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'Age of Love' creator: Don't assume anything, the show surprised us


By Christopher Rocchio, 06/11/2007 

If you think 31-year-old professional tennis player Mark Philippoussis will automatically set his sights on the younger women vying for his affection on NBC's new Age of Love reality dating series, executive producer and creator JD Roth said think again.

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"Everyone's going to assume, 'Oh I know, of course you're going for the younger women,'" Roth told reporters during a Friday conference call.  "But I would say to you, 'Don't assume anything.'  What happens definitely surprised us."

Scheduled to premiere Monday, June 18 at 9PM ET/PT on NBC, Age of Love will follow Philippoussis as he he's courted by two groups of women, the "Kittens" and the "Cougars."  Age of Love's Kittens will feature six young, enthusiastic women in their 20's who could probably better keep-up with Philippoussis' fast-paced lifestyle, while the Cougars will consist of seven women in their 40's who are more sophisticated and thus probably better equipped to deal with his fame as a tennis pro. 

"Before we started the show, he made it very clear to me that if we were looking for a guy who was going to kiss every girl, then it wasn't him," Roth said of Philippoussis.  "[He said], 'You have to really understand what you're getting when you get me.  I'm really here to find someone I can fall in love with.  I'm going to do this journey whether it's with you guys or not.'  This is obviously before he knew the twist of the show, and he said, 'So if that's the guy you're looking for, it's not me.'"

The twist was a big one, as Roth said Philippoussis originally thought he was cast for a "normal dating show."

"He thought that the girls were going to be young and beautiful, and he was only half right," said Roth.  "They are very beautiful and spectacular, they've got great jobs and careers and families.  They're great ladies."

Roth said Philippoussis is introduced to the Cougars first, and described the Australian-born tennis pro's initial reaction as "definitely shocked."

"I think he started to realize there was a pattern forming.  By that point it went systemic.  It had gone from his head all the way to his toes and he kind of chuckled a little bit like, 'Oh my God,'" said Roth, further describing Philippoussis' reaction.  "To his credit he handled himself very well.  He tried to keep an open mind and he really did embrace the idea.  Then something really weird happened.  He started falling for them.  Just as he starts to fall for the 40-year-olds and understands that there is a sophistication and a life-experience to them, we introduce him to a group of 20-year-old girls he had no idea was coming."

A 39-year-old married father, Roth said Age of Love's concept was born out of a Saturday night dinner with friends.

"They happened to be talking about one of their friends who was dating a 25-year-old guy," recalled Roth.  "And I said, 'There isn't one of you that could get a 25-year-old guy.'  And next thing you know, we were all in a huge fight about age.  I talked to my [business] partner the next day, I realized it was very potent information.  In a lot of ways, it polarized these women.  They couldn't believe that I would suggest that they couldn't get a 25-year-old guy.  And that's how the show was created."

Roth said with the format for a new reality dating series in hand, it was time to find a bachelor to serve as the Petri dish for the social experiment.

"We never, not one time ever sat down to make a list of celebrities that we wanted to be on this show.  I'm actually very much against [casting celebrities].  I feel like what it does is steal the thunder from telling a great story because all everyone cares about is the fact that the person is a celebrity," explained Roth.  "[Philippoussis] actually read the ad that we had online and he came to us.  It just so happens I'm a tennis fan, so when his name came across, I said, 'How many Mark Philippoussis' are there?'... We got into it, and it turned out that he really wanted to do it... We kind of had a few people who made it to the finals of the bachelor we wanted, and then [Philippoussis] came across my desk and it was like, 'Hold everything.'  And we brought him into NBC, and it was very real.  He really wanted someone to fall in love with."

As for casting the Cougars and the Kittens, Roth said like Philippoussis, they were initially unaware of Age of Love's twist.

"We told the 40-year-old women that this was a show about successful, empowered, positive women," he said.  "We didn't mention that there were any 20-year-olds involved.  We didn't mention that there was a bachelor that didn't know that they were older.  But to see these women... they're hot women.  It's very hard standing nose to nose and think that they're anything over 28 or 29.  And they're engaging women too... They didn't know that much, but they certainly weren't afraid of anything.  I think when the 20-year-olds came in, it was a bit of a shocking moment for them, but they got over it pretty quick... In an obvious way [the Kittens] weren't real threatened by [the Cougars]."

Roth said his wife is an avid reality dating show fan, so he was aware the bachelors featured often "go from girl to girl, lip to lip."  However he said that's not the case with Philippoussis.

"When this guy actually kisses a girl, you know by the time he does it that it's for real," said Roth.  "He actually means it.  And I think that actually quality in a guy has not been seen on television in a long time."

Age of Love host Mark Consuelos agreed with Roth's assessment of the show's bachelor.

"You know what I love about Mark, he's a stand-up guy.  I think he realized he had to go into this with an open mind," said Consuelos.  "He's really making some level-headed decisions.  I couldn't believe it.  He's kind of a throwback.  He's an old-fashioned guy.  So I think he went into it with the approach to find someone, which I really respect."

Consuelos is known for his role on ABC's All My Children in the mid-1990s, making Age of Love his first foray into reality television.

"I don't think you could write the stuff that is on this show," said Consuelos of Age of Love.   "You can't write it.  It's so good I was telling [Roth] I'm converted.  I really fell in love with the medium.  Just watching the conversations and interactions between the two groups, it's been amazing."

The 37-year-old who has lived in both Italy and Spain as well as the States is also married to current Live with Regis and Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa, an unabashed fan of reality television.

"They haven't won the Emmy together, her and Regis.  But I think this is going to be it for them... the Age of Love theater.  And the great thing about this is I think Regis could probably really get into this reality show as well.  I think it has some things for him," said Consuelos before commenting on how Age of Love changed his outlook.

"I've got to say that any preconceptions about age that I had or what I thought was going to happen were completely thrown out the window," he said.  "It really, really kind of made me appreciate where I am in my life.  I'm married to someone that's probably closer to being a Cougar than a Kitten.  She'll kill me for saying that, but I'm really excited about what's to come."

Roth said filming for Age of Love is complete and the series is currently being edited.

"We definitely feel like the show works and there's multiple seasons here," he said.  "I don't think the question's ever going to get old.  We'd love to do the flip of the show.  if the show works, you're going to see more of it."

Unlike Consuelos, Roth is a regular in the realm of reality television, as he appeared as a contestant on Star Search and is currently the CEO of 3Ball Productions, which produces NBC's The Biggest Loser as well as Fox's Unan1mous, among other shows.  Still, he said Age of Love is different than most shows that fall into the unscripted genre.

"All these reality shows to me that don't have a real good question to ask are shows that people don't watch," he said.  "This has a great question to ask.  Does age matter to you?  And my answer to that is no.  Love is all about chemistry.  It doesn't matter what age, color, size, weight... doesn't matter.  Everyone that you see can find someone that they love and loves them.  That's what it's about.  I think we have to get rid of some of the stereotypes that exist in the world, not just in the world of relationships."

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