Plus, what stars will turn up on ''Bette''?
SHOW ME THE HUBBY Apparently, Fox is hoping the TV audience has come down with a bad case of amnesia since ”Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”’s Darva Conger and Rick Rockwell shamed themselves — and the network — last February by agreeing to an instant marriage in prime time. Coming Nov. 2, Fox has yet another twist on the tele nuptials: In the taped special ”Surprise Wedding,” the net will send five men and their longtime girlfriends to an undisclosed vacation destination.
Unbeknownst to the guys, the gals have conspired with Fox to ambush their mates into marrying them in front of a television audience. The hook is whether these accidental grooms — who literally walk into their surprise ceremonies — will say ”I do.” ”If he says yes, the chorus sings and the ministers marry them right there,” says Fox head of specials Mike Darnell. (Rejected brides to be will receive a consolation prize package.)
Fox seems undeterred by the PR nightmare that was ”Multi-Millionaire,” as it’s planning another matrimonial themed game show called ”I Want a Divorce” (where ex couples compete to divide their assets); even its first original romantic comedy telepic is called ”How to Marry a Billionaire.” ”What happened in the other show was many bad things coming together at once. We think this is a good one,” says Darnell, adding that Fox is still a maverick programmer: ”Look at ‘Married… With Children,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘COPS’ — our history is to take risks.” We’ll say.
BE MY GUEST STAR Bette Midler isn’t above calling on her celeb cohorts to keep her series’ ratings momentum going. Having already persuaded Danny DeVito, David James Elliott, and George Segal to stop by her soundstage, Midler is now bringing some girlfriends aboard: On the Oct. 25 Bette, Miss M agrees to appear on Dolly Parton’s TV special to duet on ”Islands in the Stream,” and the Nov. 8 episode finds an unprepared Midler chatting with Oprah Winfrey during a Book Club segment.
”Bette is playing an active role in recruiting celebrities,” says Helene Michaels of Columbia TriStar TV, which produces the show, ”but there will not necessarily be one in every episode.” After all, sometimes a diva needs the spotlight to herself.
AND SO ON… Has Fox turned its back on the 18 to 34 demographic? You’d think so to see who’ll be guest starring on the youth friendly net this fall: Cloris Leachman (playing Jane Kaczmarek’s mom on ”Malcolm in the Middle”), Frances Fisher (as Christopher Titus’ mom on ”Titus”), Florence Henderson (a women’s self help guru on ”Ally McBeal”), Marlo Thomas (a rival’s mom on ”Ally”), and Kathy Bates (guesting on ”Mad TV”). So what accounts for this resurgence of mature leading ladies? ”There’s a lot of attention being given lately to diversity [on television[,” says Fox’s head of casting, Bob Harbin. ”Diversity can also be about age groups.”