Up close with the Rivers

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Up close with the Rivers

Reality programme offers a look at Joan and Melissa Rivers’ close bond

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 24 Jan 2012, 9:23 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:22 PM

In the second season premiere of WE TV’s reality programme Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, Melissa Rivers tries to persuade her 78-year-old comedian mother Joan not to undergo another cosmetic surgery procedure by staging a “skintervention.”

Melissa, 44, calls in the pair’s circle of friends and employees - one and the same in the Rivers’ world - but before long Joan has won over the room and is handing out cosmetic procedures like party favours.

“It’s like I’m the teacher from Charlie Brown, ‘womp, womp, womp,’” Melissa complains in the episode. But her protests may not have gone completely ignored. Joan tweeted on Saturday, “The next time I go under the knife is for my autopsy.”

Joan & Melissa follows the day-to-day life of the famously close Rivers duo as they live and work together in California.

Joan moved in with Melissa after the September 2010 launch of Fashion Police, a comedy programme critiquing celebrity fashion, which Joan hosts and Melissa produces. The E! television network announced this month that Fashion Police would be extended from 30 minutes to a full hour in March.

New Yorker Joan took over the basement of the Los Angeles home Melissa shared with her 10-year-old son, Cooper, and then-boyfriend Jason Zimmerman, although Joan likes to tell Melissa that she isn’t actually living with her but rather “just staying with you four to five nights a week.”

After an early screening of their show in New York, the Rivers said they agreed early on that very little of their private lives would be off-limits to the TV cameras, which catch a tear-filled, heart-to-heart conversation between mother and daughter in the premiere episode.

“If it’s going to be reality, it’s got to be the truth,” Joan said after the screening. “You can’t just show one side.”

Joan even expressed delight that the cameras were there at a tough time for her daughter.

“Wait ‘til you see Melissa’s breakup,” said Joan. “So lucky the cameras were in the house when it was happening. We could’ve been on hiatus.”


This season will see Joan getting a tattoo to celebrate her 78th birthday and relieving stress by smoking. The notoriously raunchy comic’s words were bleeped out several times during the premiere episode.

Danny Salles, executive producer of Joan & Melissa, said Joan’s colourful language causes “a fair amount” of footage to end up on the cutting-room floor but insists that “if we put the bridle on and say, ‘Don’t talk like yourself,’ then you don’t get the reality. So, we figure say it all and we’ll figure it out in the edit room. “

Most of the programme’s drama takes place at home. According to Melissa, it’s home life with her mother, not work, that’s a challenge.

“Being her daughter is much harder than being her executive producer because she’s a really good talent to work with. She’s very prepared, she comes in on time, she delivers the goods every week,” Melissa said.

Those who saw the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work are used to the elder Rivers’ language and mystifying work ethic. That film, about her continuous efforts to stay relevant as an entertainer, as well as her 2009 win on TV reality contest Celebrity Apprentice, marked the beginning of an upswing for Rivers, whose career has seen many highs and lows.

“I’ve never stopped performing,” Joan said. “Every week when I’m here in New York I perform at a place called the West Bank. I do concerts all over the world, every weekend.”

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