TMZ's Levin visits celebs in their homes for new series
NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Levin likes to keep a secret — at least when it involves him — so you'll have to watch his new Fox News Channel series to find out which celebrity keeps a rock as a precious memento.
The founder of the TMZ celebrity website is the creator and host of "Objectified," which premieres on Fox Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern. The program features celebrities showing off personal memorabilia in their homes, starting this weekend with "Judge Judy" Sheindlin.
Levin tested the idea last year with Donald Trump in Trump Tower, and that special reached more than 4 million viewers, a big hit in the cable world. The initial idea was to do separate episodes with Trump and Hillary Clinton, but since Clinton declined, the Trump episode was held until a couple of weeks after the election.
Besides Sheindlin, other participants in the first "Objectified" season include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martha Stewart, television mogul Tyler Perry and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Each celebrity picks seven things from different periods of their life that are used as starting-off points for discussion.
"I wanted to do a show on the life stories of really interesting people who have succeeded but have had twists and turns along the way," Levin said. "I didn't want to do a show where you sat on the sofa and just talked to someone for an hour. The key to this, for us, was finding a storytelling device."
Hence, the rock. Or a pair of pajamas bought at Wal-Mart that Perry presented.
That gimmick, and the sense of control it offered to celebrities in letting them tell their own stories on their own turf, made Levin's pitch to participate attractive. The idea is also broad enough that the show can comfortably toggle between people from entertainment, sports, politics and business, he said.
His discussion with Sheindlin brought out the differences between the business Judy and the private one.
"I saw on the one hand a very self-assured, strong, independent, fierce personality and then on the other I saw what looks like a very traditional woman in a very traditional woman's role," he said. "We talked about that a lot as she was telling stories, and she bounced back and forth between the woman who was the master of her own destiny and also a wife who believes a woman's role is to nurture. She needs to be married."
"Objectified" represents Fox News' attempt to broaden its programming mix, much like CNN does with Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown." Levin said there's no political litmus test on people he can profile.
"The show will succeed if it's interesting, and interesting knows no political affiliations," he said.
For now, Fox has only committed to 10 episodes.
"I hope people like it," Levin said, "because I'd love to keep doing it."