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On the Tube: 'Under One Roof' and 'The Bachelor' are the latest to jump on trend

Friday, March 22, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

UPN's newest reality show, "Under One Roof" (8 tonight, WNPA) could just as easily be called "Family Survivor."

Five families travel to Fiji to live in a seaside home and compete with one another to win the ultimate prize: the house itself (not that they'll be able to afford the air fare from the United States to visit this vacation home).

The assorted families come in varying shades of dysfunction, particularly the Distels of Huntington Beach, Calif.

Patriarch Mike says participating in "Under One Roof" is what they call "FFF: Forced Family Fun." That's just after 15-year-old son David announces, "After spending time with my family, we'll just be sick of each other."

This doesn't seem like the kind of "family programming" some advocacy groups have in mind.

In fairness, the other kids are more mature than their parents. The first two families that arrive at the house hog all the bedrooms. When the McRaes of Orlando arrive third, the dad gets into a verbal fight with the patriarch of the Skofield clan from Las Vegas.

Children from both families watch in embarrassment.

"I wish my dad could have shut up," 15-year-old Brittany Skofield later says.

And the children shall lead them. But should children be led into a reality show? It's one thing for adults to willingly get involved in these shows, but subjecting children to such a spectacle seems like questionable parenting.

"Under One Roof" brings little new to the reality genre. It's not good, not bad, just more of the same.

'The Bachelor'
(9 p.m. Monday, ABC)

If tonight's premiere of "Under One Roof" and a rerun of "The Amazing Race" isn't enough reality TV for you, just wait till Monday. That's when ABC premieres "The Bachelor," which it describes as a six-episode "romantic reality series."

Alex, a 31-year-old bachelor, is introduced to 25 single women in Monday's premiere, and he must choose 15 to advance to the next level. They can opt not to continue, but they all accept his invitation.

Why not just call this "Harem" and be done with it?

"It's not an ordinary relationship show," proclaims host Chris Harrison. "The stakes are real ... You know, the whole till death do you part thing."

We know, but putting it that way, you know, as an afterthought, somehow cheapens it further.

Alex says at the end of six weeks of getting to know his harem, if he finds the one, he won't hesitate to propose marriage.

He's a Harvard grad with an MBA from Stanford who works as a management consultant in San Francisco. The women who compete for his affections include a cheerleader for the Miami Heat, a doctor from Hawaii, a lawyer from Dallas and a chemist/bar manager from Pittsburgh.

Jackie, 22, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh last year and, according to her bachelorette bio provided by ABC, enjoys skiing, running and swimming, wants two children and has a tattoo of flowers with leaves on a vine. ABC wouldn't give out Jackie's last name, and alas, she doesn't make the bachelor's first cut.

Like so many of these relationship reality shows, "The Bachelor" is cheesy and the whiff of desperation wafting off the contestants is strong. A preview for future episodes promises jealousy, back stabbing and cat fights as the bachelorettes vie for the main man.

What do you want to bet this one won't make the National Organization for Women's Top 10?

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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