SXSW Interactive is off to a good start. Beth, editor in chief, and I felt pretty dejected when we were told Grumpy Cat was unavailable by the time we headed over to the Mashable tent to meet her (being Internet famous really wears a cat out). However, we did see Scumbag Steve taking a smoke break. He looks just as scumbag-ish as you think he would.
The first day was mostly used to orient ourselves, but we did manage to go to a panel I was really excited about, “Watch What Happens Live” moderated by Andy Cohen and Michael Davies.
Cohen, Bravo executive vice president of development and talent, is responsible for creating original content, developing innovative formats and identifying new talent for the network. He’s the man behind “Top Chef” and the “Real Housewives” franchises, aka my hero. Cohen was a little late to the panel, so Davies, the executive producer, gave the audience some background information about their show, “Watch What Happens: Live” (WWHL).
WWHL is Bravo’s late night, interactive talk show hosted by Cohen that features cast members from various Bravo shows and guests from the world of entertainment, politics and pop culture. It is the only live late night talk show, and gives fans unique opportunities to interact with Cohen and his guests through social media. Davies said the interactive element was not layered onto the show as an afterthought — it is part of who Cohen is.
Cohen said the show is “all about social media.” If you’re a Real Housewives fan, you know the reunion shows stir up lots of drama and candid moments between the cast members. Cohen said the reunion shows are driven by user questions from the audience via Twitter and social media, and interactivity goes hand in hand with WWHL as well.
“We’ve always tried to be at the forefront of embracing interactive ideas,” Cohen said. “We have a serious audience who are early adapters, they’re very tech savvy and love watching our shows on a second screen.”
Play Live is the latest interactive social experience being used on WWHL. Viewers can use their mobile devices to participate in pop-up questions and polls that appear during WWHL and see the results in real-time on the air.
Drinking and having a good time with guests is just as big a part of WWHL as interactivity. Cohen said though the Real Housewives are often guests, celebrities who view WWHL from home often want to come on the show.
“It’s not a pain in the ass for guests,” Cohen said. “We just want to know what they want to drink, we make it for them, then they come in and we take them on a crazy ride and throw shit at them for half an hour.”
Said “shit” are the games Cohen plays on-air with his guests, which are often over-the-top and comical. Cohen used “Andy Loves Crotchy” as an example, a game in which he asks guests to identify the celebrities behind several crotch shots.
To those who remain unconvinced of the appeal of WWHL and Bravo in general, Queen Beyonce Knowles left the stage of the Super Bowl half time show and described her performance as “Gone With the Wind fabulous.” That’s a Kenya Moore-ism for non-“Real Housewives of Atlanta” fans.
Oh, and for those of you who are wondering, the drinking word for the panel was “SXSW.” I wasn’t drinking at the time since I am a very serious and professional student journalist, but things would have been bad if I had participated.