Even though NBC’s troubled I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here went into the weekend on a promising note by posting an actual ratings gain (!) on Thursday night, things devolved considerably over the weekend when TMZ wrote a story on Sunday morning on Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt that suggested the loathsome reality-television duo had been “tortured” on the set of the show. As delicious as that prospect sounds for everyone who came to resent the dastardly duo from their days on The Hills, the news that Heidi was rushed to the hospital after spending “a day and a night” locked in a “Guantánamo Bay”–like dark room and that Spencer is planning on suing the network is not exactly the kind of press that a fourth-place network like NBC needs. Especially considering that Paul Telegdy, NBC’s executive vice-president of alternative programming, just gave the two of them a raise last week.
Of course, the production company behind the show has issued denials that either Heidi or Spencer was ever “tortured” —and, if Gawker and TMZ’s reports are to be believed, it sounds like they weren’t— but still, the damage has already been done. By this time tomorrow, we’ll know whether the American public has any appetite for footage of Heidi and Spencer being “tortured” and tunes in to see what all the controversy was about. If they do, it’s probably a victory for Ben Silverman and Paul Telegdy. If not, well, just add it to the long list of Silverman’s follies since he joined NBC.
According to a great report that ran on Gawker over the weekend, Telegdy was instrumental in convincing Heidi and Spencer to appear on the show in the first place, which explains why he was the one tapped to hustle down to Costa Rica last week when the Pratts threatened to quit the show. Telegdy was able to negotiate a raise for the duo to keep them on the already-star-challenged program, which was picking up tons of bad press last week after Lou Diamond Phillips required medical attention on the set after having his hands bitten repeatedly in a challenge involving ferocious jungle rats. But then, Telegdy went on Ryan Seacrest’s radio program and made things worse by bragging about how the Pratts “are now going to be examined, and their value system utterly deconstructed” as a penance for threatening to quit the show. After seeing how the Pratts were treated, TMZ reported that other celebrities on the show were also threatening to quit the production.