'Married' Producer Discusses His Latest 'Social Experiment'
Sat, Mar 1, 2003 05:08 PM PDT
by Daniel Fienberg Zap2it, TV News
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - Ted Haimes came to Hollywood in 1995 with an extensive background in documentary films, but despite earning an Emmy nomination for his contributions to "The History of Rock and Roll, Vol. 9," he was dissatisfied.
"I felt frustrated because at that point in time the conventional procession of documentary was that you had to present things in an objective way and I thought that was basically fraudulent," Haimes say. "Every good documentary maker I know has a strong point of view and the thing I'm interested in seeing is that point of view, not in pretension to an objectivity that you can't have."
Haimes found freedom in FOX's extreme proto-reality shows, even if these programs stuck to the simple formula of "Shocking Something Caught On Tape."
"As a documentary guy I felt liberated because I could tell my stories however I wanted to and the stories had an intensity to them and an immediacy to them," Haimes remembers. "I began to pitch shows that were a mix of what I like most about documentary, which is social experiment, and entertainment television."
Those clip shows led to the FOX’s "Surprise Wedding," which led to work on "Temptation Island."
Now, eight years after his Emmy nomination, Haimes finds himself as an executive producer scurrying to prepare "Married by America" for its premiere on Monday (March 3) at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
Debuting with a two -part matchmaking episode, "Married by America" will introduce audiences to five singles, two men and three women. Viewers will then meet the five suitors selected for those singles. Friends and family of the singles will narrow the suitors down to two apiece and America will get to choose the suitor they want the single to marry. On March 10, the grooms will all propose. The brides will all accept.
Then, for the first time, the couples will meet.
For the next month, the couples will live together. They'll meet each other's family and friends and get to know each other in a variety of different situations as they plan the wedding, scheduled for April 14.
"On April 14, they will face the rabbi, minister or justice of the peace of their choosing and they'll say, ‘I do’ or ‘I don't,’" says Haimes.
Thus there exists the possibility that after weeks of build-up, nobody will, in fact, be married by America. The show could end up with five couples saying "Thanks, but no thanks" to their arranged nuptials. Haimes can only promise that whatever happens, audiences will get an unmediated view.
"It's not as if we're going to lead to a conclusion that's different from the way it's portrayed on television," Haimes says. "If they get married, they really will get married. If they don't get married, they really won't be together and we will have watched them try and not succeed."
Already several religious groups, including the Catholic League, have attacked the show for making light of marriage. Haimes argues that "Married by America" is just another expansion of traditional courtship rituals.
"It's certainly a time when people are looking at different ways to find their life partners," he explains. "They go to match.com. They try speed dating and turbo dating... All kinds of things to meet people outside of their usual realms of experience."
More than 200,000 people downloaded the show's application and the casting department received thousands of audition tapes. The search yielded an attractive group of singles including Matt, who works in broadcast promotions in Atlanta, and Jill, a 25-year-old arena hostess for the NHL’s New York Islanders.
Haimes admits, however, to a glaring gap in his show's cast.
"The casting process and the fact that our five stars are all white is just the luck of the draw and the difficulty of the casting process," Haimes says. "I would hope that when it's time to do 'Married 2' that the popularity and profile of the show will help us attract a wider ranger of cast possibilities... I'm constantly frustrated by the white-ness of reality TV."
Haimes is also frustrated by critics who implicate reality television in the decline of scripted programming.
"What's killing scripted television is scripted television," protests Haimes. "It ain't gonna kill 'The Sopranos.' It's not going kill 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.' It's not going to kill 'Six Feet Under.' It's going to kill the same old predictable shows that the audience has grown tired of... I don't think it's a homicide of scripted television. I think it's a suicide."
For Haimes, "Married by America" picks up where previous reality relationship shows end and offers viewers the chance for unprecedented control over the narrative process. While Evan, Aaron, Alex and Trista all picked their potential spouses, Internet and phone-in votes will determine 50 percent of the stars of "Married By America."
Haimes views "Married by America" as just the next evolution of his documentary practice in a genre that he describes simply as, "taking pieces of real people's lives and telling provocative and passionate and emotional stories."
He already has ideas in mind for the next step.