By Marcus Errico
Fox has another reality show scandal on its hands.
Um, stop us if you've heard this before.
Yes, once again the network's background checkers are in desperate need of a reality check. The network that brought us Temptation Island (news - Y! TV), Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Joe Millionaire and American Idol and their various off-screen contestant sideshows is suffering through another gaffe courtesy of its latest unscripted show, Married by America.
Seems one of the contestants is--gasp!--already hitched. Denise L., one of two would-be suitors for bachelor Stephen, is apparently long separated but never divorced from her husband, technically making her still married and therefore an ineligible bachelorette.
Taking "America" out of the Married by America equation is, of course, verboten per show rules. And despite Denise L.'s considerable camera-friendly appeal (she did admit to both producers and viewers that she once posed for a Playboy spread--which undoubtedly contributed to her making it to the final round), she's likely to be kicked off on next Monday's installment of the show in which singles, sight unseen, are paired with their perfect mates via a viewers phone vote.
"Fox will not discuss the personal lives of their show participants," a network rep tells E! "However, it is against the rules to participate in the show if you are, or have ever been married. It was not known to the producers that this participant was married and the situation will be dealt with on Monday's episode."
Fox refused to say how the audience vote would be handled. Denise L. was up against Denise D. for the shot at becoming Stephen's spouse. It's not known whether the vote will be thrown out if Denise L. outpoints Denise D., whether Denise D. will simply be selected to woo Stephen, or whether there will be a re-vote pitting Denise D. against third-place finisher Darrien.
There's no bio for Denise L. (Fox isn't revealing her last name and all show participants are currently being sequestered by the net) on the Married Website, but, after being grilled by Stephen's friends and family on Monday's show, this much we know: She said she was kicked out the house by her mom at 16, and she considered her posing for Playboy's Sweethearts of Rodeo layout one of her proudest accomplishment. Why? Because she thought it was done "tastefully."
In making her plea for the audience vote at the end of the first show, Denise L. said she had the "worst luck with men" and she came on this show to let America make the choice for her.
Her bad luck streak continued, though, when a woman identifying herself only as Karen and claiming to be Denise L.'s sister-in-law phoned in to San Diego's Star 100.7 FM on Tuesday. Karen told the show's hosts, Jeff and Jer, that Denise was still married--and that she had received breast implants (meowww!).
Of course, Fox execs are probably hungry for such a scandal to help goose the ratings for Married, which has been left at the altar by viewers. The show has failed to duplicate the success of Joe Millionaire or American Idol. Wednesday's installment dropped more than 10 million viewers from its Idol lead-in, drawing just 9.3 million and finishing behind the finale of ABC's reality offering I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here, which averaged 10.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. (For those keeping score at home, the latter show was won by J.Lo ex Chris Judd, who received more votes than Howard Stern sidekick "Stuttering" John Melendez and E!'s fashion maven Melissa Rivers (news).)
Wednesday's Married ratings were a smidgen better than the debut figures for Monday, when the Fox show placed a distant third with 8.67 million viewers, behind NBC's reality combo of Fear Factor and Meet My Folks and repeats of CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond (news - Y! TV) and Still Standing.