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Behind Cooper & Cohen's NYE Live

Behind Cooper & Cohen's NYE Live

Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper

A team joins gay hosts Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen for the New Year's Eve special.

By Tricia Escobedo, CNN

(CNN) -- Every New Year's Eve, Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen, host four-and-a-half hours of live television, joined by celebrity guests and performers, as they count down to the new year.

It's a huge production, so as we head into this New Year's weekend, we reached out to the team that has produced this live program for the past seven years to find out how it all comes together.

Eric Hall is the executive producer of CNN This Morning, a new program that just launched on November 1, and Deborah Doft is the supervising producer of CNN's dayside programming. In addition to those responsibilities, they also oversee the annual live New Year's Eve special.

New Year's Eve Live is created by "a patchwork team of CNN employees from different show teams, bureaus and units from around the globe," Hall explained.

"We're lucky and grateful each year for all of them and their hard work," he added.

Here's what Doft and Hall told us about the live special and what we can look forward to Saturday night:

This is the 20th year that Anderson Cooper has hosted 'New Year's Eve Live' on CNN. How has it changed in recent years?

Eric Hall: Anderson is wonderful at inviting viewers into the fun and sentiment of the night, knowing that New Year's Eve can sometimes be a lonely experience for many. In fact, it's why he chooses to anchor New Year's Eve Live— to make sure the audience has a place to go and to fill people with hope, laughter and love. While the guests, the look of the program and the places have changed over the years, Anderson has always remained the constant. He is the heart and soul of the broadcast.

What are some of your favorite/craziest moments?

Hall: Some memorable moments include working closely with some of the biggest celebrities and performers in Hollywood. We've had live tattoos and piercings on the air. There was the "umbrella" incident (when Times Square authorities wouldn't allow Cohen or any of the media to have umbrellas), holograms, ziplines, ski slopes, hanging off The Edge at Hudson Yards, Olive Garden party crashing. How much time do you have?

Deborah Doft: Our Snoop Dogg interview is also a highlight. We have had some great music over the years — Shania Twain, Keith Urban, Duran Duran are among my favorites.

The reporters have also had some memorable moments: Richard Quest in a full "Cats" costume, Gary Tuchman interviewing DJ and producer Marshmello in Miami, Randi Kaye partying on a yacht in St. Barts and Stephanie Elam ziplining in Las Vegas with Carrot Top.

In 2017, Anderson and Andy interviewed Celine Dion live during a New Year's Eve performance in Las Vegas, just after the shooting at the music festival there. She wanted to celebrate the resilience of the city.

What goes into setting up such a major event in the middle of Times Square?

Hall: The New York team that sets up the Times Square production is a talented group of video and audio engineers, photojournalists, producers and site coordinators. Linh Tran, Aaron Cooper and Yon Pomrenze have all headed up the field production over the years and have done a terrific job working with the Times Square Alliance and New York Police Department to establish the shots you see.

The crew begins loading into the area the day before. Most importantly, they have done it in record cold, rain and the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

How early in the year do you start planning and preparing for the show?

Hall: We start planning in late August, which mostly consists of reaching out early to guests and celebrities. Then by the fall, we're working closely with Anderson and Andy about ideas, guests and the overall direction of the show. Things really heat up in December, of course, when more guests begin to come through.

What can viewers look forward to this year?

Hall: Andy and Anderson will have some fun and new conversations, games to play, and moments to share. You may even see tap dancing on top of Hudson Yards.

Doft: And Don Lemon will be back in New Orleans with a very special guest. We are going to be broadcasting live until 2 a.m. ET and we'll will be live in Boise, Idaho for the Mountain Time Zone New Year -- this is a first for us.

We also have amazing guests, including Kevin Hart, Usher, Ellie Goulding, Patti LuPone, Patti LaBelle, Ava Max, REO Speedwagon, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx, Jenifer Lewis, Jean Smart, Tenacious D, Nick Cannon, John Stamos, Cheri Oteri — and more.

Editor's note: Join the fun starting Saturday at 8 p.m. ET as Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen co-host CNN's New Year's Eve Live from New York City's Times Square.

The-CNN-Wire
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