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Andy Cohen talks 'Love Connection' and love connection

Andy Cohen talks 'Love Connection' and love connection


Andy Cohen loves asking people personal questions. That makes him perfect to step into the shoes of Chuck Woolery as host of a new edition of “Love Connection” on Fox.

From 1983 to 1994, Woolery was host of the original “Love Connection,” a syndicated dating show that matched up strangers for dates, with he said/she said reveals following.

Cohen, a lifelong fan of all things pop culture, watched with his family when he was growing up in Clayton and “absolutely loved it.”

Factor in Cohen’s experience as host of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” and referee of umpteen “Real Housewives” reunion shows, and it’s no wonder Fox tapped him for the revival, arriving at 8 p.m. Thursday on Fox.

Cohen, who started his own production company, Most Talkative (also the title of his first memoir), after leaving his executive job at Bravo in 2013, had actually considered reviving the show himself, believing a new take would be timely and entertaining.

“Then Fox came to me with a firm offer to host, and I jumped at the opportunity,” he said last week by phone from his office in New York.

“Love Connection” comes from Mike Darnell, president of unscripted programming for Warner Bros. TV and a former reality boss at Fox, and Mike Fleiss, creator of the “Bachelor” franchise.

“We all brought different things to it,” Cohen said of the updated format, which includes both a “fantasy suite” element and a “love or money” twist, plus a segment in which the daters rate each other’s first impressions. Participants are black and white, straight and gay. “Fox is big on diversity, so that was a must,” Cohen said.

Cameras don’t go along on the dates, although the participants are encouraged to film selfie videos. Instead, viewers hear the daters’ versions of what went on.

“The point of the format is still the he said/she said reaction to first dates,” Cohen said. “The core of it all is the conversation, getting them to tell their stories, pushing their buttons, which is what I love to do. It’s pretty funny.”

In a promo for the series, Cohen catches one woman in a lie. Other outrageous revelations include the fact that a man asked his date how much she weighed. Some participants didn’t even last through the date, walking out instead.

But “we made some real love connections,” Cohen said happily. And when participants were offered a cash prize rather than going on a second date, “more chose love than money,” he pointed out.

Cohen, 48, a 1986 graduate of Clayton High School, has been open in his memoirs about his search for his own love connection. Until two years ago, his life partner was his dog, Wacha.

Now, however, Cohen is in a solid relationship with a man he refers to in his third memoir, “Superficial,” as “the Brazilian Andy Samberg.”

Although Cohen says “meddling in people’s personal lives” is one of the things he loves most, he doesn’t name his partner, who is nearly two decades younger and a doctoral candidate at Harvard.

“I don’t name him because as soon as I do, he’ll be labeled ‘Andy Cohen’s boyfriend,’ and that’s not fair to him, because he’s so much more.”

But “he’s really great,” Cohen said. “My parents (Lou and Evelyn Cohen of Clayton) like him. Anderson (Cooper, his good friend and tour partner) likes him. And Wacha likes him.” That last is most important, because Wacha, a rescue hound, is picky about human friends and has been known to bite.

On the work front, Cohen will soon be seen in even more households when “Watch What Happens Live” gets a test run in syndication. Half-hour installments will air at noon Monday-Friday for four weeks on KTVI (Channel 2).

“I’m so psyched that more people will get to see it,” Cohen said of his nightly pop-culture chat show (10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday on Bravo) in which he talks, plays games and has a cocktail or two with guests ranging from “Real Housewives” to Broadway stars.

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Gail Pennington is the television critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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