On the heels of the game show craze of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" comes Fox's comment on arranged marriages: during February sweeps week, the network will air a two-hour special called "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" in which 50 women will compete to win the heart of a wealthy, if unfamiliar, bachelor by the end of the show.
Part reality-TV and part variety special, "Marry" will be set in Las Vegas and will have the feel of a "big, splashy romantic pageant like Miss America or Miss Universe," says co-executive producer Don Weiner. Contestants will answer questions based on the bachelor's criteria for a perfect mate.
Certainly in today's booming economy, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of wealthy bachelors. Although the producers claim they get at least one inquiry from a qualified millionaire every day, they have yet to find the groom with the requisite adventurous spirit. "We're looking for a real solid citizen, someone who has the romantic lifestyle of a millionaire but is down-to-earth," Weiner says.
The show's producers hope to choose the bachelor by year's end, at which time they'll start their search for potential brides. Already the show has stacks of letters from women wanting to be a contestant.
The show has also received many letters from wealthy single women about creating a similar special for them, and plans are now under way for a show to air in 2001 featuring a rich bride and 50 bachelors. The producers plan to have the first couple back on this special to recount the trials and tribulations of their first year of marriage.
The idea for "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" originated with TV producer Mike Darnell, head of specials at Fox and the man behind reality-based shows like "Guinness World Records" and "When Animals Attack." Darnell is often referred to as the P.T. Barnum of the electronic age and frequently criticized for appealing to the lowest common denominator.
"It's a social experiment to be sure," says co-producer Mike Fleiss. "Most people I talk to love the idea. I think it will be an event, and people love watching events," Fleiss says.
"This show could be approached from the high or low road," Weiner says. "At first glance it's kind of out there, but ... our idea is being taken very seriously."
A prenuptial agreement will be signed by the marrying couple, who will exchange vows on-air at the end of the show. Sadly, for the 49 contestants who aren't marriage material, there are no consolation prizes.