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How E! is ‘changing things for women,’ and why Rose McGowan is a key part

Citizen Rose executive producer Jonathan Murray, star Rose McGowan, and showrunner Andrea Metz at the winter Television Critics Association press tour. (Photo by Evans Vestal Ward/NBCUniversal)

E!, the network that’s home to both the Kardashians and Rose McGowan’s upcoming documentary series Citizen Rose, is “changing things for women,” according to McGowan, who said that during a press conference at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Tuesday.

It’s changing, she said, because of Amy Introcaso-Davis, E!’s new executive vice president of development and production.

Introcaso-Davis returned to NBCUniversal in September from GSN, where she launched Skin Wars and other shows. Prior to that, was at Oxygen, and previously, at Bravo, where she developed shows including Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, and The Real Housewives franchise.

After the session, I talked with Introcaso-Davis, asking her to elaborate on what would be changing for women. (She oversees all production and development of reality programming at E! Entertainment.)

“I think you’re going to see a realness on E! that you haven’t seen in a while,” she told me. “The genre is in a bit of a need of a change, because it’s mature now, and stories need to be told a little bit differently. And I think people are yearning for authenticity now.”

Amy Introcaso-Davis

Introcaso-Davis said that “we’re focusing on strong women. Strong, inspirational women. Women who are in charge of their lives. Rose is certainly one of those women, and she is an amazing example of it, and I am so thrilled that she’s the first in this endeavor—because she’s so smart, and articulate, and passionate, and cares.”

“I think it’s really important also that the story here is really started in Hollywood, and so it’s something that it’s very important for E! to have covered. It also has made a huge cultural impact. I feel like this story is the beginning of a new world for us. I have a daughter—it’s going to be a different world for her,” and that Rose McGowan “makes me feel it.”

“And E! has allowed that,” Introcaso-Davis added. “My bosses have said, Go ahead and go with it, because it’s really important.”

The mandate actually predates the New York Times’ and New Yorker’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein, which was first published Oct. 5, and which gave way to more reporting and coverage of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

“Actually, it actually wasn’t” because of that story, Introcaso-Davis told me. “When we came in, I was like—I feel a little sad that this has gotten lost in this year—it’s the year of Wonder Woman. As E!, we should be exploring all those wonder women out there that we haven’t really before, whether they’re tied to Hollywood or not. So that was really the mandate coming in, and then Rose came to us when Bunim-Murray came to us with this show, and I thought, Wow. It’s such an important discussion for all of us.

While there will be new programs such as Citizen Rose, will existing reality TV programming on E! change, too? “I think it’s going to iterate,” she said. “Yes, some of it will [change], and we’re looking at it. We will be changing a lot of what we do.”

Introcaso-Davis mentioned these specific changes:

Introcaso-Davis also said, “this is such an important moment in time for Hollywood—which we cover—we just felt like we had to, had to, had to get in the conversation, and what better way than to go with Rose McGowan, who started the conversation?”

Rose McGowan, Catt Sadler, and E! News

That conversation has very recently included E! itself, or at least its news division. E! News co-anchor Catt Sadler quit late last year after learning that her co-anchor made double her salary, which came up repeatedly during E!’s Golden Globes red carpet coverage on Sunday.

Debra Messing, for example, told Giuliana Rancic live, according to USA TODAY, “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts. I miss Catt Sadler, and we stand with her. And that’s something that can change tomorrow.”

During the Tuesday press conference for McGowan’s show, McGowan was asked about Sadler’s pay disparity: “…even though E! is giving you a voice here with this project, does that show how entrenched these problems are? Have you spoken to E! about this issue, and does it make you uncomfortable at all that they’re facing these kind of allegations when you’re trying to spread your message through this project?”

McGowan said:

“I will say that came about after I had already done my deal, and I will say that I no. Let me hang out a while. Maybe things will change. I think it’s probably if you were sitting next to a woman and you worked at the same job as her right now, and you said, ‘What do you get paid?’ let’s say you’re both there for two years. I almost guarantee you you’re being paid more. And there’s a difference, and that is systemic. And we can call it out against E!, but you can call it out against your own organizations. You can call it out against every single job there is because it’s legal to discriminate that way.

So I think it is a time of reckoning and a reset button, and I really, really like the people at E!, and I really one of the great things that Amy Introcaso Davis said when I first met with her was saying that her first mandate was changing things for women at that network, and I think that’s a great mandate.”

Frances Berwick, the president of NBCU Cable Entertainment’s lifestyle networks (Photo by Lisa Berg/NBCUniversal)

At the end of the session, Frances Berwick—NBC Universal’s president of lifestyle networks, which encompasses all of E!, Bravo, and Oxygen, and Universal Kids—went to the podium to address that question.

She admitted that Sadler was paid differently than her male co-host, Jason Kennedy, but said that was justifiable:

“There is a lot of misinformation out there. Catt Sadler and Jason Kennedy had different roles and, therefore, different salaries. Catt was focused on daytime. Jason Kennedy is on prime evening news and plus red carpet. You know, our employees’ salaries are based on their roles and their expertise, regardless of gender. So we wish Catt well, but I hope that sort of sets the record straight on that.”

It didn’t, because Sadler directly contradicted Berwick in an interview published the next day.

In a Hollywood Reporter interview, responding specifically to a claim Jason Kennedy’s wife Lauren Scruggs Kennedy made about Jason being paid less than other women at E!, Sadler said this:

“My experience, frustration and disparity was based on Jason Kennedy and myself being apples to apples. We came to the network at the same time and did similar jobs. For people to use the argument that Giuliana somehow made more money than Jason, that comparison doesn’t work. They’re apples and oranges. She joined before him, she was managing editor, she had multiple shows on the network. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t work there are trying to be the voice for the network. The only story I can tell is my truth and the truth speaks for itself.”

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