Among the middle-aged princesses who've been born out of Bravo's Real Housewives franchise, Andy Cohen has always been king.
As both a high-level network executive and an on-air personality who regularly interviews the women, he's in a unique position to oscillate between superfan and superior. He pals around with the ladies both at cast reunions and on his late-night talk show, where they're frequent guests, yet puts them on the spot with cringe-worthy questions they have no choice but to answer. (When your boss asks you a question, don't you typically answer it?)
Usually it's fun to watch. But the other night during his interview with Beverly Hills Housewife Kim Richards, Andy crossed the line, exploiting his position by conducting a completely inappropriate interview with a woman just days out of rehab.
For a reality TV host, Andy Cohen's interview questions are actually quite hard-hitting. He's not an entertainment reporter, he's a longtime producer. A seasoned executive producer, in fact, and current executive vice president of development and talent at Bravo. He knows what makes good television, and beating around the bush isn't it.
As such, his interview strategy takes the form of asking the questions he knows viewers are dying to ask, regardless of how awkward or embarrassing they may be for the stars.
But in order to not look like a jerk, usually he hides behind the questions sent in by fans. Often his questions go something like, "Kyle, MacKenzie from Tulsa says, 'You used to be my favorite, but after seeing the Game Night episode, now I hate you! What gives you the right to be such a manipulative bitch?'"
Andy's like a middle schooler reading out of a slam book. It's quite the tactic.
With a boom mic hanging overhead, Kyle now must answer this, and she's not even allowed to look offended. Why? Because her fate as a Housewife sits in his hands. Housewives are never safe from being axed, so it's wise for Kyle, and every other cast member who wants to keep her job, to play nice.
So did Kim have much of a choice about facing her alcoholism in an on-camera interview? Maybe she did. Or maybe she only had the illusion of choice. Either way, there she sat on Monday night, at the mercy of Andy's questions.
Kim had exhibited instability all season: slurring words, telling incoherent stories, missing flights, missing rides, showing up late or not showing up at all. Kim also missed the cast reunion due to a rehab stint. It's unclear exactly when Kim's interview was filmed, but it was suggested via voice-over that she was fresh out of treatment.
Early on in her sit-down with Andy, Kim made clear that she hadn't seen much of the season. "I couldn't watch the show," she said, "once I saw that [erratic] behavior coming out of myself, because I was so disappointed in my choice. In what I'd done."
So what does Andy do? He suggests they watch some of her most embarrassing, drunken train wreck footage together.
Kim's clearly reluctant, but what choice does she really have? The cameras are rolling, and her overlord made a request.
Kim watched the scene from the episode in which the Housewives celebrate the opening of Sur. Kim sits in a limo sipping an unidentified drink, aimlessly pressing buttons and going through garbage that, as she says, looks like "poop." By Kim's reaction to the footage, we can tell that she's completely shamed. As the scene progresses into Kim taking off her bra, she finally tells Andy she's seen enough.
"I don't know what's going on there," she says, mortified.
As if this weren't bad enough, Andy then proceeds to pull one more trick. Unbeknownst to Kim, her sister Kyle is there to join in on the interview. Surprise, Kim! The sister you've been feuding with for years because of your alcoholism is hiding in the wings, ready to hash out your issues, regardless of whether you're prepared to do so or not.
Really, Andy? Come on, now. The last thing a woman barely out of rehab needs is a surprise confrontation. Who knows if Kyle was that keen on appearing, but just like Kim, did she have much of a choice? If Bravo asks her to appear, probably she'd best be agreeable.
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Normally I like Andy's style. He's no-holds-barred. He calls these ladies on their shit when they deserve it. But usually his mocking questions force them to 'fess up to petty name-calling or backpedal on a fib they've told. It's a fun tar-and-feathering.
But his interview with Kim was not. It was gratuitous shaming of a woman only just beginning to regain her footing from addiction. She was in a delicate state, but wasn't treated delicately enough. Even after all the controversy surrounding Russell Armstrong's suicide and Taylor's on-camera meltdowns, and what was acceptable to air and what wasn't, this was by far the Real Housewives moment I felt dirtiest watching.
Special thanks to @PatCauley for the gchat that inspired this post.