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Tuned In: Bride trips on train of lies in 'Obnoxious Fiance'

Monday, January 19, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOLLYWOOD -- And here I thought the premise of "The Joe Schmo Show" was cruel. Fox's "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" is worse.

Premiering tonight at 9 after the season premiere of "American Idol," "Fiance" features a 23-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., first-grade teacher, Randi Coy, who has to convince her family that she's marrying a jerky slob on a reality show. If she gets her family to attend the wedding and not raise objections during the ceremony, she wins $1 million.

Randi Coy thinks she's in on the joke when she tells her parents she's marrying Steve Williams. But she doesn't know that he's really Steve Bailey, an actor, on "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance." (S. Adyani/Fox)
Click photo for larger image.

But the tables are also turned on her: Randi thinks the slob is also a reality show contestant doing the same thing, but Steve Williams is really Steve Bailey, and he and his "family" are actors playing roles. She doesn't know that. So not only does Randi lie to her family, she gets lied to as well.

"This is not an everyday lie; this is a huge lie," declares Randi in a Fox ad.

"I do not want to see this family broken in any way," Randi's mother says while crying in the same promo.

Executive producer Chris Cowan defends the show's concept, saying the family "had an idea that they were going to be participating in a reality show the entire time."

Cowan said the show contains a lot of comedy.

"It kind of walks both sides of the line," Cowan said. "We were always very cautious of seeing where everybody was emotionally and trying to vector the material [to] one side or the other based on where everybody was, so we paid attention to it closely."

Cowan, who previously produced the "Temptation Island" series, said "Fiance" was the closest he's come to not completing a series.

"There were some very, very tense moments," he said, "not necessarily emotional moments, but certainly we were riding the rails of the joke falling apart on us the last week of the shoot."

Cowan aknowledged participation in the show could be traumatic for participants, but he said, "I don't think it's crummy at all."

Randi said she has some resentment for being the butt of a practical joke -- ironic considering she pulled an upsetting gag on her family -- and she's still digesting the experience.

"I thought I was doing the ultimate practical joke, but then again, the joke was on me," she said. "I'm taking it day by day."

She said the joke was not necessarily cruel because it was going to be over in two weeks (the total filming time).

"We're a very close family, so hopefully in the end we'll be OK," she said. "But this was quite a whirlwind we went through."

Has she been talking to her family since filming ended in early December?

"I speak to my family," she said succinctly.

To the victor...

CBS is having a strong season. Only two of its six new series failed, and, on Saturday, CBS chairman and chief exceutive office Leslie Moonves announced the renewal of four freshmen series: "Two-and-a-Half Men," "Cold Case," "Joan of Arcadia" and "Navy NCIS" for the 2004-2005 television season.

But one giant question mark hangs over the network: Will the star and executive producer of "Everybody Loves Raymond" agree to continue making episodes? Moonves is arguing for one more year, of course.

"That is one of my biggest arguments, that you will get lost in the shuffle -- there's "Friends," there's "Frasier," there's "Sex and the City,'" Moonves said of other big-name series that are retiring this year. "We're using every argment we can, frankly. It could go either way. We obviously hope it comes back."

Moonves, who said he expects a decision within a month, said he's doing everything possible to woo Romano and executive producer Phil Rosenthal to return for one more year.

"We'll announce the victory lap. You'll be the big story next season. We'll give you awards, we'll give you dinners, we'll do the whole nine yards. We'll supersize you, we'll do whatever you want to come back for an extra year."

Moonves said CBS still has not given up on a reality version of "The Beverly Hillbillies," the prospect of which has generated protests from some Americans living in rural areas. But Moonves said the project is "not in very active development."

Meanwhile, Moonves got drawn into a battle of the bigwigs with Donald Trump, who stars in NBC's "The Apprentice." Trump was angry that CBS announced plans to air an original "CSI" against the second episode of "The Apprentice" to blunt its impact. That ultimately did not happen when NBC changed its schedule.

"I've worked with Les Moonves. I think Les Moonves is the most highly overrated person in television," Trump said. "If Les Moonves was a contestant on this show, he would have been fired by the third episode, I promise you."

For his part, Moonves said he's perplexed by Trump's comments, although he speculated it was Trump's effort to generate headlines, which Trump did successfully in some newspapers.

"I like Donald. We've always had a cordial relationship," Moonves said. "I really can't understand him doing it, but I'm going to take the high road and I'll just chalk up his behavior to having a very bad hair day... If you had a head of hair like mine, I could understand why he's jealous. I might say the same about Jeff Zucker, too, but I won't."

Zucker, who is balding, is president of NBC's entertainment, news and cable divisions.

Rather returns

"CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather, who's been off the air since having minor surgery to remove basal cells from his face earlier this month, is expected to return to the air tonight. The surgery was a precautionary move; no skin cancer was detected. Rather may be wearing a bandage on his nose for a few more days.

