The Fashion Police on House Arrest

The show’s going on hiatus until September, but first, we want to talk about it.


For too many years, probably — long after Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe divorced, I watched the Academy Awards with my dad. Even as a child, I understood that the show served up the same telegenic treats each year. Some ingénue took home a trophy. Leonardo DiCaprio smiled, conceding defeat. And whenever a gruff leading man thanked his mom, my father and I sobbed on cue.

Eventually, I outgrew the charade, preferring the snark of Twitter commentary to live viewership and Billy Crystal. My dad forgave the desertion. But even once I could no longer stomach banal acceptance speeches and a buffet of fake smiles, I often found myself — by accident! Just channel surfing! — wandering over to E! the night after the broadcast.

On those fateful Monday evenings, the network would screen a new installment of Fashion Police. Joan Rivers would materialize on screen, unleashing a personal brand of brilliant and vitriolic commentary that no one since has managed. Decked out in the kind of spiky, oversize brooches that could have doubled as lethal weaponry, Rivers incited mortal terror in celebrities and stylists and kindergarten teachers alike. Protected as I was from her wrath in the privacy of my own home, I couldn’t look away.

Rivers died last September, and Fashion Police has been dimmer — not only bleaker, but also markedly less intelligent — for her absence. After the Academy Awards this year, Giuliana Rancic insulted Zendaya in her misguided evaluation of the singer’s dreadlocks. Offering up her own retort to the questionable comments, Kelly Osbourne left the show shortly thereafter. And last week, new addition Kathy Griffin stepped down too, contending that she would not “contribute to a culture of unattainable perfectionism.”

As Rivers herself might have said — only using more profanity, the show needs a makeover. Earlier this week, the network pronounced its intentions to give it one.

In a statement released on Tuesday, E! announced the news, stating:

E!’s comedy series “Fashion Police” is going on hiatus and will return in September. We look forward to taking this opportunity to refresh the show before the next awards season. Our talented co-hosts Giuliana Rancic and Brad Goreski, along with Executive Producer Melissa Rivers, will continue their roles as we evolve the show into its next chapter for the legions of “Fashion Police” fans around the world.

Viewers are entitled to their own opinions about whether or not Rancic deserves to stay. But there are bigger questions than her future employment at stake here. Assuming the show does return, what changes should be made to it? What does good and funny and smart fashion criticism look like? Is the very idea that style needs to be policed an outdated concept? Are red carpets beyond salvation? And given the opportunity, what kind of violence would you exact on the Mani Cam? Wrecking ball? Dynamite? Chainsaw? I say nitrogen bomb, but that’s a personal preference.

Let’s talk about it.

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  • AlexaJuno

    I really did love Fashion Police before Joan’s passing. Her snark was on point, but her criticisms were valid. Her ability to mix insult humor with genuine fashion insight was the heart of the show. Kathy Griffin does engage in a similar style of comedy, but has no real ties to the fashion industry. Brad and Kelly’s commentary was always highly informed, but the truth is, the show simply deflated without Joan. The energy and chemistry is shot without her and I don’t see them re-creating the rapport the original cast had.

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  • The show, in its current state, is offensively boring and not clever. I’ve always disliked the premise of the show — it’s catty, it’s pointless, it’s cheap — but Joan Rivers somehow made its existence more tolerable, but still not okay. Again, this goes back to being clever. I am not entirely opposed to poking fun at people, BUT it has to be done in a way that is smart and relevant, which is what Joan brought to the table. Her jokes were exacting in ways that reflected overarching social and pop culture themes. I’m convinced that the current “police” live in small bubbles and lead lives that are so void of political and cultural context, resulting in jokes that are humorless and downright antiquated/offensive. They’re collectively aggravating and have this uncanny ability to make asses of themselves.

    The show should be cancelled outright. With the current cast, nothing can be appropriately mended because that would mean a brute overhaul on current perspectives, along with upping the ante in regard to brain power.

    • pm.

      Hear, hear. Challah.

  • pm.

    I love fashion criticism, which is to say: I love thoughtful discussion about fashion and style. I don’t know that Joan Rivers offered that, per se, but she was so witty and sharp that I loved her anyway. It’s good to laugh at ourselves, and she helped us all to do that, I think – even when she was pointing the finger at a particular person, it didn’t feel *personal*, it felt almost cultural while still being totally fun and not annoyingly intellectual. Even the term “Fashion Police” is tongue in cheek and was fun when Joan did it. Ha ha, police for fashion!

    But now those people are taking their roles seriously, as if they a) have some authoritative position on What To Wear and/or b) think being mean for mean’s sake is funny. To me, that’s not fun or funny, and it’s lost it’s lighthearted self-consciousness. And it’s not fashion criticsm. So, what’s the point?

    • Emily Pacheco

      I totally feel like fashion criticism is useful for Hollywood, award shows can get so traditional, like ‘Is there a collar on that dress? Wrong. Unusual material? Gross. Feathers on that ball gown? Go home Julianne Moore.
      Kelly Osborne was definitely on the right track, kind of; there’s GOT to be a few fun fashion insiders that could critique knowledgeably but humorously amiright ladies?
      (But like, start a new show, please don’t recreate fashion police specifically.)

      • pm.

        Hm, interesting. In some ways, at least initially, I think “fashion police” actually INHIBITED people from taking fashion risks. But that’s not nec the case anymore, and being on the “worst dressed” can give you *cred*.

        The best case scenario, IMO, is having thoughtful, interesting people comment on fashion and style in a way that makes us think. Like, how great would it be if actual fashion critics weighed in on these choices? The criticism I value comes from someone who is confident enough to look at a dress on a woman in a context and to bring background knowledge as well an aesthetic sensibility into play, and then call it as she or he sees it.

