Fox announces replacement for troubled show

Next up will be "Who Wants to Marry a Staggering Genius?"

Published February 25, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

In the wake of the growing scandal over the rocky past of Rick Rockwell, the self-proclaimed multimillionaire comedian and motivational speaker who married a stranger on Fox's highly rated "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" the network held a press conference to announce plans for a new show.

The show, called "Who Wants to Marry a Staggering Genius?" will feature 50 young, college-educated women vying for the affections of sympathetic literary star Dave Eggers, author of the critically acclaimed semifictional memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," which chronicles his life after both his parents died and he was faced with bringing up his 8-year-old brother.

The show is to be produced by veteran reality-television producer Dirk Hamilton ("When Bar Mitzvahs Go Bad," "America's Funniest Drug Overdoses"), who will handpick the young women from a talent search held in coffeehouses in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and Manhattan's East Village. The ideal candidate, said Hamilton, "will be pretty, with natural good looks and a well-rounded education. She will have had a troubled yet emotionally rich childhood, and according to my sources, she will need to be able to throw a mean Frisbee."

Fox executives are upbeat about the new show's prospects. "We thought Rockwell was perfect -- rich, funny, self-made. Sadly, we were misled, and regret any problems that may have caused," said Fox spokesperson Tracey LaRiveria. "For the next show, we figured we needed someone whose life was truly an open book, and with Dave we found that. He's young, cute and, from what I've heard, very huggable. And he once auditioned for MTV's 'The Real World,' so he's used to cameras."

Some television insiders and postmodern theorists expressed surprise that Fox, a network known for pioneering, lowbrow programming like "Married With Children" and "Cops," would center a show on a writer who founded McSweeney's, an obscure online and print literary magazine that features articles like "The Ten Worst Films of 1942; As Reviewed by Ezra Pound Over Italian Radio" and "Verbatim Biographical Highlights From the 1987 Topps Baseball Card Series."

"Fox may be in for another surprise," said Marc Debrod, a philosophy professor at New York University. "Dave Eggers is part of a small, elitist literary crowd whose sensibilities may not translate to mainstream America. His humor depends on irony and self-mocking 'knowingness' about the absurdity of our postmodern existence. For Dave Eggers to shop for a bride on national television is just another example of his penchant for living life as a dadaist experiment."

Reached on tour for his book, Eggers said he was excited about the possibilities. "Ever since MTV turned me down for 'The Real World,' I have wanted to use television to get laid," he said. "This fulfills one of my greatest dreams. Thank you, Rupert Murdoch."

Sources close to the project say Eggers has already given Fox a shortlist of potential mates. They include swimsuit model Heidi Klum, Vice President Al Gore's daughter Karenna (who is already married), Gen-X writer Elizabeth Wurtzel and noted sexologist Sari Locker.

Fox executives said they have no air date yet for the "Staggering Genius" show but expect it to run in the time slot before "Party of Five."

By the staff of Salon Books

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