CBS says "I do" to arranged-marriage reality series

Mon Feb 2, 2009 7:23am GMT

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - CBS is treading into potentially controversial reality TV territory again.

The network has ordered a new series from the producers of "Top Chef" that puts lovelorn singles into arranged marriages.

The show introduces four adults in the 25-45 age range who are eager to get married but have been unsuccessful in their search for a mate. Their friends and family select a spouse for them, and the newly paired couple exchange marital vows. The series follows their marriages.

The rest of the details for the project, whose early working title is "Arranged Marriage," are being kept under wraps.

The series is from Jane Lipsitz and Dan Cutforth of Magical Elves, which launched "Project Runway" on Bravo and produces the network's "Top Chef."

It is the second series green-lighted by CBS' new reality chief, Jennifer Bresnan, after the recent order for "Block Party," a competition among neighboring families.

The series order for "Marriage" shows that CBS is not shying away from reality projects that might draw a few pointed editorials in the wake of the network's previous envelope-pushing social experiment, the fall 2007 series "Kid Nation."

"Marriage" also will inevitably draw comparisons to another arranged-marriage reality show, Fox's infamous "Married by America."

The 2003 series drew fire from conservative groups, and one bachelor party scene containing pixelated nudity resulted in the Federal Communications Commission's slapping Fox stations with a $1.18 million fine (which was reduced last month to $91,000).

But CBS' project differs from the earlier show in key ways.

In "Married," couples were paired by viewers voting from home and then sequestered in a hotel to learn more about each other. CBS' "Marriage" presents itself as a documentary series about finding true love, a show that extends the Eastern tradition of an arranged marriage (where friends and family select the mate) into the West.

Another difference is that on "Married," despite the pundit outcry, nobody on the show actually ended up getting hitched. On CBS, couples will really tie the knot.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter