The only thing more disturbing than the Fox special, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?, is the fact that nearly 23 million viewers tuned in to watch the show.
Even for Fox – a network that has gained a reputation for appealing to the carnal, darker side of society – the two-hour special, a take-off of the wildly popular Who Wants to be a Millionaire? seemed to go over the line of propriety.
The show’s format involved a millionaire bachelor and 50 single women. After the group of prospective brides was winnowed down to five finalists, one lucky lady was chosen by the millionaire for marriage – all without ever seeing her future husband.
The production went off without a hitch, garnering a massive sweeps week audience. But soon everything unraveled.
It turned out that Rick Rockwell, the man picked by Fox to play the groom, was issued a restraining order in 1991 that prohibited him from being within 100 yards of his ex-fianc?e, Debbie Goyne. Among other claims, Goyne accused Rockwell of striking and threatening her.
To make things worse for the Fox network, the television marriage already appears to be on the rocks. Rockwell and his bride, Darva Conger, slept in separate bedrooms during their honeymoon and had a chaperone. The couple is likely to get an annulment.
In the wake of the discovery of the charges against Rockwell, Fox decided to cancel the replay of Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?, which was scheduled to air Tuesday.
Despite the problems with the show, Fox seems to have found – and capitalized upon – the ultimate of American carnal desires – moneymaking. The network that has profited from specials on police chases, deadly automobile wrecks and animals attacking people found something more tantalizing than mere physical harm.
The Fox network degraded marriage in front of 23 million viewers. Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? begs the question: is there anything people won’t do for money?