Kathy Griffin knows about life on "the D list." Starting Monday, A- and B-list celebrities walking the red carpets of awards season will discover what it's like to be on the acid-tongued comedian's personal hit list.
Griffin is preparing to go into rapid-fire attack mode as the new host of "Fashion Police," E! network's series formerly ruled by the late Joan Rivers that puts a spotlight on the best- and worst-dressed on the Hollywood glamour scene.
Accompanied by returning panelists Kelly Osbourne and Giuliana Rancic and new cast member, stylist Brad Goreski, Griffin will take aim at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards.
"I was very relieved when the heads of E! said, 'We want you to say what we're afraid to say, and then, if you can be worse, that's even better,'" Griffin said with a big smile last week during an interview at her spacious hillside home near Hollywood. "I said, 'Worse? That's my specialty!'"
As evidenced by her stand-up specials and her off-the-cuff skirmishes with Anderson Cooper during CNN's New Year's Eve broadcasts, few will be spared.
"People are afraid to say stuff about Jessica Chastain. I love Jessica. She came up to me and said she thought I was a riot. That, to me, is a license to kill," Griffin said. "Then there are the ones who want the pass, like I'm Willy Wonka handing out golden tickets. Cher called me, and I said, 'No, Cher, there's not a Cher pass.' Everybody is on the list. I told Ryan Seacrest he's automatically on the worst-dressed list, sight unseen."
Still, Griffin's understandable excitement over her upcoming gig — the first episode of the E! show without Rivers – is tempered by the sadness over last year's death of her comic mentor and friend who turned the skewering of celebrities into an art form. Rivers, 81, died Sept. 4, a week after undergoing an outpatient medical procedure on her throat.
Griffin will be joined on the re-booted show by Rivers' daughter, Melissa Rivers, who remains executive producer and gave Griffin her blessing to follow in her mother's footsteps.
"Obviously these are big shoes to fill, and I'm bringing my own pair of shoes," Griffin said. "There was only one Joan, and I was cognizant of that every moment I spent with her. She was a living legend.
"While I will continue in her fearless approach to fashion and pop culture, I have a totally different style — it's a lot more improvisational. Joan did those one-line zingers like nobody else, so I'm not even going to try to go there. That was her thing. I don't know what I'm going to say, and neither do the other panelists, and I literally won't know until I'm in the throne. And it is a throne; Joan did not leave a folding chair for me."
Melissa Rivers was instrumental in deciding that "Fashion Police" should carry on with Griffin. While acknowledging it was an emotional decision, Rivers added that there was no other real choice.
"I just feel like the show hasn't finished," Rivers said in a phone interview. "It's a show that in one form or another started 20 years ago with 'Fashion Review.' We created something fun that has become part of the pop culture lexicon. It just felt right to continue — I felt like it's what my mother would have expected me to do."
Having Griffin as the new face of the revamped show won't be its only change. Goreski, the former star of Bravo's reality series, "It's a Brad, Brad World," will add his personality to the mix as well.
"The goal is to create a show that feels fresh and new yet feels incredibly familiar, which is a tall order," Rivers said. "It's not about wiping the slate clean. This is a moving-forward moment, which has been the creative and mental challenge for me. We'll hug the elephant in the room, give it a peanut, and keep going."
Jeff Olde, executive vice president of programming and development for E!, called "Fashion Police" one of the network's flagship franchises, but he stressed it will be different.
For the record
11:21 a.m. Jan. 10: An earlier version of this post identified Jeff Olde as president of progrmming and development for E! His position is executive vice president.
"It will take on the personality of those involved," he said. "This has been a real emotional process for all of us."
Easing the transition was a bond that already existed between Melissa Rivers and Griffin, who had been her teacher at the Groundlings, the renowned improvisational comedy.
"I'm so excited about Kathy because she's not a stranger coming into my world," Rivers said. "We both have each other's back. We both loved and adored the same woman. I know that she will bring it, and she knows I will do my job to support that. There's something very comforting in that — we're going to hold hands and jump."
Griffin, whose "My Life on the D-list" brought her plenty of Emmy attention, said her insider perspective will give the new "Fashion Police" a special flavor.
"I want people to realize I've been on both sides," she said. "I attended the Emmys eight years in a row as a nominee. The two times I won, I wound up on the worst-dressed list. When I lost, I was on the best-dressed list. So it all doesn't have anything to do with anything but having fun."
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14)