BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Ever met someone to whom you took an immediate dislike? Or on first acquaintance have you felt you’ve known the other person all your life? Everyone has experienced these phenomena.
And now they’re being tested on television. Who would guess that GSN, the game show network, would come up with a show that challenges these subliminal prejudices and predilections?
“Without Prejudice?” pits five panelists against five “contestants.” Each panelist must evaluate this lineup with very little evidence at first. Can they judge someone without preconceived notions?
Part game show—the winning “contestant” earns $25,000—part group therapy, it’s a fascinating look into the meanderings of the mind.
The show is hosted, and sometimes refereed, by Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and journalist who’s been seen on “The Today Show” and “Headline News.”
“There were times I had to referee and I consider that my role and my challenge,” says Ludwig in a conference room of a hotel here. “Quite frankly it’s kind of fun for me. I think that’s why they wanted me because it is having that background and working with people and knowing how to help people say what they need to say, in a safe way. And if you’re ever working in group therapy it’s very dynamic, it keeps you awake because there’s so much going on.”
Ludwig, who has a master’s degree in social work, a doctorate in psychology and clinical experience, says it was an appearance of Dr. Joyce Brothers on the tube that inspired her to aim in the same direction.
“I wanted to be a therapist and I knew that in the second grade. I knew that. I’m one of these people fortunately I just knew what I wanted to do. My uncle was a weatherman star in New York City and when I saw his life and the work he did behind the camera, I was like, wow!”
She earned her degree and eventually established a private practice. “Once I became a social worker, I was working in a psychiatric hospital with severely disabled, mentally handicapped people and people with severe bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia. That’s really what you want to do if you want to work with people because if you can work with that population you can work with anybody.”
For a while she served as a psychology reporter in upstate New York for a local NBC station. “I created the position. I was interviewed for a morning anchor position. And I said, `My husband and I live in the city I can’t really relocate and be here during the week every morning. What would you think about hiring me as a psychology reporter and I’ll put together news stories that are psychologically based?’ The director hired me on the spot and put me on the air that evening.”
Ludwig, who’s been married 15 years to a psychiatrist, has two children, ages 8 and 5. The show, on which she presides like a blonde interlocutor, is based on a successful British game show. Ludwig thinks the producers “wanted to show the gamut of people’s opinions and biases and thought processes. They also wanted people who were vocal.”
For all her training Ludwig admits that intuition plays a part on “Without Prejudice?”
“There’s a new study about intuition that suggests that women might be physiologically more intuitive because of our hormones and the place where it registers in our brain. So I think, in part, we pick up non-verbal clues that we register and there’s a place in our brain where we actually are learning things. But it’s bypassing the way we memorize or things of that nature. Some people are probably better at it than others. It’s putting together information very quickly without knowing exactly where you’re getting that information from.”
Still she’s cautious about granting intuition too much credence. “I think using your intuition is a clue, but you can’t over-rely on it. And with practice we probably get better at knowing what’s right for us and what’s not. It’s almost like a muscle that needs to be used. So I’m not exclusively a pragmatist who says you have to separate and identify. I think with time you get to know a person. Sometimes our first impressions serve us well and sometimes they don’t.”
The show airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT.
Comic Jeff Foxworthy headlines the second season of Fox’s “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader,” with a two-hour premiere on Sept. 6. Foxworthy declares he was no dummy in the fifth grade.
“I was a pretty good student. I was an A and B student. But really, my goal in the fifth grade was to try to make the rest of the class laugh, and I was always getting in trouble for it. And now, I feel like I’m back in the fifth grade, still trying to make the class laugh, and they’re paying me for it. So I probably would have been good (at this game). I don’t think I’m as smart as some of these kids are, but, you know, I was funny.”
Tim Gunn, the fastidious fashion guide and guru from “Project Runway,” will snipe at fashion boo-boos on his own show “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style,” premiering on Bravo Sept. 6. It’s a makeover show with Gunn condemning fashion faux pas and praising elegance and style. What’s the worst mistake people make with their wardrobe? Gunn says it’s size.
“My mantra is that the biggest fashion foible committed by most people is that their clothes don’t fit them properly, either too big or too small. We would all benefit from having a good tailor, and when one is shopping, try everything on and be very discerning when you look in the mirror about how well it fits you. People tend to think that, if their clothes are a little bigger than they are, it can hide a lot of imperfections. In fact, it just tends to accentuate those imperfections. It is better to have things that are really, for the most part, form-fitting.”
Charlie Sheen, who plays the playboy who plays the field on CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” used to be the real-life counterpart of his character. Standup comics still joke about Sheen’s wild and woolly days. Sheen says he takes it in stride.
“It’s sort of double-edged because you are honored that you made the opening monologue, somebody that matters. But if the joke is really smart that’s about you, it softens the blow. But when it’s a cheap shot and a bad joke, you know, `Thanks. Been there.’ ... What do I do? I’m here. I’m with my kids, with my fiancee. I don’t lead that life anymore, so they have backed off. It’s Jon’s (Cryer, his costar who plays his brother) turn.”