Bravo Chief Determined To Be Cooler Than You

It is true, as the Times magazine will tell everyone Sunday, that Bravo has put a distinctly urbane stamp on the schlocky genre of reality television, taking "contestants off primitive islands and placing them squarely in sophisticated corners of cities like New York and Los Angeles." The NBC Universal cable network has transmitted a winking, insidery sensibility through shows like Project Runway and Top Chef — and still made the programs look somehow effortless. This natural poise, Bravo Media chief Lauren Zalaznick must have anticipated, was bound to be undermined by the Times' profile of her, which pulls back the corporate curtains to reveal Zalaznick, in the mold of all television executives, as something of a frenzied grasper. Writer Susan Dominus' 16-page story includes this memorable scene of Zalaznick demanding to be kept up on trends:

“It was horrible,” [Bravo programming head Andy] Cohen remembered aloud. The confrontation happened at the downtown Manhattan restaurant Pastis, at a breakfast meeting during which Cohen made a passing reference to an exercise mixtape that he made for himself. He had called it “Fit-n-40.” (“I was being ironic!” Cohen said in her office, defending himself. “It was all new Mariah, new Madonna.”)

As Cohen and Zalaznick ate their breakfast, discussing various other work projects, Zalaznick’s mind was still on the questionable-sounding mixtape. And there were, to Zalaznick’s mind, a few other false notes that Cohen struck over the course of the conversation. Suddenly, Zalaznick let him have it. “She says: ‘Just so you know, you have become that person who thinks he knows what is going on in the universe, but you really don’t. You’re really out of it. You don’t have the same reference points as anyone,’ ” Cohen recalled...

If Zalaznick came down hard on Cohen, it’s because she relies heavily on employees like him — trendy, about town — to help her figure out the precise moment when, say, Bushwick, not Williamsburg, becomes the place where hipsters in Brooklyn live; when people under 30 start watching her shows more on Web cast than on television; when a word like “fierce” is so tired it’s officially over and when it has been safely resurrected as mainstream camp.