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Behind the scenes: ''Studs''

Behind the scenes: ”Studs” — From contestant-scouting to filming, we take a look at the Fox-TV dating show

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Part 1: The Search

Jeff Olde pulls his red Nissan Pulsar into the parking lot of the Australian Beach Club, a singles bar in the Orange County suburbs south of L.A., takes a look at the crowd, and smiles.

There is a line of people waiting to get in on this Wednesday night, all young and firm and good to their hair, flight attendants and secretaries, department-store salesmen and off-duty lifeguards, a slow-moving stream of girls in short shorts and guys in unbuttoned shirts. Stand here long enough and you’d think Melrose Place was a documentary.

Olde spends four nights a week in places like this, riding a circuit of more than 50 clubs in and around L.A. Usually he works the room discreetly, passing out business cards to people who catch his eye. But here, where there are bikini-clad bartenders and a black-lit sea of pressed suburban flesh jammed against the mirrored walls, subtlety is not a requirement.

”How ya doing?” he says, approaching a cluster of male model types as he pulls a clipboard away from his T-shirted chest to reveal the name of the television show for which he toils. ”Do you guys ever watch Studs?”

Do they! And so, it seems, does everyone else in America under age 30. Though only in its second season, the syndicated Studs has developed a hugely loyal audience of 3 million viewers nightly. It’s especially popular on college campuses, where, much as streaking did in the ’70s, it provides a brain-dead distraction from the pressures of higher learning. The premise: Two guys (usually somewhat hunk-like) go on blind dates with three women (usually with big hair and short skirts) and come on the show to kiss and tell in that oh-so-Studs way, offering up leering double entendres about their evenings together, all phrased to elicit adolescent yelps from the audience.

If, for example, a couple plays billiards together, the way it comes out on Studs is: ”One tight rack and it was time to start breaking balls.” The audience yowls. The host, Mark DeCarlo, gives the camera a nudge-nudge wink- wink smirk, and one of the guys has to figure out which woman said it. College Bowl, this isn’t.

Not that it matters. Every night the Studs phone lines are jammed with thousands more applicants than the show could ever use. Even so, Olde and other field producers continue to scout the clubs, to set up special events in cities across the country, just to make sure the talent pool is sufficiently stocked.

Single and 27, Olde treats these club nights as strictly a job. In 90 minutes he will be gone, having scanned every face in the crowd and taken the names of two dozen people. No, he says, they don’t have to be the most beautiful people in the room, but they must have a spark. Still, it’s worth noting that he ignores the guy with the shaved head and the Social Distortion T-shirt and zeroes in on a woman named Candy, dancing by herself on a platform, her yellow hair cascading down to her thighs. ”Whoa,” Olde says, his professional decorum momentarily shattered. ”Would you look at that!” But when she declines to audition, he moves on.

About to leave, he spots one last prospect, another blond in cutoffs, this one with a flowered hat. He approaches, she nods and quickly signs his list. ”I’m 21 and I’m single,” Trish LeRoux explains, ”so what have I got to lose?”