        I think the problem with current fash-po and/or fashion commentary is that these people a) don’t know what they’re talking about, 2) are desperate for laughs and will deride people to get them, or 3) are afraid to piss off designers so they walk the centerline (I’m thinking Tim Gunn, here, who I love, but who is too diplomatic to diss anyone in the business).

  • Jill

    I hated Joan Rivers’ mean-ness. I gave up watching Fashion Police years and years ago because of it. I don’t find anything funny about it. That said…there *are* ways to be funny (a la Tina Fey) about poking fun at people. But the Fashion Police crowd is either not smart enough, or not clever enough, to ‘get’ that.

  • Cancel that dumb ass show. Period.

  • If you have time to watch the Fashion Police, I think that time would be better served focusing on improving your own life. Why invest any energy in what a couple celebrities are wearing? They get enough attention already.

    • what?

      And if you have the time to make comments on a blog telling other people how to spend their time, then… ?

  • I blame ‘Ask her More.’ Thanks Reese. (Sarcasm.)

  • Tiana

    We love Joan Rivers and Fashion Police is definitely not the same!

  • Victoria

    I’ve never liked the show. It’s catty, crude and inappropriate and in my opinion always has been. With Joan the show was still horrendous but the public was used to Joan and that was her style of comedy so it seemed to be okay in some twisted kind of way.
    Giuliana’s comments were so out of line and unnecessary I’m honestly shocked that E! hasn’t gotten rid of her altogether. Whoever was editing that episode also should have known to cut that out. Giuliana certainly should have never made such a racist remark but there was no reason it needed to be aired on national television.
    Content like Fashion Police has no place in a more modern feminist society that seems to have been pushed to the mainstream in the last year. Judging and critiquing a woman’s every decision on her clothing is no longer an acceptable thing to do.

    • Jill

      I think that in Joan’s heyday, that kind of “humor” was more acceptable. It worked (well enough) for Joan…until, for me, the humor seemed to have left, and only the snark remained. Now we’re living in a different time, and I (like to) think that such straight out “dissing” of others – whether male or female – is less tolerated.

  • lamariad

    I wish the show was a smart commentary about fashion instead of a bunch of bullies laughing at people. But then, it is the E! network, where double standards, shallow and reactionary mentality are marketed as PC, serious entertainment journalism. Just take some of the comments they make into a different context and it would be completely inacceptable, but because it’s on tv and there are a bunch of celebrities involved then it’s fun and glamourous. This was the birth place for the Kardashian fenomenon, need I say more?

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  • Anna Elizabeth

    It is crazy and cool how much social media has influenced culture like this. I agree with Griffith in that the comments on this show work toward an “unattainable perfectionism.” I hope the show will be discontinued or else completely made over. Personal style is about individuality and to have a panel of judges dissecting and criticizing (rather than celebrating) one’s personal style is preposterous.

  • Yes, FP has certainly lost its original flair. I just wrote a piece about it myself–would love to see what you think!

  • BK

    the whole idea of ‘Fashion Police’ has always seemed to me to be a little provocative, a lot pathetic, and way too nasty to be publicly endorsed on crappy TV/in tabloids/Perez Hilton’s website/I don’t know where else, I tend to avoid those aspects of the planet. Which sad individual conjured up the idea of *publicly* bitching out individuals for their outfit choices anyway? Regina George springs to mind.

    The whole premise of the show is flawed because yes, whilst we all could probably confess to judging the garb of others, celebrity or no, it is typically an internal/personal experience. Eg you’re more likely to smugly/guiltily think to yourself or quietly mention to your mate sitting next to you the rather ill-fitting dress of that girl sitting across the cafe who can’t hear you rather than jump on a chair, cup your hands around your mouth and bellow “YEEZUS WHAT’D YOU THIS MORNING DO GIRL, GET DRESSED IN THE DARK?” for all the world to hear because that’s rude, and harassment, and get down from there chairs are for sitting on not for your muddy boots, you look a right fool btw. Yet this is exactly what Fashion Police does: it exposes and endorses people being loudly unpleasant towards others by making purportedly bad fashion a ‘crime’ that needs to be policed – and note how it almost always indicts the person wearing it, as opposed to the stylist responsible for the choice of outfit or the designer behind the creation of the clothes themselves.

    (oh and ditto to the other comments about personal style being oh, um, I don’t know, personal, thus rendering the judgement of it by the masses largely superfluous.)

  • Miss H

    $2 says they try to find a black cohost to try to salvage the wreckage.

  • Emily

    Giuliana tries way too hard to be funny and instead is really just making fun of people. It isn’t funny, I don’t laugh. She is not witty or well spoken. I miss Joan.

  • Arielle McManus

    While I do not agree that there is simply no point in “contributing to a culture of unattainable perfectionism”, and I think it is fun to criticize fashion (how could someone that spends so much money on a stylist look THAT bad?!), I never really liked the show. Not to speak poorly of the deceased, but I’d like to speak honestly; I never liked Joan Rivers and her death doesn’t change that. I thought she was rude, I thought her insults and sometimes even her harsh opinions were unwarranted. I always thought she had no right to judge any one (but then again, who does?). As someone in fashion, I thought this show was an embarrassment. I liked George, but I didn’t love Giuliana or Kelly either. I thought they both were not particularly bright, and overall, I thought the three girls made people in fashion look bad. One too skinny to possibly be healthy, one loud and arrogant, and one just downright rude. While I agree that Joan was somewhat the savior of the show, I thought it was always pretty bad. As a show with no redeemable qualities from the start, I have no idea how it could get better from here.

  • The show will never be the same, without Joan…