Bravo Exec On The Art Of Creating 'Reality'

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Bravo's Andy Cohen i

Andy Cohen is Bravo's senior vice president of original programming and development. Courtesy of Bravo hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Bravo
Bravo's Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen is Bravo's senior vice president of original programming and development.

Courtesy of Bravo

The cable channel Bravo landed on America's pop culture map after launching the hit series Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and Project Runway. Soon after creating these high-end shows revolving around food, fashion and design, the channel quickly attracted an equally high-end audience.

"We have the most educated audience in all of cable and the most upscale audience in all of cable," says Andy Cohen, Bravo's senior vice president of original programming and development.

In an interview with All Things Considered host Madeleine Brand, Cohen divides Bravo programming roughly into two camps: competitive reality and docu-series.

Programs such as Top Chef, where trained chefs participate in high-level culinary competitions, fall into the category of competitive reality. The docu-series, on the other hand, include the growing Real Housewives franchise. In The Real Housewives programs, Bravo follows wealthy homemakers in Orange County, Calif., Atlanta, New York and New Jersey and documents their daily dramas.

"I call it sociology, anthropology of the rich," says Cohen.

But the smart competitive fashion-design program Project Runway has left for rival channel Lifetime. At the same time, the drama-filled Real Housewives franchise is gaining a bigger presence on Bravo. That has some wondering whether Bravo is shifting from talent to ... well ... trash.

"I think The Real Housewives is a great addition to the portfolio," says Cohen, who brought both that franchise and Project Runway to Bravo. "I think it brings a lot of viewers under our umbrella, and I think they stay and sample other shows."

Asked if Bravo might be losing its magic — and its grasp on the public zeitgeist — Cohen says the network still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

"I feel great about what we have coming up," says Cohen. He promises that future programming will continue to include talented people in the areas of design, art and fashion.

But popular as they are, competitive reality shows aren't without their problems either.

A recent article in The New York Times quoted former reality show contestants who criticized their treatment during filming.

Former contestants told the Times that onerously long work days, stressful situations and a ready supply of alcohol set the stage for contestant meltdowns — which, of course, make for great ratings.

Cohen maintains that all of Bravo's reality stars are treated humanely.

"We're interested in finding the next great chef," he says. "We're not interested in having the next nervous breakdown."

Web Resources

Read The New York Times article about reality show treatment of their contestants.



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