*The drama was intensified for your viewing pleasure this season on “Real Housewives of Atlanta” — most notably when Sheree Whitfield made the pearl-clutching confession to her co-stars Phaedra Parks and Kenya Moore during a road trip that her ex, Bob Whitfield, abused her during their seven-year marriage.
Bob has been trying to win her back this season, but his nonchalant attitude towards Sheree’s allegations had many on social media hitting her up to advise that it may not be wise to rekindle the romance with her one-eyed ex.
Kenya’s storyline also had a hint of domestic violence by the hands of her ex young boytoy, Matt Jordan. Meanwhile, the “lesbian drug-den drama” between Kandi and Porsha Williams nearly came to blows. In case you missed it, peep the recap over at realitytea.com.
Now there are whispers that former housewife NeNe Leakes will rejoin the show, but producers may have to 86 a cast member or two to make room for her and her ego. NeNe’s former friend Kim Zolciak is also rumored to be making a return to, along with a couple of fresh faces for the upcoming season — all in the name of ratings.
When EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with ‘Housewives’ executive producer Andy Cohen during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, we asked him to respond to critics who believe the drama on the franchise is getting more manufactured as the women are basically creating mayhem to stay relevant and employed.
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“In terms of the drama on the show, I would say to you, you should meet one of the housewives,” Cohen said. “They are as real on the show as they are …I mean, they are uniquely who they are, and so I love what’s happening on the shows and feel good about it.”
As far as rumors that the franchise overall is on the decline… Andy wants you to know that, “First of all, no.”
“Beverly Hills,” I think two weeks ago, had its highest-rated episode in five years,” he noted. “I think it was 3.3 million viewers. “Atlanta” is enjoying incredible ratings right now. So the show is incredibly robust and shows no signs to me of slowing down.”
What about those lavish parties the housewives host that Andy is never invited to?
“Well, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to go,” he said during TCA back in January. “There are some that I’m invited to that I think it would be kind of fourthwally breaking the fourth wall of me to show up to a party. But my relationship is everything from, you know, boss, daddy, husband, enemy, friend, confidant.”
After being head of development at Bravo for more than 10 years, Cohen resigned in 2013, but continues to serve as an executive producer of “The Real Housewives” franchise. Viewers have come to live for his nightly Bravo series “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” which is part interactive series/part cocktail hour. Andy says the bar atmosphere on the show is meant to “be an organic experience.”
“We are the only live show in late night. I’ve done pretty much all the other latenight shows, and they tape around 5:00 in the afternoon. And they often say, you know, “We have cocktails here if you’d like them.” For me, I never drink at 5:00 p.m., but if you are coming to my house at 11:00 p.m., the first thing I’m going to do is say, “What are you drinking?” And the next thing I’m going to do is ply you for information about your personal life and try to get some gossip out of you. So it’s pretty much an authentic experience of coming over to my house at 11:00. I do think it opens people up, and it loosens people up. And, certainly, not everyone drinks, and not everyone drinks heavily. So it just has different effects with different people.”
Okay, so which celebrities have gotten sloppy drunk on his talk show?
“Oh, my God. How much time do we have?…. Rosie Perez, Ricki Lake. Jussie Smollett and Gabby Sidibe were in recently. Just lit up like a Christmas tree,” he revealed.
Not every guest drinks but the booze certainly helps those who do open up and spill the type of tea that makes great television, which is something a competitive producer like Cohen lives for.
“I want everyone to leave happy about the experience. So, you know, I do, though, think that people watch this show expecting me to go there with people and ask what they want to know. And we have a tendency of getting things out of people that they don’t necessarily reveal on other latenight shows, and I think that’s one of the hallmarks of the show, frankly. And I think, when people come on the show, they expect that. They expect that conversation. However, I mean, if someone comes on and says, “I absolutely will not discuss X or Y,” it either becomes a negotiation, or we figure out a way around it.”
In terms of guests, Andy revealed which celebrity coupling had the best chemistry together and which had the worst chemistry.
“John Mayer and Dan Rather was a really good pairing a few years ago that I loved. We try to put two unlikely people together. I remember we had Clay Aiken and Jenna Jameson once. We had James Frey, the author, with JWOWW from “Jersey Shore.” So we try to go highlow a little bit sometimes.
He added, “It usually works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s fascinating when it doesn’t. We’ve had guests who have wound up hating each other. Joan Rivers, on her last appearance on the show it was about six weeks before she passed away came on with was it Maksim from “Dancing with the Stars”? And before the show, he had said something that set her off, and she turned to me and made it clear that this was going to be not fun for him. Somehow he turned it around and it was incredible. But I’m telling you, the first five I was shvitzing badly.”
When asked if there’s anything he misses about being a relatively anonymous network executive, Cohen stated, “The great thing about my life right now is that I never gave up being a producer, which is what I loved about being a network executive, and developing. I have a production company. I’m a very active executive producer of this show and a few others.”
Continuing: “So, when I left Bravo as my day job, I certainly didn’t want to sever my connection with the “Housewives,” and so we worked out an arrangement where I could continue as an EP of those shows, too. I love producing TV, and I will always do that.”
“Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” airs Sun-Thurs 11/10c.
Tune in to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” Sundays at 8/7c on BRAVO.