Failure, some say, is not an option. But that is bullshit. People fail all the time. Businesses fail. And sometimes, hastily retooled TV shows fail, which is the case with Fashion Police in our post-Joan Rivers existence. And while it seems that the failure of Fashion Police 2.0 doesn’t need to be explained away by executives and confidential sources who give interviews and are granted anonymity by TMZ and Gawker, that is exactly what is happening in the world today. Why is this happening?
The Hollywood Reporter says that E! execs have decided to scrap the three upcoming Fashion Police episodes – filming has been cancelled – and to go on hiatus until the fall, where they will shoot six or seven episodes tied to big, splashy events like the Emmys. Surprisingly, E! has promised to change its tack to be less needlessly cruel, or rather, to take an “aspirational” tone. Which is pretty fucking meaningless: they’re still going to make jokes about beautiful people in expensive clothes and try to sell you more stuff you don’t need. “Aspirational” is as much about upselling as it is about not being shitty under the guise of entertainment of a fashion maven.
“With the benefit of hindsight, we definitely brought [Fashion Police] back too soon,” says [NBCUniversal Lifestyle Networks Group president Frances] Berwick, who added E! to her portfolio mere weeks after Rivers’ September death. In the months since, she has had to deal with a barrage of controversies, including backlash to the network’s “mani cam” feature on red carpets (Julianne Moore called it “humiliating” and other stars refused to participate) and an #AskHerMore Twitter campaign against fashion-focused interviews. In addition, there’s the will-they-or-won’t-they Bruce Jenner transgender docuseries (insiders say they will) and the Fashion Police fallout that began when Rancic suggested singer Zendaya’s dreadlocks “smelled like patchouli oil … or weed” on the show’s post-Oscars telecast. The controversies come as NBCUniversal cable chief Bonnie Hammer has said she wants E! to take a more “aspirational” tone, and they highlight a subtle shift in celebrity culture and E!’s role in what The New York Times called on March 15 its “untenable setup that one day reveres celebrities on the red carpet and the next day marches them onto a gangplank and pushes them into the water.”
If that isn’t enough for you, Gawker published a long article full of juicy details from an anonymous source who knew of quiet meetings in the E! offices, and quiet conversations suggesting Kathy Griffin as host wasn’t quite working out. The Gawker piece even brought up a rumor that can never be substantiated, and seems to be started by longtime gossip columnist Cindy Adams, who thinks herself a better friend to Joan Rivers than Kathy Griffin. This kind of shit doesn’t make a better television show. It doesn’t bring Joan Rivers back. It only makes a network look desperate to smear the reputation of someone who worked for them and found it wasn’t a good fit. And I ask: would a real team player have to go out and say that the star that was hired to fill a role “doesn’t do teams”? That sounds more like a spineless lick-spittle’s job.
Maybe it was doomed before it even got a chance to start. In her March 1 column in the New York Post titled “Fashion Police a Mess Without Joan Rivers,” Rivers’s personal friend Cindy Adams predicted the imminent ruin and provided this flashback, which is jaw-droppingly opportunistic even by Hollywood standards:
Kathy Griffin — talented, able — made a grab for the job while Joan lay on life support. I know. I was right there in her hospital room holding my forever friend’s hand.
However, Griffin and an E! spokesperson have denied it. Nobody will confirm this, so don’t try.
My source confirmed Griffin’s maneuvering—”Kathy literally called E! the day after Joan went into a coma and said, ‘If she doesn’t make it, I’d like the job”—something Adams first reported days after Rivers’s death last September, albeit without naming Griffin:
Two different people report that, while Joan was still comatose, another comedienne already pushed for her E-TV Fashion Police show. Nice, right? No business like show business. Replacements begin when a star coughs.
Despite her name not being mentioned, Griffin responded to the allegation days later, telling Larry King that the rumor was “disgusting” and “not true.” Furthermore, Griffin claimed, “I would never take Joan’s job. Joan and I had a different style.”