He Loves the Approval Matrix: Hirschorn Brings New York Mag Feature to Bravo

Get ready for the TV version of the Matrix.

We’re not talking Keanu Reeves. We’re talking Ben Mathis-Lilley!

The Transom has learned that a team of veteran New York TV producers are currently working to turn New York magazine’s Spy-inflected back-page feature, the Approval Matrix, which is assembled by associate editors Mr. Mathis-Lilley and Emma Rosenblum, into a pop-culture TV series.
We’re told the idea originated with development executives at NBC Universal’s Bravo, who then signed on Michael Hirschorn, the Ish Entertainment founder and reality TV guru known for bringing a version of the British show I Love the 80s to VH1, to help translate the feature to the small screen, with the help of New York magazine editor Adam Moss. (Mr. Hirschorn is a former New York executive editor himself and writes TV and cultural criticism for The Atlantic.)

Each week, the Approval Matrix, described as a “deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies,” takes 32 cultural happenings suggested by staffers and places them on a grid, ranging from “despicable” on the left to “brilliant” on the right, and “lowbrow” at the bottom of the page to “highbrow” at the top. This past week, for instance, the Approval Matrix sized up R. Kelly’s low-budget, yodeling video “Echo” as somewhat lowbrow and slightly brilliant. Ralph Fiennes’ performance in Clash of the Titans was deemed mildly lowbrow and highly despicable.

The Approval Matrix debuted in November of 2004 as part of Mr. Moss’ redesigned culture section.

According to a Bravo spokesperson, no casting decisions have yet been made. Mr. Hirschorn did not respond to a call seeking comment, but this week his byline popped up in New York above a short analysis of CNN. “Sitting down for 22 minutes to watch a middlebrow mix of politics and weather that’s too proud to dabble more than passingly in the latest Hollywood crack-whoredom,” he wrote, “seems … inefficient.”

Translation: The network is middlebrow, and mildly despicable.

And … action!

fgillette@observer.com He Loves the Approval Matrix: Hirschorn Brings New York Mag Feature to Bravo