In reality, it's a small world at Fox
Posted: Feb. 4, 2004
Is "The Littlest Groom" an offensive idea, or are people who condemn it being just the littlest bit hasty?
This two-episode dating show, scheduled to air Feb. 16 and 23 on Fox, will present to an attractive young bachelor named Glen an assortment of single women for his consideration.
The twist: Glen is 4 foot 5. The women he'll meet, flirt with and get a chance to date will be divided between those close to his size and those of average height.
Personally, I don't find the concept any more or less offensive than that of any show where somebody chooses a date, or even a mate, from a selection rolled out on a human dessert cart.
But my opinion on this counts for less than that of the Little People of America, an advocacy group for those 4 foot 10 and under.
The TV audience needs to see little people dating, dining, dancing and "just being themselves," LPA President Matt Roloff, who served as a consultant to the show's producers, told the Reuters news agency last week. "Hiding us behind closed doors or in funny costumes will never give us the exposure needed to desensitize society to us."
Roloff acknowledged, though, that not everyone in his organization thinks the show is a good idea. He quoted an e-mail from the mother of a dwarf child who called Fox's decision to air the show "outrageous" and "just one more avenue to make fun of their stature."
When I called three Wisconsin members of the group this week, all of them expressed both curiosity and wariness about the show.
"It has potential, but it could also slide into the gutter," said James Jansen of Manitowoc, who is 4 foot 7. "That's the reputation of Fox, right? They go for sensationalism."
"I'm intrigued, but I'll reserve judgment until I see it," said Waukesha's JoAnn Cekanor, who is of average height but has a 7-year-old with achondroplasia, which causes the most common form of dwarfism.
Another mother of a short child, Jeanie Joswig of Oregon, Wis., also said she was "on the fence - it really depends on the flavor of the show."
But one of the show's executive producers, Eric Schotz, assured me that the flavor of the show was "unbelievably charming."
Schotz's busy LMNO Productions has supplied Fox with reality shows ranging from 2002's "Bachelorettes in Alaska" to Friday night's folks-behaving-badly special, "That's Just Wrong."
For "The Littlest Groom," Schotz asked Roloff and others - the producer wouldn't talk about consulting fees - to advise LMNO on sensitive areas. He learned, for example, that midget is a term to avoid, while dwarf, which describes someone with one of several medical conditions, or the more generic little person are OK.
Besides, added Schotz, people are people, right?
"When you watch the show," he promised, "you'll stop noticing everyone's height."
What are the odds?
Well, like Joswig, Jansen and Cekanor, I guess I'll just have to watch. But it's hard to be optimistic about a dating show getting viewers to look past the physical.
A man shorter than 5 feet or a woman bigger than size 12 is as likely to show up on ABC's "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette" as Ashton Kutcher is to start hosting "Masterpiece Theatre."
Short men, fat men, skinny men and even homely men may court the beauty queen on NBC's "Average Joe," but not without a lingering close-up of her shocked expression when she gets her first look at them.
(Don't hold your breath waiting for an "Average Jane." Apparently, overweight or homely women are so horrifying to producers of dating shows that the closest they've come is to put the "Average Joe" babe in a fat suit for one episode as a prank.)
At least Fox's "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" doesn't pull its punches, conveniently combining overweight and overbearing in its very name. The bachelor of the title, an actor, is paid to act boorish, but his bulk is all his own.
So if average Joes are disappointing and big fat guys are obnoxious, where does that leave a bachelor of 4 foot 5?
True, "The Littlest Groom" just might rise above the conventions of its genre. If it does, it'll be a small miracle.