Fox's 'Groom' heightens reality dating
Humorous take on date skeins spotlights little people
By JOSEF ADALIAN
Fox and LMNO Prods. are looking to have a tiny bit of fun with relationship-based reality show genre.
Net has wrapped principal photography on a two-episode unscripted miniseries dubbed "The Littlest Groom," a "Bachelor"-like skein in which a four-foot-five single guy named Glen will attempt to find reality show love by dating a dozen different little women. Skein will feature all of the usual dating show conventions, from group dates to group gropes in the hot tub.
There's just one tiny twist: At a certain point, bachelor Glen, 23, will have to decide between dating women his own size or women of average height.
Fox reality czar Mike Darnell said LMNO topper Eric Schotz had the big idea to do a dating show with little people.
Not a parody
"It's not a parody, but it is a humorous take on the romance shows that have been on the last couple of years," Darnell said. "I was already doing 'My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance,' so it seemed like this might be a fun little stunt."
Indeed, "The Littlest Groom" will serve as a lead-in for the final two episodes of "Fiance." "Groom" bows Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. and wraps its short run Feb. 23, the same night "Fiance" airs its finale.
Schotz said "Groom" is clearly a reaction to the myriad skeins spawned by "The Bachelor."
"When we looked at all the shows in this genre, they all looked and felt the same," he said. "We thought it'd be fun to do this with a diverse group of people."
Schotz said "Groom" doesn't "deal with the height issues. It's a straight-up relationship show that's unbelievably compelling because it has such great casting."
Darnell said "Groom" will "play as a romance but also plays very funny. What makes it funny is that it's unusual."
While the concept of "Groom" will no doubt attract much media attention, Fox and LMNO execs said they took great pains to avoid producing a show that might be offensive to the community of little people. Schotz said he and his staff had talks with the Little People of America (LPA) about avoiding stereotypes or situations distasteful to the community of little people.
"There's a great sense of humor in the program, but we never do it at the expense of the little people," Schotz said. "We worked with the LPA and did a lot of homework about what's appropriate and what's not. They were very instrumental in helping us out."
Darnell quipped that he's almost qualified to serve as a rep for the interests of little people: Exec stands 5 feet tall. The LPA defines little people as adults of 4'10".
While most dating reality shows play out over six to eight weeks, Darnell said the two-hour arc worked best for "Groom."
"People are so used to this form, they know when everything's coming," he said. "Because this is a take on other shows, (a compressed timeframe) would be a great way to do it."
Nonetheless, Schotz said viewers can expect "all the elements you experience in the arcs of these kinds of programs. It's not empty calories; you feel very satisfied watching this."
Darnell said "Groom" has been in the talking stages since September. Production began just a few weeks ago, however, giving WMA-repped LMNO a short turnaround time between taping and premiere.
LMNO is a major supplier of Fox's February stunts. Shingle is producing "Man vs. Beast 2" and "That's Just Wrong" for the net's sweeps sked (Daily Variety, Jan. 20.)
Schotz and Bill Paolantonio are exec producing "Groom," with Tracy Green serving as co-executive producer and Scott Messick directing.
Little people are becoming big in reality TV as of late. NBC and Mark Cronin's Mindless Entertainment are currently developing a pilot for "Life Is Too Short," a half-hour reality comedy starring two-foot-eight thesp Verne Troyer ("Austin Powers") and his surrogate family (Daily Variety, Dec. 12.)