NEW YORK – Joan Rivers, who for more than a half-century has turned her life inside out for comedy, is starting her fourth season doing just that for the reality show she shares with her daughter, Melissa.
“Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” (10 p.m. Saturday on WEtv) finds Joan making a sex tape. Attending a lacrosse game where Melissa picks a fight with her teenage son's coach. Consoling Melissa after her boyfriend is caught in a compromising position.
She also mourns the death of her beloved dog, Max, then stages a splendiferous funeral that includes a chorus, an avant-garde poet and a male ballerina in a tutu.
“The vet said Max could have been anywhere from 11 to 14 years old,” says Joan solemnly, then eases into a wisecrack: “You can usually check a dog's teeth, but Max lived for a while in California, so they were capped.”
She and Melissa have invited a reporter to hear about their show's new season, which tracks this mother-daughter duo in their professional pursuits (including production of their weekly E! series, “Fashion Police”) as well as shining a glaring light into their personal lives.
Item: On one episode, Rivers, at 80 years old, goes to heroic lengths to undo her history as a fashionista and a frequent flier to her plastic surgeon's office. She wants to look more age-appropriate to land an acting role as a senior on a proposed TV drama series, and prepares herself, stripped of any vanity, with what she calls — no, not a makeover — but instead “a make-under.”
For this recent interview, though, she is every bit the Joan the world knows and loves: nipped, tucked and coiffed to a T. You ask who is she wearing? A shocking pink Armani jacket, Chanel slacks, Manolos, a necklace from her own Joan Rivers collection “and a Hermes knockoff that I got in China. Come as close as you want, mister,” she boasts as she holds up the baby-soft handbag, “you're not gonna tell the difference!”
“Joan & Melissa” came about when Joan, who lives on the Upper East Side, began routinely crashing with her daughter, an Angeleno, to tape the L.A.-based “Fashion Police.”
“She'd be in my house two or three days a week,” Melissa recalls. “Then, during one of our many moments of chaos, someone said, 'This is truly like a reality show.' And the next thing you know, it's an actual reality show.”
Melissa, clad hopefully spring-ish on this frigid day in a turtleneck and brightly patterned Alexander McQueen skirt, first partnered on-air with Joan 20 years ago to cover red carpet awards events for E!
Live fashion coverage was new to TV, and mother and daughter were slammed for indulging in shallowness.
Joan shrugs. “What are the stars wearing? Are they drunk, are they high? And do they look like they're still happy together? That's what your friends are talking about! Luckily, we were both very shallow, so that's what we talked about, too.”
But living life, however shallow, on a reality show can get deeply complicated for those it exposes.
“They come into my room while I'm asleep to pre-light,” says Melissa. “I pull the covers over my head.”
“It's going to be easier next year,” Joan predicts. “We're gonna use drones.”