PRISONERS OF LOVE
By DON KAPLAN NY Post.com
The cast of "Married by America" - (l-r) Jennifer Jaynes, Matt Arden, Jill Marie Nicolini, Billie Jeane Houle and Stephen Savona - spend a lot of time in their rooms.
March 4, 2003 --
IS reality TV the new indentured servitude - or a set of golden handcuffs that the contestants willingly clamp on in exchange for fame and money?
A rare glimpse behind the curtain of a reality show - in this case, the new series "Married By America," which debuted last night - reveals some hard truths.
Like being locked down for weeks in a hotel, eating room service food (not always a bad thing) and having show staffers dial your outgoing phone calls for you - all to make sure you don't spill the beans to any outsiders.
A production memo from the producers of "Married" to the contestants - a copy of which was obtained by the website The Smoking Gun - outlines what contestants have to go through for their shot at fame. The conditions of participating in "Married" seem harsh. "You WILL NOT be able to leave your room at any time without a 'Married By America' representative," the memo says.
"While in the hotel, you will not have access to the phone unless supervised by a 'Married By America' representative, who will make arrangements for you to use the phone. They will stay with you when you make the call," it also says.
But the rules are apparently not so different for most of the reality shows that are taking over prime time.
"Our primary concern as we begin this process is maintaining the integrity of this production. We cannot allow ANY information regarding the production to leak to family, friends or the media," the memo states. The memo says don't even bother bringing a cell phone, pager or computer - if you do, the producers will confiscate them upon arrival.
"I actually had my lawyer take a look at" the restrictions imposed on contestants, said Brian Heidik, the winner of $1-million prize on "Survivor: Thailand" last fall.
"He explained to me in so many words, 'Brian, you're signing your life away. They own you and they have you by the you-know-what." In the end, the tradeoff wasn't so bad, Heidik said.
"At the time I looked at my life, and I looked at how it could be if I won the $1 million and I said, 'Let's go for it.'
"The fame and celebrity that comes from these reality shows is absolutely wonderful. A lot of positive things have come from it and a lot of opportunity. It was extremely worth it, and the fact that I won just adds to it."
The five "Married" contestants have been under virtual lock-and-key since flying into Los Angeles around Feb. 22. They are expected to remain sequestered until March 8, when they get engaged on an episode that will air on March 10.
Fox officials yesterday declined to comment. Fox is a division of News Corp., which also owns The Post.