If reality show hits "Keeping Up With Kardashians" and "Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami" could be considered parent and sibling projects then E's latest reality offering "The Spin Crowd" would be the distant cousin partly due to the fact that Kim Kardashian used this venture to step into the Executive Producer role for the first time. In "The Spin Crowd," PR pros Jonathan Cheban and Simon Huck work tirelessly to "spin" whatever the client wants and needs the world to know about celebrities and/or products with the help of four beautiful female associates. Our Jim Halterman talked with Cheban and Huck, as well as Executive Producer Jeff Jenkins, about putting the show together and whether they're worried that some of Jonathan's less-than-likable behavior will lead viewers to tune out.
Jim Halterman: How did the show come about?
Jeff Jenkins: Kim Kardashian came to Bunim-Murray and said "I would like to start producing reality TV shows with you and the first project is a show centered around my friend Jonathan and his business partner Simon and the world of their business." Their business is celebrity branding. She introduced us to Jonathan and Simon and immediately all of us at Bunim-Murray were like "Oh my Gosh! These are two great reality television characters!" They are so strong and so funny! They have this really cool business where brands hire them to get their products in the hands of celebrities and to get that celebrity photographed with it and then get that into magazines. It's really behind-the-scenes dance of how celebrities and products are tied together and how it all works. It remains to be seen how the world will receive them but I think Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley... they are an amazing comedy pair!
JH: I was thinking maybe they're more like a modern-day Odd Couple.
JJ: That's a better analogy! Jonathan is loud and likes to eat, he wears his shirt untucked and goes with his gut and Simon is extremely buttoned down, articulate, he eats salad. They are the ying and yang. Jonathan will go out and spend a $100,000 on sports car on a whim and Simon is trying to move the offices to Koreatown because it's cheaper.
JH: How do you guys feel about being called an odd couple?
Jonathan Cheban: We definitely are the odd couple. We spend way too much with each other between traveling between LA, New York and Miami.
JH: Jonathan and Simon, you both have been working with clients and celebrities for a long time but how it is to be in front of the cameras?
JC: It's odd but it's kind of second nature to us. It's a very interesting dynamic.
Simon Huck: As far as the actual filming process, I had been on the Kardashian show a few times and I thought I would always be aware of the cameras in my face and a mic pack but by day three I didn't even know what was going on. I forgot I had a mic pack on me!
JH: As a producer, Jeff, how do you think viewers will respond to some of Jonathan on the show? He is a little tough on his employees, for sure.
JJ: I hope the viewer will respond positively and we really tried to include all the different sides of Jonathan in this series. You're right, he is really outrageous, demanding and kind of crazy. At the same time - and you'll see this - he really does have a good heart and he'd do anything for any of his employees. You'll see in the middle of the season he really treats them to some amazing experiences and he, as a boss, is so very tough on them because he wants them to be strong and competitive. Part of his technique is that he's more horrible to his employees than the outside world will be and that will make them tough when they're dealing in this business. There is a method to his madness and hopefully we presented that well.
JH: The first episode has one of your associates getting collagen implant in her lips at your urging, Jonathan. Are you prepared for how audiences might react to that?
JC: I'm definitely prepared. I'm a little aggressive and I didn't want to soften it. That's the job and that's just how I am. I didn't force her to get her lips done. It was just a suggestion. I always want everyone looking in tip-top shape and I've always been like that. We're in LA and there's so much competition in PR and everyone's very catty so I want my team to be looking in tip-top shape. I'm sure that will turn some people off but hopefully some people will think it's fun. And at the end of the episode I get tortured and abused [Simon convinces Jonathan to try a fat removing system from his mid-section] so I'm not afraid of it. I can give it and I can take it. It's a vanity industry, we deal with a lot of celebrities, socialites and very wealthy people and it's part of the game. If you can't take it, there are 15,000 resumes and I can make a call and have a cattle call outside.
JH: Simon, what do you think about how the audience might respond to you and the show?
SH: I'm a lot more sensitive. I'm a sensitive guy and I don't want anyone sending me anything like someone in Idaho writing something negative on a blog. The idea of my offending a viewer is too much for me to take so I shield myself.
JH: And Mario Lopez is on your first episode but, despite trying pretty much everything, he would not take his shirt off!
JC: You know what I think it was? Nobody else in the area had their shirt off. We should have put our employees in bikinis and that would have pushed him over the edge!
JH: Who else do we see besides Mario?
JC: Kim makes a few appearances, Kelly Osbourne, Carmen Electra , Kelly Rowland and we have a lot of cameos as well.
JJ: The exciting thing about this series is that every episode you will see, at least in part, this gang working on a different job and every job is a celebrity. We have Shannon Doherty, who is a tough cookie and doesn't mess around. I loved documenting her and her interaction with Jonathan because she's one of the few people who made him nervous, which was really great. You'll see Stephanie Pratt from "The Hills" and Jonathan hooks her up with a great opportunity. And you'll see an episode where a Greek billionaire hires Jonathan and Simon to make his girlfriend famous. It's very much outside the realm of what they do and it's a hilarious fiasco.
JH: The first episode is primarily about the workplace. Do we get to see a window into your personal lives, too?
JC: It gets much, much more personal as we go along. The first episode is for everyone to get to know us. We don't want to throw everything in right away. It's a whole industry that we're giving them, an event, new characters... so after the first couple episodes it gets personal with dating stuff and that kind of stuff. It's definitely not just a work show.
"The Spin Crowd" premieres this Sunday after "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" at 10:30/9:30c on E!