ABC speaking to Stern fans
By DONNA PETROZZELLO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Howard Stern sidekick (Stuttering) John Melendez is an unlikely candidate for a reality show.
He's never starred in a prime-time series. He's not a failed child actor. But what he lacks in TV visibility is made up by his 14 years on Stern's show, some of them spent sparring with celebrities during his now-infamous red-carpet interviews.
That was enough for producers of ABC's "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," who made Melendez one of a group of low-level celebrities on the show.
"I'm sure it's an added bonus to have me on because [ABC] will get some promotion from it, but I don't think that's entirely the reason they chose me," said Melendez, also a weekday jock on WXRK (92.3 FM). "I'm sure viewers will know me from the Stern show."
Still, viewers may have less difficulty placing some of the show's other names, which include the likes of former Olympian Bruce Jenner, lifestyle connoisseur Robin Leach, E! Entertainment's Melissa Rivers, model Tyson Beckford and Jennifer Lopez's ex-husband Cris Judd.
While on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," players will camp out and compete to win food and luxury items. The show will air for 15 consecutive nights starting Feb. 19 at 10 p.m., and allow viewers to vote on who leaves the game.
Melendez won't be able to call in to Stern's show while he's working for ABC, but it won't be a surprise if the show is a topic on the radio broadcast.
Andrea Wong, who oversees reality programs for ABC, downplayed talk that Melendez was cast for the sake of publicity.
"Our idea was to make this show a slumber party with a cross-section of celebrities," Wong said. "We don't get any benefit from [Melendez] talking about it after the show is over. We think John's appealing because he's an icon to a lot of our viewers."
In any case, any publicity generated by Stern's program will be reduced by the fact that the radio show will be in reruns for a portion of Melendez's stint.
"The only upside to getting voted out is that they put you up in a five-star hotel when you leave," Melendez said. "I think I've got a chance against Robin Leach. I just hope a lot of these people are high-maintenance and complain about the heat and camping."