TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Who wants to share in the Fox ’Millionaire’ debacle? Everyone!

Regardless of whether you watched the live broadcast of Fox’s Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire? last month, chances are you couldn’t avoid its aftermath - which itself might have made a Fox special: When Good Stunts Go Bad.

Regardless of whether you watched the live broadcast of Fox’s Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire? last month, chances are you couldn’t avoid its aftermath - which itself might have made a Fox special: When Good Stunts Go Bad.

Regardless of whether you watched the live broadcast of Fox’s Who

Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire? last month, chances are you couldn’t

avoid its aftermath - which itself might have made a Fox special: When

Good Stunts Go Bad.



The coverage of what transpired following the quickie nuptials (which

disintegrated almost immediately - quel surprise!) has been called

tawdry, embarrassing, even immoral. In any event, it serves as a

precautionary tale for pros wandering in the cut-throat wilderness of TV

publicity.



After the Feb. 15 Millionaire garnered 23 million viewers, it proved a

publicity sensation, landing on the front page of The New York Times and

just about every tabloid and entertainment show. But that was nothing

compared to the coverage once the couple returned from their honeymoon

and began some of the most compelling damage control ever seen on

TV.



Self-proclaimed millionaire Rick Rockwell struck first, denying charges

on NBC’s Dateline that he physically abused a former fiance. But it was

Mrs. Millionaire, not-so-blushing bride Darva Conger, that sent the

morning talk shows into a tizzy.



Diane Sawyer struck first, flying the 34 year old - and her personal

publicist - to New York for a Feb. 23 Good Morning America

appearance.



But Conger didn’t plan on stopping with ABC, and shopped herself to the

other morning shows. Only Steve Friedman, executive producer of CBS’

Early Show, passed. ’I had to make a value judgment,’ he said. ’As it

turns out, I probably wouldn’t have gotten her anyway.’



NBC’s Today and Later Today both took the bait, booking an appearance to

take place a mere hour after Conger’s GMA stint. Indeed, when Conger

showed up at the GMA studios at 6:55 am, a Today show producer was

already waiting with a car. ’We had every reason to believe she was

going to be here,’ said an NBC staffer.



Instead, Conger spent more than an hour at GMA and then taped a second

interview with Sawyer for 20/20 Downtown. She emerged from the studios

after 11 am - three hours after the proposed Today chat with Matt

Lauer.



NBC cried foul and suggested that ABC intentionally held onto Conger,

which it quickly denied. So Today swallowed the bitter pill and

re-booked Conger for the following day. Alas, she proved flighty, doing

the Lauer interview but begging off Later Today, telling producers she

was ’exhausted.’



So is this enough of a PR black eye to deal a death blow to reality

TV?



Quite the contrary, said one exec. ’You won’t get anyone to admit it,

but everyone is looking for the next Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger. A

happily-ever-after ending would have been boring.’



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