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January 23, 2012

Joan and Melissa Rivers Return to WE tv Reality
By Kaylee Hultgren

The first ep of WE tv’s “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” second season (premieres Tues 1/24) can be summed up with a characteristically clever line from star comedienne Joan Rivers: “My body is my temple, and my temple needs redecorating.” Yup, you guessed it. Rivers goes under the knife yet again, for her umpteenth plastic surgery procedure. But this time, her daughter Melissa means to stand in her way—even if it takes an intervention.

The intervention backfires, of course, when her supposedly concerned group of friends opt to undergo a few surgeries of their own, since Joan said she would pay for it. The hypocrisy! The turncoats prove traitors in an instant—and the show’s comedy reaps the benefits. It’s L.A., after all, and if anyone knows how superficial the entertainment industry can be, it’s Rivers herself.
That’s the theme of much of Rivers’ career, as exemplified in her 2012 documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” and in the reality series as well. If the rest of season 2 is anything like the first episode, fans will be thrilled. The show was screened for media and friends in NYC on Thurs, followed by a Q&A with Joan, her daughter Melissa and executive producer Danny Salles, revealing some surprising tidbits about the series’ production.
For one, Salles claims the show portrays “absolute reality.” Well, not exactly. Due to WE tv’s restrictions on inappropriate language, quite a bit of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor, he said. But he wouldn’t have it any other way: “You have to let them be unbridled,” he added. As in any reality show, editors have plenty of creative license. His point was that the events viewers are privy to do indeed occur; they’re not fabricated by a producer to create drama. What’s portrayed on camera has “got to be the truth,” said Joan. It’s got to be reality. But ‘Jersey Shore’ has 7 million viewers, so obviously I’m wrong.”
Though we’re seeing the mother/daughter team’s “unbridled” selves—albeit the PG version—some topics were considered too intrusive to film, according to the stars. For instance, in season 2 Melissa goes through a difficult breakup with her live-in boyfriend. Since the negative consequences from the split weighed heavily on Melissa’s son Cooper, she refused to show it on camera (though Joan begged for it).  Nor would mom let filming compromise Cooper’s schedule. Activities like team sports continued, so he was allowed to continue being a kid.
The first episode centers around what Melissa calls her mom’s “vanity surgery”—which amounts to around a dozen throughout her lifetime, not including Botox  injections every 6 months. But its most poignant moments occur when Joan is physically and emotionally unhinged. Pre-surgery, with no makeup, she confronts the possibility of leaving her daughter behind. Yet even in such moments, comic relief isn’t far behind.  

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