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Andy Cohen on His New ‘Connection,’ Patti LuPone and Kathy Griffin

He’s juggling a lot these days — hosting and producing TV shows — and he tends to spend a lot of time with Kelly Ripa. But we’re not talking about Ryan Seacrest. It’s Andy Cohen who’s earning the title of “busiest man in show business.”

In addition to hosting “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen,” executive producing “The Real Housewives” series and other shows for Bravo, plus running his own radio network at Sirius, Cohen has been tapped as the host for the revival of “The Love Connection,” set to air on Fox this summer.

“My bandwidth is pretty large,” Cohen tells Variety. “I’m very deadline-oriented. I ask, ‘When do I need to get this done by?’ and then, I say, ‘OK, let’s figure out how to make this happen.’”

Cohen actually tried to make “Connection” happen for Bravo years ago, but didn’t envision himself as host. “I’m a big fan of the format,” he says. “This was something that just came to me, and I’m lucky it did.”

Fox considers itself to be the fortunate one. “Andy is one of the most gifted hosts in television,” says Rob Wade, president, alternative entertainment and specials, Fox. “He brings an infectious energy and humorous perspective to the show that the contestants, audience and viewers clearly all respond to.”

The new “Connection,” set to air this summer, will include contestants making initial judgments based on first impressions, but those may be deceiving. “We had someone give someone a 3 [out of 10], but by the end of the date they liked each other a lot more.”

Other changes to the show include the participation of gay couples. “I hope the show entertains,” he says. “It’s just great TV. I’ve always loved hearing about my friends’ first dates.”

Contestants will have the option of continuing their budding relationships or cashing out for $10,000. “Most people who had a real connection stayed with the person over [taking] the money,” Cohen says.

As he does with his Bravo shows, Cohen will employ social media to attract eyeballs.

“With almost 5 million fans and followers, Andy understands the authenticity and power of social media,” Wade says. “[He’ll do] a weekly ‘What Would Andy Do?’ recap of each episode for his fans, who are as equally engaged on social media.”

“Andy’s the embodiment of Bravo culture. He embodies what we call the ‘Bravo wink.’ We’re not judging, we’re amused by what we’re presenting.”
Frances Berwick

While non-broadcast platforms can drive eyeballs to TV screens, Cohen also utilizes his air time on cable to get hits online for his Bravo late-night talk show.

“At the end of every show at 11:30, Andy will say, ‘I’m going to keep going with my guests at BravoTV.com,’” says Frances Berwick, president, lifestyle networks, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “That’s when the guests are even looser and you get more stuff from them.”

Initially, Cohen relied on celebrity pals including Kelly Ripa, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jerry Seinfeld to help launch “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.” Today, he brings the same level of enthusiasm and authenticity that he did when he managed to land an interview with Emmy winner Susan Lucci (“All My Children”) when he was a student at Boston University for the school’s newspaper.

In May, he asked Patti LuPone what she thought of Madonna’s acting and the Broadway legend didn’t hold back. While her provocative comments were picked up on social media the next day, Cohen theorizes there’s less fallout when an actor says something in an interview situation.

“If someone had tweeted out that Madonna is ‘dead behind the eyes’ and she’s a ‘movie killer,’ that’s deliberate. No one’s asking when you tweet something. [But] I asked her. She’s someone who doesn’t give a f–k. Why should she? She’s Patti LuPone.”

Still, many feel we’re living in a hypersensitive times in which no one, not even comedians, can say anything controversial, or, at the very least, too many lines are being crossed. Just ask Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher. When Kathy Griffin tweeted out a photo (since deleted) of her holding an apparently bloodied President Trump mask, she lost her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve countdown show. Some called for Maher to be fired after the host used the “n word” on his show, “Real Time.”

“I always think it’s a good idea to own it and then move on,” says Cohen, who has appeared on Maher’s “Real Time” and was executive producer of Griffin’s Bravo series “My Life on the D List.”

“Kathy will wind up getting booked again, and [Bill] will probably come up with a great way to talk about this on his show.”

Unlike Seacrest, who was on radio in his teens, Cohen never set out to become on-air talent.

“It’s unheard of,” he reflects on his career path. “It was never my intention to become the face of Bravo. If I had said that I wanted to when I was in charge of production and development, I would have been laughed out of the room. It happened very organically and slowly. I never shirked my day job.”

Adds Berwick: “Andy’s the embodiment of Bravo culture. He embodies what we call the ‘Bravo wink.’ We’re not judging, but we’re amused by what we’re presenting. The fact that Andy hosts many of our [“Housewives”] reunion shows and he’s on the air five nights week shows that he’s part of the fabric and the brand of the network.”

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