Charles is taking charge -- of his love life.
Scott Baio, the layered-haired, Brooklyn-bred veteran of "Happy Days" and "Charles in Charge," is returning to the small screen for a show he never imagined himself headlining during his heartthrob heyday:
"Scott Baio is 45 ... and Single."
The VH1 reality series, premiering July 15, follows Baio as he tries to figure out why he can't settle down with a woman. Rather than go it alone, he hires a life coach to whip him into marriageable shape, which means separating from his current girlfriend and confronting his exes about what went wrong. For the former sitcom star, documenting the whole painful process seemed natural.
"At the end of the day I'm going to do it anyway, so why not combine these two," Baio said about accepting a production company's pitch to do the show. "If I was just a complete nobody, that would be a little awkward, but a lot of the stuff I've done has been documented."
Meaning, he's like the Colin Farrell of his generation. Back in his Chachi days, Baio wooed and won some of Hollywood's most prized honeys, including Pamela Anderson, Heather Locklear and Denise Richards. Asking them how he messed up -- already knowing it was usually because he cheated or simply lost interest -- was no easy task.
"The whole thing was tough to do. It was awkward and uncomfortable and frightening," Baio said. "The only thing I can sort of equate it to is sort of what the Christians felt like in ancient Rome, going into the Colosseum. I had no idea what I was getting into."
The delicious twist of the once studly Baio now looking for love got VH1 to bite. As Michael Hirschorn, the network's head of original programming, asked, what woman wouldn't want to see a legendary lothario get burned?
"The idea that Baio is going to go back to confront and be confronted by many of the women he's been with feels like a female revenge fantasy," Hirschorn said. "There's a little bit of a WTF factor. You hear the idea and you think, 'I can't believe they're doing this.'"
Making Fading Stars Burn Brighter
Veteran VH1 fans shouldn't expect anything less. Over the last few years, the Viacom-owned cable network has come up with a slew of reality series that disgust audiences as much as they delight them. "Flavor of Love," the show that introduced the incomprehensible rapper Flavor Flav to 20 single women competing for his affection, drew 7.5 million viewers for its season two finale in 2006, producing unprecedented ratings for a nonsports show on cable TV.
Not only have VH1's reality series helped the network step out of the shadow cast by MTV, its ever popular sister station, they've also revived the careers of stars like Flavor Flav, Hulk Hogan and now, perhaps, Scott Baio. But Hirschorn said he's not in the business of pumping life into has-beens -- he believes he's giving viewers access to pop culture icons they know and love.
"There's a construct in the way that the media and the public talk about celebrity which is sort of A-list, B-list, C-list, D-list," Hirschorn said. "I don't think it reflects the way that most people relate to celebrities."
So maybe VH1's strategy works for both the network and the viewers -- and certainly, for the fading stars who get a chance to raise their wattage. In Baio's case, celebrity publicist Michael Levine said broadcasting his inability to maintain a relationship is as good a career move as any.
"I don't see the world running in his direction," Levine said. "I think the show's an option and I don't think there are an abundance of options right now."
Baio might agree. While finding love is his first priority, he said getting a bigger gig out of the VH1 show wouldn't be bad thing.
"I'm hoping that Coppola or Scorsese will put me in a film," he said with a laugh.