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Fox's 25 years of highlights (and lowlights)

April 22, 2012 |  9:10 am

"Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?"

Fox will celebrate its 25th year on the air Sunday with a blow-out prime-time special featuring the stars of some of the network's biggest hits.

The cast of "Married... With Children" will be reunited. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny of "The X-Files" will be on hand. The Wayans Brothers (Keenan Ivory, Marlon and Shawn) from "In Living Color," Hugh Laurie from "House," Calista Flockhart from "Ally McBeal" and Kiefer Sutherland from "24" and "Touch" all are participating, as are the casts of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "That '70s Show" (even Ashton Kutcher).

And let's not forget the superstar judge's panel from "American Idol": Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson.

With all that star-power and talent on display, it's easy to wonder: Who won't be there?

The cast of "Woops!" for one.

Fox now may be the top-ranked network in the ratings, but that doesn't mean there are no embarrassing skeletons in its closet. Amidst all the 25th anniversary hoopla, it would be easy to overlook some of the network's more dubious programming decisions -- but where's the fun in that?

So that the network's anniversary won't pass without having the full scope of its accomplishments celebrated on the record, here's a brief rundown of some of the more bizarre shows to pop up on the Fox schedule over the last quarter-century.

"Woops!" (1992)

The aftermath of nuclear holocaust got played for kooky laughs in this short-lived sitcom about the only six remaining Americans attempting survival in a lone farmhouse. Plot lines involved the group creating its own currency, one of the female survivors developing a larger bust from a radioactive gem and Santa Claus revealing that he has survivor's guilt for not letting Mrs. Claus and the elves survive the apocalypse.

This series made it just 10 episodes before the ax fell.

"Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction" (1995)

Inspired by the surprise success of the alien conspiracy series "The X-Files," Fox aired this supposed documentary in August 1995 containing what was purported to be footage from an actual autopsy conducted on one of the aliens at the Roswell crash site in 1947.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation's" Jonathan Frakes was host of the hourlong special built around the original 17-minute black-and-white footage presented by a British entrepreneur named Ray Santilli who claimed to have received it from an unidentified military man. 

The special was aired three times in the late summer and fall of 1995, each time to boffo ratings. Though the program featured interviews with experts, including Oscar-winning makeup artist Stan Winston, they claimed their interviews were carefully edited to exclude assertions that the footage looked to be fake.

In 2006, Santilli admitted the film wasn't genuine, but rather than confess to a hoax, maintained that it was an accurate re-creation of an actual alien autopsy video he saw in 1992, but which had deteriorated to the point that it had since become unwatchable.

"When Animals Attack!" (1996)

Today, shows like this fill the schedule of cable channels such as Animal Planet, but back in the mid-1990s, the idea that there was an entire network devoted to videos of animals attacking humans seemed both lurid and shocking. Robert Urich hosted the three-part series of so-called shockumentaries that combined home movie footage with dramatizations of bears, elephants, lions and even household pets going nuts on unsuspecting humans. 

"Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" (2000)

Before "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," there was this prime-time special, hosted by Jay Thomas, that featured 50 women competing beauty-pageant-style to win the hand of eligible (and rich) bachelor Rick Rockwell. The millionaire in question was not revealed until the winner was selected, in this case it was California resident Darva Conger, who married Rockwell on the spot.

It wasn't until after Conger had that ring on her finger that America learned Rockwell had a restraining order filed against him on charges of domestic violence. And his status as a multi-millionaire was called into question. The result wasn't so much "Happily ever after" as "He said, she said," with Conger publicly speaking out against Rockwell and denying that they'd ever consummated the marriage. The marriage was finally annulled April 5, 2000. She later posed nude in Playboy.

"Temptation Island" (2001)

Newlyweds had their vows put to the test in this reality competition show that ran for three seasons. In the show, couples agreed to live with super-hot singles of the opposite sex on a lush tropical island to see just how strong their commitment was to their significant other.

"Celebrity Boxing" (2002)

The idea was simple: Put two celebrities whose careers were on the ropes in a boxing ring and watch as they pound the snot out of each other. We're much further down the road of celebrities debasing themselves for a last gasp at fame in 2012, but back then the idea was seen as incredibly shocking and tasteless, especially considering the names of the participants. Danny Bonaduce, Barry Williams, Darva Conger, Paula Jones and Tonya Harding. 


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-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Darva Conger and Rick Rockwell on "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" Credit: Fox