By David Bauder
AP Television Writer
PASADENA, Calif. It's a rerun on Fox: a year after airing a reality television show of debatable taste and being burned by an incomplete background check on a participant, the same thing has happened.
Fox has dropped an unmarried couple from its reality show, "Temptation Island," after learning the pair had a child. But the show, which debuted last night, will go on.
The couple was confronted about the child and sent off the island for therapy, and all of that was filmed for inclusion in a future episode.
Even before the revelation, Fox was already on the defensive about the series' premise four couples testing their fidelity by spending two weeks on a tropical island surrounded by attractive singles willing to date them.
Last February, Fox was sharply criticized for arranging the quickie marriage of Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger on "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire." The network was later embarrassed when it was revealed Rockwell had a restraining order placed by a former fiancee.
Afterward, Fox hired the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to help conduct background checks on reality show participants.
Fox said the show's producers, Rocket Science Laboratories, hired its own security firm approved by PricewaterhouseCoopers to do several background checks. However, the couple which Fox didn't identify lied and said they had no child and the investigators didn't turn it up, Fox said.
Fox never intended to send a couple with a child together to "Temptation Island," the network said.
Religious and conservative groups had already criticized Fox for trying to pry apart a couple for entertainment purposes. The network said the couples knew what they were getting into.
Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, said he believed the program was harmless fun when it involved two people who weren't married or parents.
"When you've got a couple that has a child, they're no longer fair game for a program like this," he said.
Fox wouldn't say how it found out about the couple's child during the taping. No Fox executives would comment about it, or explain why it was decided to make the couple's expulsion from the island a part of the show instead of keeping the couple out of the show, starting production over or canceling the series altogether.
Sandy Grushow, chairman of the Fox Television Entertainment Group, said on Sunday he believed the show fell "within the boundaries of appropriateness."
Thompson said the producers should have "declared a mistrial and started the game all over." But he suggested this would have been a costly decision.
Meanwhile, the Web site WorldNetDaily, which originally reported the existence of the child on Tuesday, quoted an anonymous source spoiling the series' essential secret: that none of the couples involved succumbed to temptation.
"It's so much tamer than the producers wanted," said WorldNetDaily, quoting a production assistant who worked on the show.
A Fox spokesman yesterday refused to talk further about what happened on "Temptation Island."
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