TMZ's Harvey Levin talks the blurred lines of Hollywood and politics ahead of 'OBJECTified' premiere
FOX News is inching a bit closer to E! News territory.
The network unexpectedly teamed up with TMZ founder Harvey Levin for "OBJECTified," a documentary-style show during which Levin sits down with prominent figures from across the globe for intimate interviews about the most personal posessions they own. Among the guests are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, music mogul Simon Cowell and wrestling champ Hulk Hogan.
AOL spoke with Levin via email about the blurred lines between politics and entertainment and what viewers should look forward to ahead of the Sunday night series premiere. "OBJECTified" airs Sundays at 8pm ET on FOX News.
Tell us about the development process behind "OBJECTified." How long has this been something you've wanted to do? Did you come to Fox, or did Fox come to you?
Harvey Levin: I went to Fox News with the concept of doing life stories of interesting, accomplished, notable people… with a twist. We tell the stories using object the subjects chose to keep over the years. The show is divided into 7 chapters - areas or periods of a subject's life, and there's an object for each chapter. The subject tells me why they kept the object, its meaning and then it becomes a jumping off point to understand that period of their life, and the lessons they learned that turned them into who they are today.
Why do you believe the show is well-suited for the Fox News audience?
The audience cares deeply about people in the news. My show profiles politicians, entertainers, sports stars, business icons and others who have made a name for themselves, and hopefully the story-telling device will be engaging for the audience.
The name "TMZ" probably elicits fear or hesitation in some celebrities, since they know the site is usually game to publish details they may not have wanted to disclose. For "OBJECTified," how did you approach stars in a way that made them feel comfortable opening up to you?
I don't think TMZ was off-putting for the people we approached. Over the years TMZ has covered all sorts of stories, but the common thread is real and honest. The proof is in who wanted to do the show: Tyler Perry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Judge Judy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shaq, Martha Stewart, Hulk Hogan, Simon Cowell and Mark Cuban.
Of the featured guests announced so far, there's a mix of all different famous types, but several have some sort of political influence. Are you a believer that celebrity and political office naturally go together?
There is no question: Some of our politicians are bigger than most entertainers, and the reality is, increasingly, entertainers are becoming politicians.
Above: Judy Sheindlin opens up about a personal item with show host Harvey Levin. (Photo provided by Fox News.)
Had you met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before? What surprised you during your sit-down with him?
I had never met the Prime Minister. What surprised me most was how he was forced into politics and his strong feelings and concerns about the prospect of his children following in his footsteps.
How about Mark Cuban? What was your take on him during the interview?
I love Mark. He's one of the smartest, most enterprising people I've ever met. We talk about his possible run for president, and I think you'll be surprised at what he says. It sure surprised me.
You tend to keep your personal and professional life separate. Do you ever question whether to be more politically vocal, especially in the past few months -- or do you always prefer to let your subjects do the talking?
I talk about my views, but on OBJECTified it's not my place to insert my feelings. My job is to evoke honest insight from the people who are sitting across from me.