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A wave of reality

The bay area seems to have become a favorite trolling spot for reality TV contestants, and some of them are showing up on shows this summer.

Published July 5, 2005

Like fish caught in Red Tide, reality television shows keep washing ashore in the Tampa Bay area this summer.

Contestants from the area abound, ranging from local celebrity Hulk Hogan to folks you've never heard of before, and probably never will again.

Among the newest is Don West , a professional sports agent from Tampa bidding to represent newly drafted pro football player Shaun Cody, a defensive lineman entering the NFL this summer with the Detroit Lions. The show is Super Agent on Spike, the cable network aimed at men.

In a telephone interview, West, 31, said family and friends warned him about being on a reality show, considering that his reputation is his livelihood.

"What swayed me in the other direction is that this business has become so overrun by bad guys, I felt it was almost my responsibility to give people another idea of what an agent is supposed to do," he said.

There's no cash prize for the winner, but the winning agent gains a potentially lucrative relationship, typically collecting a percentage of a client's paycheck.

West said some situations in the show, which finished taping this past spring, are contrived. Agents don't work in teams when trying to land a client, for example. But he said he hoped to convey some of what the business is about and present the profession honorably.

"The agent's job is not to tell the client what he wants to hear and do what the client wants all the time," he said. "A good agent is going to make sure his client has all the real facts and knows what's going on in every situation. There is a very small opportunity for them to make this money. A mistake can be very costly for an athlete."

The show premieres at 10 p.m. July 22.

You want more?

- Plant City's Ann Poonkasem , 28, joined a troupe of bumpkins in search of culture with Paris Hilton's mom, Kathy Hilton, on NBC's I Want to Be a Hilton . The winner gets $200,000 and other perks. Poonkasem is still in contention but has earned a reputation for being a little weird - for example, breaking into song without provocation.

In a viewer poll at NBC's Web site ( on who's most likely to win, voters have her tied for seventh-most-likely, out of 14 contestants.

The show airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on WFLA-Ch. 8.

- Nathan Griffin , 26, and Nick Parlin , 23, of Tampa appear on the new season of NBC's Average Joe: The Joes Strike Back , in which the network gives furry-backed, socially inept, beer-bellied or pencil-necked guys a chance to court a gorgeous woman.

"Outta my league!" as the saying goes.

Parlin, a magician, was among the first bounced from the show last week, but this season's twist may give him a second shot: a makeover that included personality training and an eyebrow trim (really). "I want this more than anybody," he tells the camera.

Griffin, a Tampa cafe worker, sports a goatee, shaggy hair and glasses. He reveals to NBC, "I haven't dated much." He made the cut last week, but viewers responding to an online poll give Parlin and Griffin slim chances of getting the girl.

The show airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on WFLA-Ch. 8.

- Wrestler Hulk Hogan (a.k.a. Terry Bollea) and family star in Hogan Knows Best , a "celebrity reality" show on VH1 starting Sunday. The family lives in Belleair.


It's not technically a reality "show" because it's produced by ABC News rather than the entertainment division (the line is thin, but we'll pretend it's still there). The five-part documentary Hooking Up will include New Port Richey health food store owner Sonja Horton , 38, in the series about online dating.

On her Internet site ( Horton hints that even in a documentary, the camera can't capture 100 percent "reality."

"The content? Some of it coached. Some of it filtered," she wrote. "After all, how real can it be with cameras in your face? How honest do you answer questions?

"I have to admit it was fun being followed around by cameras. But at the end, I felt slightly exploited and taken advantage of." Still, she said, she would do it again.

The show airs in five one-hour episodes, beginning at 9 p.m. July 14 on WFTS-Ch. 28. Horton will be featured in the fourth episode, Aug. 4.


- Jason Fromer , 25, a Tampa pharmaceutical salesman, made a strong showing on VH1's Kept, a competition to become a "kept man" (and win a good bit of loot) to supermodel and former Rolling Stones wife Jerry Hall. The show was filmed in England, and Fromer was wowing them, right up to the point when he got caught kissing another woman in a pub. Sheesh, men!

- St. Petersburg college student Zac Turney , 24, took the ultimate "three-hour tour" this summer on TBS's The Real Gilligan's Island . Playing "Gilligan Zac," Turney made use of his short time on the island, streaking naked through camp ("Some of the people thought it was amusing. I thought it was a disgrace," sniffed one of the Professors) and putting the moves on one of the Mary Anns.

But at the end of the second episode, Turney lost a bare-hands fishing challenge to "Gilligan Shawn," and complained that his opponent played an unsportsmanlike game.

"I tried to play everything fair, honest," he told the camera at the end. "When I said goodbye to Skipper Charlie, I gave him a big hug."

Sorry, Little Buddy. The show concluded Wednesday.

[Last modified July 5, 2005, 01:33:21]

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