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Television | Q&A

At the center of a new reality

Executive producer Bruce Nash didn't come to Hollywood to work in unscripted TV, but now he's a genre giant.

June 20, 2004|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Bruce NASH says he doesn't have any trouble keeping all his TV series straight, which is surprising considering the prolific executive producer has no fewer than seven unscripted shows on the small screen this summer -- NBC's "For Love or Money 3 and 4"; the third installment of NBC's "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?," which debuts Monday; "Outback Jack," which premieres Tuesday on TBS; the MTV series, "Wanna Come Inside?," which begins July 12; the Learning Channel series "For Better or For Worse"; and Fox's "Totally Outrageous Behavior," which is scheduled to air new episodes this summer.

Of the freshman shows, "Outback Jack" is garnering the most attention, with its odd premise that combines the dating elimination elements of "The Bachelor" with the Australian Outback roughness of "Crocodile Dundee." Certainly the annals of unscripted TV will have to make room for the image of 12 young women in evening attire being forced to skydive out of an airplane to meet the show's namesake in the bug-infested outback.

Yet it's vintage Nash, who broke into television in the 1990s with the popular ABC specials "Before They Were Stars" and followed that success with the controversial "Magic's Biggest Secrets Revealed" specials for Fox.

A major league baseball fan and memorabilia collector, Nash is also branching into feature films and scripted TV series.

Why are reality shows so popular?

I don't think it's any one reason. People are tired of just watching their TV set passively. They are playing interactive games today. They are on the Internet interacting. They want to be part of their TV set. I think that's the great lure. Also, someone once asked me about one of our shows, saying, "Why do these contestants go through all of this week after week?" ... I think what it is, is they want to continue to be on TV. They don't want to get eliminated because that means they won't be on TV anymore.

Calling these series reality shows, though, is such a misnomer. None of them deal with reality.

Well, a lot of these shows have very contrived premises. In that respect, how real is that? I like the shows that have at their core something that is a little more real, if you will. Like when we did "Meet My Folks"; a girl takes three guys home to meet her folks, who are going to have to pick one to go on a date with their daughter. There is some reality to that. It is a real dad and mom and a real daughter. The fact that we are bringing three guys in and doing all kind of crazy things, that's contrived. But at the core of it is still a family.

The same thing with "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?" This dad wants to get married. He really does. He was married for many years, loved his wife, and had an amicable divorce, but he wants to get married again. He loves his daughters dearly. He is going to let them help him choose. There is a great family drama at the core of that -- the contrivance is that 12 women come in the house. I like those better because they are more relatable and they are about a family that already exists.

A lot of reality shows tend to harp on the negative. The person isn't pretty enough or can't sing well enough or maybe isn't even funny enough.

I think it is a bad trend, personally. I think there is a danger there of being mean to people and humiliating people and embarrassing people just because it might get you ratings. It is a disturbing trend.

A lot of the women on "Outback Jack" and even "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?" seem sort of artificial.

We try to cast a nice class of women.... But you have to ask yourself a question: Who would be willing to go on television and let cameras follow their every move week to week? I wouldn't do it. Would you?

It is not necessarily your average person. It is somebody that is a little bit different. That doesn't mean they are low-rent; it doesn't mean anything like that. It is a different breed of person who wants to be on a reality-TV show.

So on "Outback Jack," does the winner end up getting a proposal from Jack?

We don't promise marriage, but what the show is about is 12 uptown-pampered city women that love their manicures and pedicures and they haven't met the right man, so unbeknownst to them they think they are going to a mansion to meet a handsome bachelor in town here. They find out they are going to be tossed out of a plane in the outback to meet the man who could be a man of their dreams. He is a rugged adventurer and a real-life Crocodile Dundee. He's the type of guy you could read about in a novel.

It is not just about who is going to win his heart, but the women have actually proven something to themselves by this incredible journey they have taken in the outback. It is kind of a remarkable journey. It is fish-out-of-water comedy, and it's adventure and romance.

Did you embark on an Australia-wide search to find your "Jack?"

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