TMZ’s Har­vey Levin turns stu­dio boss in ‘OBJECTi­fied’

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Maria Puente @us­atm­puente USA TO­DAY

TMZ founder Har­vey Levin, the lawyer-turned-TV-jour­nal­ist­turned-celebrity-news-tabloidti­tan, is try­ing on an­other trans­for­ma­tion: mini-stu­dio boss.

The lat­est of­fer­ing in the pro­duc­tion line: OBJECTi­fied, a weekly celebrity in­ter­view show pre­mier­ing Sun­day on Fox News (8 ET/PT).

It has noth­ing to do with TMZ, the rowdy, wildly suc­cess­ful and near-ubiq­ui­tous celebrity news web­site, owned by Warner Bros., that Levin will con­tinue to run, or its broad­cast spinoffs, TMZ on TV, TMZ Live and TMZ Sports.

“We’ve de­cided to turn TMZ into a stu­dio that crosses plat­forms (from) the dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia that we’ve been in to the broad­cast and ca­ble space,” Levin says.

The 10-episode OBJECTi­fied finds ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and host Levin (in a suit, and with­out his trade­mark gi­ant drink cup) in­ter­view­ing ma­jor fig­ures in their homes about seven ob­jects they own and how those ob­jects mat­tered in their life sto­ries.

TV’s Judge Judy Sheindlin is the fo­cus of the pre­miere, and other sub­jects in­clude Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu; for­mer Cal­i­for­nia gover­nor and Terminator star Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger; for­mer pro wrestler Hulk Ho­gan; life­style guru Martha Stew­art; ac­tor/film­maker Tyler Perry; and Mark Cuban, the bil­lion­aire Dal­las Mav­er­icks owner and Twit­ter foil of Levin’s long­time sort-of friend, re­al­ity-TV-star-turned-president Don­ald Trump.

Trump was the first to be OBJECTi­fied, in a Novem­ber spe­cial that snagged 4 mil­lion view­ers and earned a ku­dos-via-tweet from Trump, who hailed “the great Har­vey Levin of TMZ.”

Among the ob­jects Trump showed Levin in that show were a year­book photo from the New York Mil­i­tary Acad­emy and the chair from the board­room of The Ap­pren­tice.

Nowa­days, Levin is not so high on Trump, even af­ter POTUS granted him an hour-long au­di­ence in the Oval Of­fice on March 1, ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, which de­scribed Levin as “the tabloid em­peror.”

Levin was re­luc­tant to dish. “He’s some­body I’ve known for 12 or 13 years, and hon­estly I’ve not had any deal­ings with in a long, long time,” Levin says. “I don’t want to get into it, but I’m ... dis­ap­pointed (in Trump). I thought there was more hope than I’m see­ing.”

He’s way more chatty about his new show.

“This has been such a la­bor of love for me,” Levin says. “It’s a dif­fer­ent way of telling a life story. It’s in­ti­mate and a way to con­nect to peo­ple.”

This is not Levin’s first pro­duc­ing rodeo: In 2014, he launched Fa­mous in 12, a re­al­ity show about a fame-hun­gry fam­ily chal­lenged to be­come fa­mous in 12 weeks. But CW can­celed it af­ter just five weeks be­cause of low rat­ings.

Levin got the idea for OBJECTi­fied af­ter a Hol­ly­wood real es­tate agent called to talk about direc­tor Steven Spiel­berg, who was sell­ing his Mal­ibu house stuffed with ob­jects from 40 years of his life and ca­reer.

“As soon as he said that, I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s a show,’ ” Levin says. “We’re telling sto­ries of peo­ple through the ob­jects that rep­re­sent some pe­riod of their life. I’m in­ter­ested in the sto­ries that shaped them and turned them into the peo­ple they are to­day.”

It helps that his sub­jects are peo­ple he ad­mires, such as Perry: His ob­jects in­cluded chairs that once be­longed to Abra­ham Lin­coln; they hold deep mean­ing for Perry, Levin says.

“By all rights, (Perry) should not be suc­cess­ful — he was a poor, abused child with noth­ing go­ing for him other than dreams, and what he’s been able to do with his life through faith, tal­ent and per­se­ver­ance is in­cred­i­ble,” Levin says. “I walked out of his house so up­lifted.”

Terry Bol­lea, aka Hulk Ho­gan, whose suc­cess­ful in­va­sion-of-pri­vacy law­suit against the gos­sip site Gawker last year sent it into the ash­can of me­dia his­tory, told Levin one of his ob­jects is the le­gal pad he doo­dled on dur­ing the trial. Ho­gan talked for the first time about how the case af­fected his life.

“He showed me the things he was writ­ing at var­i­ous points, his thoughts, his emo­tions and how they tracked with this trial,” Levin says.

Levin talked to Cuban about whether he would run for president in 2020.

“He’s awe­some — I ad­mire this guy so much,” Levin says. “A lot of th­ese peo­ple, I read their bi­ogra­phies, I ad­mire them, I’m in­ter­ested in them.”

But the ob­jects are key to the show, he says.

“They re­ally change the dy­namic” of an in­ter­view by relaxing the in­ter­vie­wee, Levin says. “They open them­selves up in ways that are sur­pris­ing even to them. There are self-rev­e­la­tory mo­ments.”


In OBJECTi­fied, a but­toned-down Har­vey Levin in­ter­views prom­i­nent peo­ple in their homes about ob­jects that in­flu­enced their lives. He be­gins with Judge Judy Sheindlin on Sun­day.


Levin and fel­low ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jim Para­tore have turned TMZ into a far-reach­ing celebrity-news fran­chise.

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