Hot Fox dates for plain Janes

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Fox is teaming with "The Bachelor" producer Mike Fleiss for a new dating-competition series that casts average-looking people.

The series, titled "More to Love," is billed as the first "dating show for the rest of us," throwing open its doors to overweight contestants.

"For six years it's been skinny-minis and good-looking bachelors, and that's not what the dating world looks like," Fox president of alternative Mike Darnell said. "Why don't real women — the women who watch these shows, for the most part — have a chance to find love too?"

The project features a group of women competing for the attention of a man producers describe as a "Kevin James type." It marks the first time Darnell and Fleiss have teamed for a series in nine years. The duo's previous dating program was the controversial, groundbreaking 2000 special "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" which set the format template for ABC's "Bachelor" and a multitude of imitators.

"More to Love" was inspired by the recent ratings success of "Bachelor" and the popularity of NBC's "The Biggest Loser," which Darnell credits with shattering an industry assumption that TV viewers only wanted to watch highly attractive people.

"This show is going to get a lot of people talking," Darnell said. "It may be a little controversial, but I think it will mostly be positive. This is so simple and so obvious, yet it has never been done."

Broadcast reality-dating shows such as the CW's "Beauty and the Geek" and NBC's "Average Joe" have featured less-than-handsome men but paired them with model-esque women.

"Most of the country isn't a Size 2," Fleiss said. "It's the dating show for the rest of us."

Contestants will do the sort of activities seen on "Bachelor," but producers suspect Jacuzzi or massage dates will take on a different perspective. "More to Love" will have makeover aspects — when contestants eat a fancy dinner, for instance — but Fleiss said the focus will not be on physical improvement.

"We want to send the message that you can be the size you are and still be lovable," he said. "We aren't going to thin these girls down so they can find love — that's a backwards message."

But Fleiss has left open the possibility of twists. "More to Love" is casting, and no airdate has been set. For Fox, it marks a return to the relationship genre years after the network aired such shows as "Multi-Millionaire," "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" and "The Littlest Groom." (partialdiff)
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