andy Cohen, has a full plate: blogging, hosting shows on TV and the Web, and picking the network's lineup. Cohen tells The Advocate how Bravo's creative (gay) shows have flourished and why Tim Gunn still doesn't have a date.

You could call him ''Mr. Bravo.'' Andy Cohen is the senior vice president of production and programming for the Bravo network, the host of the online series Watch What Happens, and the network's most prolific blogger. On February 11, Cohen hosts Bravo's 20 Most Outrageous Moments, which chronicles the highs and lows of Bravo, including lots of clips featuring what Cohen calls ''some of the most interesting homosexuals on TV.''

You promised Tim Gunn you'd help him find a boyfriend, and he was on Ellen the other day complaining you hadn't yet. How's that coming?

I know! Here's the deal: I feel Tim needs to commit, the way the women on Tim Gunn's Guide to Style do. You know how Tim has the ladies sign a contract? Well, that's what we need to do for Tim. I feel like Tim's in no particular hurry because he's so busy and personally satisfied with his life. After I saw the show I sent him an e-mail and told him I'm going to have him sign the contract. I think there are lots of straight women willing to have a sex-free relationship with him. Not that that's what we want for him, of course.

How weird is it that you have the openly gay host of a daytime TV show talking to the openly gay host of another TV show about how an openly gay television executive is trying to get him dates?

It's amazing to think of where we've come from in 10 years and 20 years out. There's a refreshing glut of gay people on TV. What's even more important is the way that gay people are represented as full people. They aren't on because they're gay, they're on Bravo because they're fascinating, creative people.

I've heard more than one person say, "Why do we need a gay TV channel when we have Bravo?" Was there a conscious decision to gay up Bravo when you came on?

I've heard that. I started after Queer Eye took off. We looked at what made that show such a success. As we focused on new programming we looked at each of the Fab 5's specialties -- cooking, style, design, fitness, and beauty -- and we built on these affinity groups. Is there a mandate at Bravo to put gay people on TV? No. But certainly these affinity groups appeal to fun, entertaining, aspirational, and exciting people.

So are you saying that Bravo's programming strategy is based off of Queer Eye?

It kind of naturally evolved after Queer Eye. Everything we've done since that has spun off from one of those affinity groups has done really well.

You've managed to take traditionally gay topics -- hairdressing and fashion design, especially -- and make them mainstream. Is there a formula to bringing arts and culture to everyday America?

The formula is finding incredibly creative people and getting in on the creative process. You see a dress come down the runway, and when you've seen everything that goes into it, when you've seen the buying of the fabric, the alterations that were made in the process, it's more exciting. And all of our shows let viewers in on the different ways people go through that creative process, whether it's on Runway or one of our docu-soaps like Flipping Out or Work Out where you see these people who are the top of their game in their own element.

You're probably the first network executive since Michael Eisner to step in front of the camera to be a television personality as well. How did that happen?

It's great fun. I started writing a blog. Well, actually, let me back up. It started when I was e-mailing my boss reports from the set of Battle of the Network Stars. The stuff I was writing was pretty dishy, and my boss said, "You should write a blog for" And what was great is that fans could could write in and ask a question about Nina Garcia [fashion director of Elle magazine and Project Runway host] and I could go down to the studio and ask Nina and post an answer. That's how we wound up doing all the blogging on the site. Now Nina has a blog; Tim has a blog. And then I started doing these Watch What Happens online shows which were so popular we made began doing on-air specials. So far it's been really fun and really organic. My boss will tell me when I look like a jerk, and I'm sure when this phase of what I'm doing is over, they'll let me know

You're extremely open and accessible as a network exec. You blog about your personal life. You've got a big ''E-mail Me'' button on your blog. Do you see yourself as different from your colleagues?

I think it's indicative of Bravo that they encourage me to keep this up. It's very much our attitude that we want to respond to our viewers. The website really feeds off the programming and vice versa. Watch What Happens is one of the first shows to go from an online format to being broadcast on-air. And with Bravo's 20 Most Outrageous Moments, that's something generated by the viewers. All the clips were up online and the viewers voted on them. It's really a user-programmed show, and that's something really new and unique. We're doing something similar for Make Me a Supermodel. You can download recipes you see on Top Chef, but we're going to take that further as we go forward. We're interested in looking at making our shows part of a 360-degree universe.

Also, when do you find time to blog?

I write on my way to work in the cab or on my BlackBerry. I've really gotten into a groove lately. It's a great outlet: I like to write and I like to be busy. At the same time, now and then it can be a bit of a drag.

What's one of the most outrageous moments you've personally had while at Bravo?

Oh, there are so many. I guess when I was hosting a live Watch What Happens web show after the on-air finale of Top Chef with Marcel and Ilan in the room. These are two people who hated each other; I mean really hated each other. It was so uncomfortable. Poor Ilan, all he wanted to do was be at home with his family and celebrate what should be this happy moment.

Was this the first time he'd seen the episode?

[Pauses] Yes. Oh, God, yeah. And he's sitting there with Marcel right beside him. Then we took calls from fans who had bad things to say about both of them. I don't think anyone wanted to be there.

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