Friday, February 25, 2000

Fox family

Well, it looks like the lovebirds from "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" are headed for splitsville. We're shocked, shocked to learn that they didn't fall deeply in love in those 50 or 60 seconds between meeting and marrying. It's enough to make you lose faith in the matchmaking abilities of sleazy TV shows. Next they'll tell us that none of those dates on "The Dating Game" ever worked out, either.

In truth, nobody should be shocked that this microwave marriage cooled so quickly--and if you are, then there's a lovely bridge for sale in Brooklyn, and perhaps I can broker a deal. That would put me in the same profession as the alleged multi-millionaire groom, who turns out to have a misleading bankbook and a mad former fiancé. His momentary bride claims to never have been interested in his money anyway, but just wanted to be on a TV show and have a little fun. And hey, what could be more fun than parading around in a bathing suit and answering questions from unseen strangers? She was shocked, shocked when she won. So shocked, that all she could manage to say was, "I do."

Yet what's so shocking about this whole thing is not that the bride and groom came together under false pretenses--after all, real multi-millionaires and real gold-diggers probably do not need the help of Fox to find each other. The shocking thing is that so darned many people tuned in. Not me, of course; I just read about it. A lot. But from a ratings point of view, if not a romance point of view, the show was a through-the-roof success. And you know, this just encourages them. We get the TV we deserve. If we all watched PBS every night like we're supposed to, this great human tragedy might never have occurred.

Flush with that success, Fox was ready to re-run the original show, and undoubtedly had weeks' worth of vaguely well-off grooms lined up. With programming stars in their eyes, they must have envisioned giving Regis a run for his millions with two or three quickie weddings a week. One wonders what the phone-in contest for those shows would have been like: "Rate these cities in the order of failed marriages conducted there: A. Las Vegas; B. Reno; C. Hollywood; D. Pine Valley." Those dreams are now as cruelly dashed as Rick and Darva's; if your research department can't even turn up a restraining order, you're probably best not sending strangers off on honeymoons.

But I'd like to offer those family-planning Fox-ites another possibility to consider, one similarly rife with human drama, impersonal meddling, and life-altering circumstances, though admittedly short on swimsuits. If they wanted to do a service to society as well as their ratings (and yes, I know, it's television, what's the likelihood of that), perhaps they should be arranging adoptions instead of marriages. Pluck one child or sibling group out of foster care and let them choose from a bevy of prospective moms and dads. The parents would need to have a homestudy and approval from the state, which would be a load off of Fox researchers' minds. But other than that, all the red tape that keeps kids stuck in the system for years would be sliced. Just think of it--happy families created where there were none, parents and children forming a bond that will last forever, or at least until the trip to DisneyWorld is over. Put it on after "The Simpsons," and you're talking ratings gold.

Marrying a man or woman you barely know is still considered foolhardy in our society, but adopting a child you barely know, or going home with adoptive parents you barely know, is not unusual at all. Many folks adopting internationally don't get a whole lot more time together than the multi-millionaire twosome before they commit to a lifetime of responsibility. Foster children are certainly accustomed to having their fate decided by strangers, and going to live with whomever they're assigned to; they'd gain some empowerment in the process of picking the parents they'd like. And prospective adoptive parents are certainly accustomed to jumping through hoops, answering personal questions, and suffering disappointments; they'd gain a chance to plead their case to the most important judge, the children.

Come on, Fox, give it some thought. It can't possibly be more tacky than what you've already done.

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