'God or the Girl,' A& E's Faith-Based Initiative

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, January 13, 2006

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 12

Notwithstanding the tight shot of the tight T-shirt on the well-endowed woman in the clips shown to critics, the docu-soap "God or the Girl" treated the four young men trying to decide whether to enter the priesthood with the utmost respect, said executive producer Darryl Silver of the project for A&E -- the network of "Dog the Bounty Hunter," "Criss Angel Mindfreak," "Dallas SWAT" and "Rollergirls."

As filmmakers, they wanted to take advantage of the controversy in which the Catholic Church has mired itself, Mark Wolper, the reality series' other exec producer, told The TV Column after the Q&A session at Winter TV Press Tour 2006. During the Q&A, he'd told the Reporters Who Cover Television that "we completely shifted 180 degrees as a result of what we learned from these gentlemen and how much respect grew in us for their decision, for them as men and for the struggle they were going through."

What they learned from these gentlemen, he told The TV Column, is that these guys could not be manipulated to do things, as participants on other reality series can. So "God or the Girl" is more of a straight documentary, said Wolper, who executive produces the Penn & Teller show on Showtime as well as TV movies such as CBS's holiday flick "Snow Wonder" starring Mary Tyler Moore and TNT's remake of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot" starring Rob Lowe.

And, that tight shot of the very snug green T-shirt in the promo shown at the start of the Q&A session?

"More MTV than the show," Silver assured us.

Okay, how about the cheesy "Temptation Island"-esque title? wondered one critic.

"We look at the title in a very positive aspect. These are two amazing choices that could be made, and whether they choose God or choose the girl, either one -- it's a positive," explained Silver, who according to the Internet Movie Database was a task producer on "Apprentices" 2 and 3 and a consultant on the ninth edition of "Survivor."

They had trouble casting "God or the Girl," for obvious reasons.

"The guy that first approached me, I did everything that I could to get him to get off my back, but he kept coming at me with his message of what they really wanted to portray,'' one of the participants, Steve Horvath, told the critics. He says he was told "they wanted to portray the truth."

Horvath said he reached his decision to participate by "taking that to prayer every day and realizing that this isn't about me trying to gain popularity or stardom or anything, but this is about my life and my life is about God and being a witness."

"So it came down to, if this is even remotely what he says it is and this is an opportunity for me to portray my life on camera -- it came in the faith," he said.

Another participant, Dan DeMatte, said he hoped the people who watched "Temptation Island" will watch the five-part series "because it will blow their minds.

"You have this world of sin and lust, giving over to your body, versus the world of dying to yourself and serving the Lord every second," he continued. "So, if they tune in, then . . . reality TV has served its purpose and God's triumphant again. It's funny how that works."

DeMatte said he decided to participate because he prays that "I could be someone that could bring His message to the world and could help others turn to Him.

"This was an opportunity that He put in my life and it was a huge struggle because if I did decide to go into the priesthood and I wanted to enter a seminary, yet this show portrays me and us in a scandalous way, then all of a sudden my diocese won't let me in the seminary and I've lost my call to the priesthood."

He says his participation in the show is still a battle of faith every day for him, but he trusts "that God is going to use this video in a way that glorifies Him as opposed to glorifies our culture of death."

Heaven help him.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company