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Creator gets personal in two-part 'Guardian'

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

CBS's "The Guardian" ended with a shock last night -- a car accident that appeared to mortally injure Lulu Archer (Wendy Moniz) just as she was about to get closer to emotionally closed-off Nick Fallin (Simon Baker).

Series creator/executive producer David Hollander wrote last night's episode and conceived the story with fellow former Pittsburgher Tom Smuts. Hollander said that episode and next week's conclusion were the most personal ones he's written to date.

"For these two episodes, I was really wanting to tell stories of near death," Hollander said by phone from Los Angeles yesterday. "The themes were gigantic for me."

The prospect of death ran through last night's hour, including a heart attack scare for Burton (Dabney Coleman), the illness of Burton's old friend, Nick and Lulu's accident and a dying town in the Mon Valley.

Hollander's inspiration? He was hospitalized with meningitis for a week in December. That put mortality front and center in his mind, but the state of the Mon Valley, where Hollander's father grew up, was also something he wanted to tackle.

"I thought a lot about those guys and that era," Hollander said. "My father comes from Monessen, a town I grew up being around. It became a real meditation on living and dying."

Hollander said he wasn't using the prospect of Lulu's death as a gimmick.

"What would it do to someone like Nick? It is a story about a man and his inability to find the basic things in life we all look for, so I had to ask myself while writing it, do I want to bring her back after this? The audience should worry a little bit."

Viewers will learn the answer in next week's episode, although Hollander cautioned that they "may not feel completely satisfied from the knowledge they get from it."

Celebs 'Out of Here'

Model Tyson Beckford looks around the room and starts to feel cocky.

He sees Melissa Rivers a few feet away. Former MTV personality Julie Brown just left his side. Robin Leach is strutting around. Alana Stewart has her back turned to him.

From where Beckford is sitting, he figures, yeah, he could take them all on.

They are his competition on the new reality game show "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" It debuts at 10 tonight on ABC.

Based on the British series of the same name, "Celebrity" will strand the 32-year-old Beckford and nine other celebrities in an Australian rain forest for two weeks. Viewers, through telephone votes and the Internet, determine who does challenges and who'll be eliminated.

The show will air every night for two weeks. Check listings for each night's airing.

"I think I'm going to win this," Beckford says.

If he is victorious, he could collect a total of $500,000 for his charity, which feeds the homeless and people with AIDS.

Joining Beckford, Brown, Rivers, Leach and Stewart are Bruce Jenner, Stuttering John, Cris Judd, Maria Conchita Alonso and Nikki Schieler Ziering, a Playboy Playmate.

Unlike other star-studded reality shows such as "Surreal Life" and "The Mole," "Celebrity" wants to be taken seriously, says executive producer John Saade.

The celebrities will be stripped of luxuries. They will live outdoors, sleep on makeshift cots and dine on rice, beans and water. They'll share an outdoor toilet. (Terry Morrow, Scripps Howard News Service)

Way to go, 'Joe'

"Joe Millionaire" concluded with Evan Marriott asking Zora, not Hunker native Sarah, to go steady. She said yes, and they toasted their future with a glass of champagne.

Then they scored a million dollars from the show -- the "shocking twist" viewers had been promised.

Along with co-finalist Sarah, Zora also heard the dicey truth: that Marriott wasn't the stinking-rich heir he had pretended to be while grazing over 20 lovely rivals for his affection on the hit Fox series. Instead, he was a $19,000-per-year impostor.

Monday's much-hyped two-hour finale -- actually taped last Thanksgiving -- brought to a close this "Bachelor"-like mating game blended with the $50 million joke viewers had been in on from the start: what the show called "television's biggest con."

"It's been a roller-coaster ride," a nervous Marriott began when it time came to level with Zora Andrich, the dark-haired 29-year-old schoolteacher from New Jersey.

But after stumbling through what sounded like the prelude to a kiss-off, he said, "I've chosen you.

"There's been something else I'd like to say to you that's been really weighing on my nerves," he added. "I don't have $50 million. I don't have $50,000. I'm sorry I lied to you, but I wanted to find someone who loved me for who I am, not for what I may or may not have."

Her bright smile gone, Zora rolled her eyes, looked stricken and said nothing.

Marriott also came clean with his other finalist: blond Sarah Kozer, 29, identified on the show as the assistant to a mortgage broker.

"Did you feel that was something I was concerned with?" she asked, trying to look as if it weren't, upon learning the truth about Evan's lack of wealth.

"I haven't chosen you," he said, getting to the point in a rare display of brevity.

Although 28-year-old Marriott has worked in California in construction, photos of him emerged on the Internet posing in skimpy underwear for a catalog. Then reports surfaced that Sarah had starred in movies such as "Novices in Knots" and a foot-fetish film called "Dirty Soled Dolls."

"I had stupendous amounts of school loans, so I did some fetish modeling," Kozer explained during a feature that was part of the finale's ample padding.

The padding isn't over. Next week, Fox plans to air a special follow-up on Evan and Zora. (Frazier Moore, Associated Press)

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