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Mar 13, 2015 4:41 PM

'Fashion Police' without Joan Rivers isn't 'Fashion Police'

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) "Fashion Police" isn't working, isn't funny and isn't condoned (at least, by some) for one simple reason: Joan Rivers isn't there.

Rivers was the host in whose time-honored image "Fashion Police" was forged. Until her death at age 81 last summer, she made it required viewing for anyone looking to keep up with celebrities' kooky couture while the accompanying potshots took those stars down a peg.

As host, Rivers was resolutely who she was throughout her long career: fearless, unapologetic and hilarious. She dished it out and she took it. And her panel of "Joan Rangers" followed her lead.

With her death came the inevitable question: Could "Fashion Police" continue in her absence?

In January, E! Entertainment brought it back as a series of specials with Kathy Griffin as the new host, joined by the returning Kelly Osbourne and Giuliana Rancic, with Brad Goreski replacing George Kotsiopoulos, and Melissa Rivers, Joan's daughter, remaining its executive producer.

On Thursday, Griffin took to Twitter to announce she was gone.

She had stayed for just seven episodes.

That was two weeks after Osbourne made her own brisk exit following Rancic's red-carpet gibe about biracial singer-actress Zendaya's dreadlocks. Rancic had joked that they suggested the smell of marijuana. Zendaya accused her of racism. Rancic duly apologized. But Osbourne piled on with criticism of her own, then cut and ran.

On Friday, she was tweeting congratulations to Griffin for likewise bailing out: "I could not be more proud of you."

Other celebs chimed in.

"Proud of u!!!" tweeted Rosie O'Donnell. "Cheers for doing what you think is right," echoed "Parks and Recreation" actress Aubrey Plaza. Jane Lynch hailed her as "my brave and courageous friend."

And columnist Meghan McCain tweeted that she was "super impressed with the reasoning Kathy Griffin gave for leaving fashion police."

What was that reasoning?

In her statement, Griffin said, in part, "I do not want to use my comedy to contribute to a culture of unattainable perfectionism and intolerance towards difference," adding that her goal is "to help women, gay kids, people of color and anyone who feels underrepresented to have a voice and a LAUGH!"

"My style does not fit with the creative direction of the show," she concluded.

Maybe not. But this sweeping reappraisal was like explaining that you ditched your bartending job because you suddenly realized they make you sell alcohol.

Or, to quote Piers Morgan's tweet: "Kathy Griffin's quit 'Fashion Police' because she doesn't like their mean humour? Ironically, one of the few times she's ever made me laugh."

Indeed, her parting manifesto would suggest she had never seen "Fashion Police" in its glory days, when it was hosted by Rivers, her friend and mentor.

On one show, Rivers skewered a baggy, dizzyingly hued Alexander McQueen jumpsuit worn by actress Marion Cotillard by saying, "The pattern looks like Precious sat on somebody's butterfly collection."

Or, as another relatively mild example, a dress worn by Jessica Alba sparked this salvo: "Last thing I saw that was that full and yellow was one of Hugh Hefner's diapers."

No doubt, Griffin has made a sensible departure from "Fashion Police," a gig this otherwise accomplished comedian clearly wasn't suited for. But her decision to leave has been inexplicably greeted with thundering applause ("Thanks for being WHO YOU ARE," saluted Kristin Chenoweth on Twitter).

Since when does making a practical career move, especially when you're bombing, warrant canonization? Griffin, like Osbourne, has merely chosen to abandon a sinking ship (a ship, despite their best efforts, they helped run aground). There's no higher moral purpose behind their retreat.

(Griffin and Melissa Rivers declined to comment for this article.)

During her "Fashion Police" tenure, Joan Rivers brought a delicious blend of energy, wit and nerve to the show. With no pretense of helping anybody, she drew on her pioneering legacy of put-downs and zingers (often aimed at herself) that mocked a world of vanities and bitter truths. If occasionally she went too far, she counted on a pass, because she knew she had earned it. She had paid her dues.

"Fashion Police" airing in that fashion ended with her death. No wonder now it's almost certainly a lost cause.


EDITOR'S NOTE Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore


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