August 11, 2009 / 5:35 AM / 8 years ago

"Octomom" footage to get primetime showcase on Fox

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox will air a two-hour documentary special on Nadya Suleman, "Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage," on August 19.

The program draws from seven months of exclusive access to Suleman, starting with the birth of her octuplets in January.

Fox said viewers will "witness the emotional struggles, physical complications and financial burdens of this single mother of 14 ... including the private moments and reactions of Suleman's family, as well as Suleman's own feelings, doubts and fears."

Like her octuplets, the unmarried Suleman's six older children were conceived via in-vitro fertilization.

"It's emotional, it's compelling, you're watching her go from miracle birth woman to tabloid fodder," said Fox president of alternative Mike Darnell. "You don't even need narration, it's incredible footage. It's a little bit of a train wreck, and it's really entertaining to watch."

Fox's project shouldn't be confused with Suleman's previously announced U.K. reality show from producer Eyeworks. Despite generating national media headlines, that effort has not yet announced a U.S. distributor.

Although the controversial single mother has been the subject of enormous public interest, some networks have been wary of buying a Suleman project, fearing viewer backlash and advertiser squeamishness.

Darnell himself expressed no interest in an Octomom project when asked a few months ago.

"I would not have been interested in shooting a series with her, ever," Darnell said. "But since this footage was already shot and she's such a hot topic and it's so compelling ... I meant it when I said we wouldn't have done a TV series. But a two-hour documentary makes for good television."

The Fox special's footage was shot by RadarOnline, which reportedly was cited by the California Labor Commission for violating child labor laws during production. Radar was accused of failing to get state permits and videotaping Suleman's infants for too many hours at a time. Radar has posted numerous stories on Suleman, many accompanied by video clips.

The Fox special, however, consists of never-before-seen footage.

The Radar footage was acquired by prolific reality producer Craig Piligian ("Dirty Jobs," "Ghost Hunters"), who in turn sold it to Fox. The network and Piligian had no part in the content's controversial production. Darnell said that Fox's understanding is that the Labor Commission matter has been resolved.

Fox will set aside a six-figure sum for Suleman's children, Darnell said, "even though we have no legal obligation to do so."

Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters

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