Midseason on CBS

"Century City" (9 p.m. Tuesdays, March 16): Set in 2030, this talky legal drama follows lawyers through their futuristic cases. Stars include Nestor Carbonell ("The Tick"), Hector Elizondo ("Chicago Hope") and Ioan Gruffudd ("Horatio Hornblower"). "The Guardian" would have been in reruns for six weeks and will return to its regular time slot April 27.

"The Stones" (9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March 17): Grown children live with their divorcing parents (Judith Light and Robert Klein) in this new sitcom from the producers of "Will & Grace."

Still rebuilding UPN

UPN succeeded in making its Monday night schedule more compatible with Tuesday nights this season, but now its Wednesday schedule needs work. "Jake 2.0' is on hiatus and the future of "Enterprise" is in doubt.

"Its future is up in the air," said CBS's Moonves, who also oversees UPN. "We want to see what happens the rest of the year."

UPN had success last week with the return of "America's Next Top Model," which also performed well when it repeated at 9 p.m. Wednesday. That's likey to continue as producers tout an upcoming episode that features an orgy.

"In this show the girls are put under a lot of pressure; a lot of stuff is thrown at them in a short period of time..." explained executive producer Ken Mok. "You have 12 girls living together for an intense duration without many guys around, and at some point the girls got to relieve their stress with the guys."

Outspoken judge Janice Dickinson said her 9-year-old daughter watches and expressed concern about the orgy scene. Host and producer Tyra Banks assured her it's not cable and won't be too risque.

Dickinson has become known as the show's most outspoken judge, some calling her "Top Model's" Simon Cowell after the blunt "American Idol" judge.

"Simon never sang a note," Dickinson said, objecting to the comparison. "I fell off a lot of runways in my life, so I'm just here to state the truth."

That includes proclaiming herself the world's first supermodel. She began modeling in New York the '70s, but her dark complexion and brown hair was not in vogue. That forced her to relocate to Paris where she said there was a models strike at the time. She crossed the models picket line to get work.

"I was the Rosa Parks," she said. And yes, she was serious. "I think I'm the Lord of the Rings of supermodels."

Coming up on UPN

UPN has renewed Thursday night's "WWE Smackdown!" for the 2004-2005 season and has two new reality series in development for summer.

"UPN's The Player" is a relationship reality show that will feature more of a multi-ethnic cast than other dating shows as it attempts to find "America's smoothest operator."

"Amish in the City," an internal working title, follows five young Amish adults going through rumspringa (translated: "running wild"). It's a period during which Amish youth experience life outside the Amish community and decide whether to stay Amish or join the modern world.

"We couldn't do the 'Beverly Hillbilllies,' but the Amish don't have quite as good a lobbying effort," Moonves joked. He said the fish-out-of-water series will be done respectfully. Two of its producers worked on the Cinemax documentary "The Devil's Playground," which followed Amish youth through rumspringa.

The network's only announced midseason show is "Game Over," a computer-animated comedy that looks at the exploits of a family of video game characters after the game ends. Cute concept, but the pilot episode tries too hard to connect with video game junkies. It features the voices of Patrick Warburton ("The Tick") and Rachel Dratch ("Saturday Night Live"). No premiere date announced.

Revenge of 'Nerd Nation'

Cable network Tech TV continues to look at techie lifestyles with its latest series, "Nerd Nation," which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. Each episode will look at a specific subculture.

Roger Nygard, who directed the 1999 documentary "Trekkies," about intense "Star Trek" fans, directed one installment about UFO enthusiasts called "Six Days in Roswell."

"My goal in making movies is to make films and documentaries that can be enjoyed by the profilees as well as the audience," Nygard said. "I don't want to laugh at anybody; I want them to be laughing with me."

Nygard, who is currently filming "Trekkies 2," about international "Star Trek" fans, said human beings are odd creatures.

"In high school there are two groups. There are the jocks and the nerds," Nygard said. "The nerds become the innovators, the originators, the inventors, the CEOs -- they're basically running the world. So where do you put the smart money? Always bet on the nerds in the long run."

But will they object to being called nerds? Nygard says no.

"To me 'nerd' and 'geek' are compliments, because it means you're smart," he said. "I like to consider myself a nerd and a geek."

Channel surfing

CBS is developing a third edition of "CSI" with the working title "CSI: New York." It will be spun off of an episode of "CSI: Miami," set to air in May... Fox has canceled the Norm Macdonald sitcom "A Minute With Stan Hooper"... With CBS's "The Handler" going away, Moonves said the 10 p.m. time slot will likely be filled by "Jerry Bruckheimer Theater," including reruns of Bruckheimer-produced series "CSI," "Without a Trace" and "Cold Case."

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 .

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