Fifth season set for Andy Cohen interview show

Bravo has renewed Andy Cohen’s interview show “Watch What Happens Live” for a fifth season, with a special 100th episode to air Thursday at 11 p.m.

With “WWHL” as a staple, Bravo continues to experiment with live programming, with Cohen out in front. On Tuesday, the network’s “Real Housewives of Miami” reunion show will air live at 9 p.m. — a first for the “Housewives” reunion shows. Cohen also emceed much of Bravo’s Gotham upfront presentation last week, shots of which were broadcast live on the network during commercial breaks on “Top Chef.”

Cohen and company will be mixing it up slightly for the anniversary: The show is “going back to the classics,” according to the exec, who is Bravo’s prexy of original programming and development, as well as the show’s host. Asked what he’ll be doing besidesinterviewing New York “Housewives” Ramona Singer and Jill Zarin, Cohen said, “The staff has a lot of surprises for me, so I don’t know!”

“WWHL” was born out of Cohen’s daily blog at BravoTV.com, which net topper (now division chief) Lauren Zalaznick liked enough to turn into a live webcast interview with the eliminated “Top Chef” contestant. Show exec producer Michael Davies said that the webcast was shot out of “a tiny little studio — I mean, to call it a studio is an insult to studios.”

When the show went from the Web to the smallscreen, Bravo spruced up the equipment but kept the mini-studio. There’s plenty of fiber-optic cable available in the building (the studio isn’t at 30 Rock) that houses “WWHL,” since it also hosts a telephone company. So the transition to TV was simple — and more importantly, cheap.

“We make it for a five-figure number, and not even a very high five-figure number, and it rates as high as shows that cost eight, nine, 10 times as much,” Davies said.

Over the years, the show has grown from a first-season average of 743,000 viewers (and 525,000 in the 18-49 demo) to 1.6 million total viewers and 1 million in the demo — the average for this season so far. A move from midnight to 11 p.m. in 2010 helped boost ratings as well.

Cohen told Daily Variety he wants to continue to try new things with the show and the network, using the platform to send viewers to Bravo on-air and online. “I want to keep experimenting with our interactivity and inventing ridiculous games,” he said. “We want to move our aftershow to a live event on Bravo.com. After the show, we’ll go straight to live.”

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