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So Cosmo: Drinks, Partial Nudity and Oh, Yeah, Running a Magazine

So Cosmo is Ab Fab meets...Woodward and Bernstein?

Malcolm Venable

Fashion magazines have long been a source of fascination in pop culture. From The September Issue to MODE magazine on Ugly Betty and Runway magazine in The Devil Wears Prada, we're a little bit obsessed with what's really going on inside the magazines that tell us what to wear and how to look.

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Enter So Cosmo, E!'s eight-part series about the women (and men) who work at Cosmopolitan. Per E!, So Cosmo will offer a glimpse into "how these staffers cope when pushed past their limits by the influential but formidable former editor-in- chief and current chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, Joanna Coles." But early peeks into the program show the staff sucking down wine, getting kind of flirty with shirtless male models and generally living the life like some army of Carrie Bradshaws.
"We need the alcohol to get through," Coles said at the Television Critics Association winter previews in Pasadena, Calif., Tuesday. At the time the show began, Coles was editor-in-chief of the magazine but has since been promoted to chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, the company that owns Cosmopolitan. "It's unusual in that the editors of Cosmo have the same ambitions and lifestyle as the readers. The drinks are literally a coping mechanism."

Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Joanna Coles

Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Joanna Coles


As iconic magazine editors go, Coles' persona seems carefully packaged to be the warmer, funnier and relatable (but still English-accented) counter to icy Anna Wintour of Vogue; she cited Absolutely Fabulous as an inspiration (!), along with investigative journalism heroes Woodward and Bernstein. With Parks and Recreation and The Office off the air, she said, So Cosmo fills the "family-office drama" gap, showing how they work, socialize, and give each other a hard time when the need arises to get the best possible work out of each other. And of course, "becuase we constantly feature models, there's a lot of almost nudity," she said.

Like most magazines, Cosmo creates the issues people read about three months in advance of it hitting shelves, so So Cosmo will show the "staff of young ambitious women" preparing the pieces we'll read in print and online, learning as they go along and negotiating to get what they want. Among its staff stars are the approachable but tough Coles doing custom dress fittings for exclusive celeb-filled events; Diandra Barnwell, the bubbly brand coordinator who'll provide a look into her love life; and executive beauty editor Leah Wyar Romito, who's juggling life with her equally hardworking husband as they manage their careers, marriage and rearing their child.

Coles and executive producer Rob Bagshaw swear the show is a real-deal reflection of what happened, not an altered version of the truth. "We don't manufacture story. We shape story," Bagshaw said.

"It's real," Coles said. "It's a real office workplace. It's the real negotiations to get sh-- done."

So Cosmo premieres Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 8/7c on E!