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Iran-U.S. reality TV deal

April 1, 2002
The Iranian

The reality TV craze has crossed overseas into the most unlikely of hot spots: the Middle-East. Iranian-born television producer David Nasser who has had great success in America with his two enormously popular shows, Fox's
Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionnaire, and the more recent Bachelor on ABC, has made the startling revelation last night in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Nasser, whose production company is based in Hoboken, New Jersey, has reportedly struck a deal to transplant his brand of TV sensationalism to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Transcript of last night's interview:

Christiane Amanpour: Mr. Nasser, thank you for joining me tonight.

David Nasser: The pleasure is all mine Chrissy.

CA: ... errr Christiane, not Chrissy please. Well, Mr. Nasser, to begin with, let's talk a little bit about your background, before we delve into the astounding news of your TV deal with the Iranian government. You are an Iranian-American?

DN: Actually Chriss-tiane, I consider myself an American of Iranian descent. My parents immigrated to this country when I was just three-years old. I was raised all my life in your typical Norman Rockwell fantasy. I feel as American as apple pie.

CA: Okay, but then how do you explain your connection with Iran. Why suddenly pick up and go overseas when you have had a successful career in American television?

DN: Well, hold on right there tiger! I am not picking up and leaving anything behind. I am simply expanding a very successful franchise into a potentially very profitable market. That's capitalism after all, isn't it?

CA: But why Iran? And more importantly how? I mean, your TV shows are known to be pretty explicit sexually. The premise is basically having rows upon rows of scantily clad women exposing their bodies in order to win one single guy. How do you propose to go past the Iranian government's censorship machine? I mean in Iranian movies, males and females are not even allowed to touch each other on screen!

DN: Okay, Chrissy...

CA: Please sir, my name is Christiane!

DN: Whoaaa okay there sugar! My apologies! Okay first of all, let me clear up some misconceptions. I never approached the Iranian government. They approached me.

CA: They did?

DN: Deadly! They had one of their representatives set up a meeting with me to discuss incorporating a reality TV show idea in Iran. Seems you know, with the big hoopla over the recent elections and all, the government wants to reach out the kids -- you know the young folks, Generation X, Y... The MTV Generation.

CA: Was this President Khatami's idea?

DN: Oh no, not at all! I believe it's the higher command -- the Ayatollah... What's his name? Khomeini?

CA: No, Khomeini is dead. You mean Ayatollah Khamenei?

DN: Yeah that's what I said, Khamnaheehee. With the Taliban being overthrown next door and the American military in the neighbourhood, seems some of those more fanatic mollas have been getting nervous. They want to prevent any disturbance at home. So they thought they needed to modernize a bit, cater to their youth's obsession with Western culture etc.

CA: But this would mean the reverse of two decades of anti-US policy. Are you sure about this?

DN: Oh yeah. In fact (leaning towards Christiane Amanpour and whispering) I can tell you that I was a bit nervous at first but some people in the higher echelons of our own government gave me the green light. So...

CA: This was actually a deal between the US and Iranian government?

DN: Yes of course! Part of the rapprochement that began with the World Cup a few years ago. You know, the one where the U.S. and Iranian teams "accidentally" were picked to play against each other. What a photo op that was, remember? I had tears in my eyes when the Iranian team offered a tray of sweets to their American counterparts.

CA: Um, yes, well let's get back to you for now Mr. Nasser. What exactly is this TV show that you are going to be producing for Iranian television?

DN: Well actually it will be very similar to my own TV shows here in the States with some minor changes of course. It is going to be called "Ki Mikhaad Baa Yek Akhoond Aroussi Koneh?" (Who Wants to Marry a Molla?). The prize will be Ayatollah Khamounheehah's nephew Babak. He was voted Iran's most eligible bachelor in Zan-e-Rooz women's magazine in Tehran.

CA: (Looking like she is choking on a fishbone) WHAAATTT?

DN: Yeah, it's really cool. We got him to trim his beard a little bit, even wear more Western style clothing to show the new, more liberal face of Iran's rising clerics. But as for that towel on his head, no luck! It stays on! The ladies didn't seem to mind.

CA: Ladies? You mean, you've already cast the contestants?

DN: Oh yeah, we put an ad in the remaining 2 or 3 newspapers that are still in circulation in Iran for an open casting call. You know, kind of like that guy Makbuff did a few years ago.

CA: You mean Makhmalbaf?

DN: Yeah that's him! Wow you really know it all Chrissy don't you? No wonder Turner is paying you through the nose.

CA: Listen you twit, don't try to change the subject. And for the last time, my name is Christiane, not Chrissy? I am not one of your TV bimbos!

DN: Oooohhh, I like fire in a woman. Do you know, maybe we can still cast you as one of the ladies on my show. Ahh the ratings that would bring me (stares off into space dreamily).

CA: Mr. Nasser can we please stop with these fantasies and get back to the business at hand! Are you telling me that you have lined up a group of Iranian women all vying for the hand of Mr. Babak Khamenei and this is going to be shown on Iranian television?

DN: That's right pumpkin. We had to choose 25 contestants over a pool of a thousand who applied. It was a really hard choice. Underneath all those chaadors, we came to find some really, well, hairy faces. But underneath all that hair, after a few plucks here and there, some band-andaazi, some hot then cold wax, and numerous epilady machines, we discovered some very photogenic faces. I tell you, I felt like Michelangelo carving the stone to reveal the statue inside!

CA: I'm sorry Mr. Nasser I am still finding it all a bit hard to swallow. I mean, how could this TV show really take place in Iran? How can the contestants really get to know each other with all the censorship laws?

DN: Oh that was actually so easy! Did you know there is something called "seegheh" in Iran? So cool! Ayatollah Khamahimahi himself performed the temporary marriage rites for each of the 25 girls. And voila! TV show got Islamic stamp of approval. If you really think about it, we are providing a public service. Our whole show is pretty wholesome, I mean it is all geared towards marriage in the end.

CA: I am speechless. What happens to the 24 rejects?

DN: Oh that's another bonus. You see, according to Islamic law, Babak doesn't even have to narrow his choice that much: He can actually pick four ladies to be his wives. And the rest, well, you know, they get a cash prize before they are sent away. And it don't even have to come from my own pocket! That's the law too! Goood, I love this country.

CA: (Eyes teary, lower lip trembling) Mr Nasser. I... (suddenly gets up and lunges at David Nasser, hands at his throat. Nasser's chair falls back from the impact and hits the floor. CNN's technical crew hop into camera vision and try to set the two opponents apart. Screen goes black.

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Niki Tehranchi

By Niki Tehranchi

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