Andy Cohen, Fox Make A ‘Love Connection’

Andy Cohen was born for the screen.

He’s been working in TV for almost 30 years now, starting out behind the camera as a producer for CBS News shows CBS This Morning and 48 Hours for 10 years, before moving to cable network Trio in 2000 as head of original programming and development. That job evolved into one at Bravo, where Cohen spent 2004 to 2013 as an executive, producing shows such as the Real Housewives franchise (which he still executive produces), as well as Project Runway, Top Chef and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, winning Emmys along the way.

But his true talent showed through on the other side of the lens as host of Watch What Happens Live, which started as a Real Housewives aftershow in July 2009, and expanded to twice a week in 2012. In 2013, Cohen went full-time as a TV talent.

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This summer, Cohen is expanding to a competing network, Fox, where he’s hosting a summer revival of Love Connection, featuring real couples who go on real blind dates and then spill the beans to Cohen. The show premiered on Thursday, May 25, to 3.4 million viewers and a 1.1 in the key adult 18-49 demographic, leading Fox to a rare Thursday-night win. And Watch What Happens Live is getting a test run in syndication on Fox-owned stations, giving Cohen a chance to grow his brand a bit more.

Cohen took a minute out of his busy schedule to chat with B&C contributing editor Paige Albiniak.

WasLove Connectiona show you watched growing up?
Andy Cohen: I’ve always loved the format. I tried to get the format at Bravo, but it didn’t work out. And then [executive producers] Mike Darnell and Mike Fleiss just called and offered me the series.

MCN:SinceLove Connectionis airing on Fox, it’s outside the NBCUniversal family for you. Was that an issue at all?
AC: I went on bended knee [to his bosses at NBCUniversal] begging them to let me do this.

MCN:What drew you toLove Connection?
AC: It’s such a simple format. It’s a he said, she said, about first dates. It’s exactly in my wheelhouse. I love talking to people about their personal lives. I love hearing my friends’ first-date stories. It just really feels like an extension of what I do on Watch What Happens Live. It felt too perfect not to do.

We have Ramona Singer from Real Housewives of New York. We’ve got interracial, gay and lesbian couples. We had a guy this week who asked a woman on his first date how much she weighed, which was insane. There are so many funny stories to tell about these encounters.

And as funny as it all is, we made some real love connections, there are people we set up who are still dating.

MCN:You are the first gay host of a late-night talk show — do you think that has any relevance to how you host this show?
AC: I think being gay is part of who I am but it’s not all of who I am. But if there’s a guy who’s hot, I have no problem saying he’s really hot. I definitely say what I think.

MCN:Where do you think the show exists in the modern world of dating, where so much of it happens online or via text or chat and dating relationships seem so much more disposable?
AC: This show was popular in the ’80s. It’s a callback. I think it’s really refreshing. The daters love the old-fashioned feeling of being set up on a blind date and going and meeting someone and getting to know them for who they are. They aren’t swiping immediately. That’s why it seemed to work — people loved it.

MCN:Watch What Happens Liveis airing on select Fox-owned stations this summer. What do you think about that?
AC: I think any opportunity for the show to reach a bigger audience is great. I love that Fox is experimenting and putting the show on in various time slots. I hear from women across the country that they can’t stay up late and watch the show, so they DVR it. I think it will work wherever it plays.