'Octomom' coming to primetime via Fox
Show culled from exclusive footage of Nadya Suleman, kidsFox is getting in bed with the Octomom.
The network has ordered a two-hour documentary special on Nadya Suleman titled "Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage."
The program is culled from seven months of exclusive access to Suleman, starting with the birth of her octuplets in January.
Fox will air the special very soon -- Wednesday, Aug. 19 -- and says viewers will "witness the emotional struggles, physical complications and financial burdens of this single mother of 14 ... including the private moments and reactions of Suleman's family, as well as Suleman's own feelings, doubts and fears."
"It's emotional, it's compelling, you're watching her go from miracle birth woman to tabloid fodder," said Fox president of alternative Mike Darnell. "You don't even need narration, it's incredible footage. It's a little bit of a trainwreck, and it's really entertaining to watch."
Fox's project shouldn't be confused with Suleman's previously announced U.K. reality show from producer Eyeworks. Despite generating national media headlines, that effort has not yet announced a U.S. distributor.
Fearing viewer backlash and advertiser squeamishness, some networks have been wary of buying Suleman project despite the controversial single mother drawing enormous public interest.
Darnell himself expressed disinterest in an Octomom project when asked a few months ago.
"I would not have been interested in shooting a series with her, ever," Darnell said. "But since this footage was already shot and she's such a hot topic and it's so compelling ... I meant it when I said we wouldn't have done a TV series. But a two-hour documentary makes for good television."
In the case of Fox's special, there's an additional issue: The footage was originally shot by RadarOnline, which was reportedly cited by the California Labor Commission for violating child labor laws during production. Radar was accused of failing to get state permits and videotaping Suleman's infants for too many hours at a time. Radar has posted numerous stories on Suleman, many accompanied by video clips, though the Fox special consists of never-before-seen footage.
The Radar footage was acquired by prolific reality producer Craig Piligian ("Dirty Jobs," "Ghost Hunters"), who in turn sold it to Fox. So the network and Piligian had no part in the content's controversial production. Darnell said that Fox's understanding is the Labor Commission matter has been resolved.
Fox will set aside a six-figure sum for Suleman's children, Darnell said, "even though we have no legal obligation to do so."