brucekluger.com

    The Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2001

    Commentary
    Cuff Celebs to Make 'Chains' Rattle

    By Bruce Kluger and David Slavin


    Bad news for UPN. Always a player in the scrappy world of prime-time programming,
    the independent network had been hoping for big things from its newest reality
    show, Chains of Love. That's the one in which ordinary singles are handcuffed to
    members of the opposite sex, then monitored for titillating developments in their
    relationship dynamic.

    But Monday's Nielsen ratings brought the sobering truth: The show is ranked 153
    out of 164, with a paltry viewership of 2.5 million people per week.

    Should Chains give up? Not a chance. Instead, the show should follow the example
    of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and tap into the always reliable community of
    celebrity contestants. Imagine the ratings possibilities with these star-studded
    couplings:

    Week One: Vice President Dick Cheney is handcuffed to actress Jennifer Lopez,
    who is draped in her notoriously breezy Versace gown. The American Heart
    Association immediately brands the episode "reckless and irresponsible," though
    former President Bill Clinton declares the program "damn good TV!"

    Week Two: Hairstyling revolutionary Cristophe is tied to documentary filmmaker
    Ken Burns (Civil War, Jazz), then forced to stare at the director's signature Buster
    Brown bowl-cut without being allowed to reach for his scissors. Vegas oddsmakers
    predict Cristophe won't last 30 seconds.

    Week Three: In the shortest episode of the season, actor Robert Downey Jr. and
    former major league slugger Darryl Strawberry are shackled together, but flee the
    premises before the opening credits. As a joint LAPD-NYPD manhunt ensues, an
    inspired Harvey Weinstein leaps into action, signing the twosome to a remake of
    The Defiant Ones.

    Week Four: Box-office champion Adam Sandler is chained to the wheelchair of
    astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, then both men are given an IQ exam prepared by
    Mensa. As predicted, Hawking bests his opponent in the section on quasars,
    though Sandler musters a valiant come-from-behind victory, trouncing Hawking in
    the all-important "Funny Words for Toilet" category.

    Week Five: Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is strapped to a group of his top
    shareholders. The second-shortest episode of the season.

    Week Six: Attorney General John Ashcroft is hogtied to the cast of the long-
    running off-Broadway musical Naked Boys Singing. To the surprise of many,
    Ashcroft gets along swimmingly with the buff and handsome ensemble and,
    immediately following the program, takes a half-share on a Fire Island bungalow
    once owned by Liza Minnelli.

    Week Seven: Fashionably skeletal actress Lara Flynn Boyle is bound to
    celebrated gourmand Wolfgang Puck. The dual challenge: Can Boyle resist
    sampling the chef's seared foie gras with shaved truffles? Can Puck stop the
    actress from reaching for her emergency supply of rice cakes? A nail-biter from
    soup to nuts.

    Week Eight: Quizmaster Regis Philbin is yoked to Election 2000 spoiler Ralph
    Nader, who continues to defend his failed candidacy. As Philbin peppers the
    consumer gadfly with his trademark query, "Is that your final answer?" Nader opts to
    phone a friendonly to discover he doesn't have one.

    Week Nine: Diction-challenged anchorpersons Tom Brokaw and Barbara Walters
    are lashed together, then told they can secure their release only by correctly
    speaking the phrase, "Laura Linney's lizard loves Robert Redford's rabbit."

    Weeks 10 and 11: Brokaw and Walters, Parts II and III.

    Week 12: Raven-haired handbag entrepreneur Monica Lewinsky is cuffed to U.S.
    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ad industry insiders predict a $4-million price-tag for a
    60-second spot.