Steaming mad? Air your personal grievances on television's 'Grudge Match'


LOS ANGELES -- Got a quarrel with a neighbor, friend, relative or mate that you want settled on national television?

You don't have to take your case to Judge Wapner and "The People's Court" anymore. Now you can simply slug it out on "The Grudge Match."

In the latest twist in reality programming, people who might otherwise be in small claims or divorce court are entering a boxing ring and going three rounds against each other, cheered on by a studio audience that picks the winner.

"It may not be PBS, but it's a real hoot," one production assistant said last week during taping of the program, which began production in June.

"The Grudge Match," produced by Richmel Productions in association with Genesis Entertainment, is to go on the air in September in more than 100 cities around the country, mostly in late-night weekend slots. (Emerson Coleman, director of broadcast operations at WBAL-TV, said Channel 11 would carry the program in Baltimore. He declined to say what time period it would air in.)

Lisa London and Robert Branaman, though, did not seem particularly amused when they went at each other with the cameras rolling and the commentators Steve Albert, who is a sportscaster, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura, a former wrestler, describing their bout from ringside.

Mr. Branaman and Ms. London once lived together, but parted ways when she insisted they marry and he refused; shortly thereafter, she moved in with his brother, sticking him with back rent. Then she wrecked his car.

After knocking each other around the ring, Mr. Branaman, listed at 5 foot 11 and 170 pounds, and Ms. London, who at 5 foot 6 weighed in at 106 pounds, donned wedding veils and moved on to serious business: tossing wedding cakes, hors d'oeuvres and glasses of champagne at each other.

Mr. Branaman got so much into the spirit of things that he rushed to Ms. London's side of the ring and creamed her with tiered cakes from her own arsenal.

"I hit her with tuna fish, cake and eggs," Mr. Branaman crowed afterward. "She never even got me once."

Mr. Branaman and Ms. London were followed by Bryan Jardine and Sam Sloves, who were surfing buddies until Sloves' $800 surfboard was wrecked in a maneuver he blamed Mr. Jardine for and Mr. Jardine refused to pay the damages.

Next up were Ann Greenfeld and her husband, Robert, a pair of transplanted New Yorkers who were soon wrestling in a sea of goop and pelting each other with matzo balls. She thinks she might like to have a third child, but he is perfectly happy with two.

Among other contestants scheduled to appear on the program are a bride and groom who can't agree on what to do with the $10,000 wedding gift they received from her parents. There are also neighbors disputing a fence's position on their property line as well as two women whose friendship dissolved when one lent bTC her wedding gown to the other, who promptly had it altered into a miniskirt.

"The Grudge Match" is set up in such a way that the first round always consists of fisticuffs or something equally physical, as when the adversaries batter each other with inflated bats.

Contestants then battle it out for two more rounds with implements chosen from the program's Gallery of Weapons, which include saws, bows and arrows (rubber-tipped), tennis rackets, rotten tomatoes, sauerkraut, baked beans, buckets of sludge, cat litter and cream pies.

The adversaries wear costumes, starting out in tights and capes and then perhaps putting on giant chicken-head masks or other appropriate embellishments.

There are limits to the mayhem, of course. The boxing is done with oversize gloves, a referee is always on hand during the bout, and a paramedic examines the contestants afterward in case there are cuts, bruises or something worse.

"We don't want people getting hurt," said Rich Melcombe, the program's executive producer. "We want them to vent their frustrations and settle their differences. But we do not want them to kill each other."

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