New York magazine has always been one of my favorite reads. But I think I truly fell in love with it when, in the big redesign of 2004, Adam Moss created The Approval Matrix—that ultimate back-page department that pinpointed the week’s comings, goings, and gossip on a snark-filled grid of “Despicable,” “Brilliant,” “Highbrow,” and “Lowbrow.”
After I discovered the Matrix (the real one, not the Keanu one), I never opened a New York the same way again. I always started from the back cover and spent a solid half an hour studying where everything got stuck in the Approval web. It is Ben Mathis-Lilley and Emma Rosenblum’s “deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies,” and I couldn’t get enough of it. Why can’t we place all pop culture on such a grid?
Enter Bravo, the television station that brings us Housewives and Top Chefs. They know contagious content when they see it (I mean, seriously, can you turn the channel from millionaires being put in their place?). Last week, to my great delight, Bravo debuted a new show based on the beloved magazine column, and called it, appropriately, The Approval Matrix.
But how did they turn a single-page magazine department into an entire 30-minute television show? First, they cast Faith Salie, a CBS Sunday Morning and NPR contributor, as the host. Then, they brought in their very own Chelsea Lately format: three other co-hosts sitting alongside Ms. Salie, joking and riffing about the day’s news.
Together, the team yakked about the week’s news events, pop culture, and gossip, and labeled each into their appropriate quadrants. During that brief 30 minutes, they took the concept and the tone of a magazine department and transformed it into a new medium—television—proving the agility of a smart magazine concept. And, personally, I think that’s “highbrow” and “brilliant.”