Mark Steines has come clean about why he gave up a glamorous, high profile anchor job at ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT to bake cookies and build birdhouses on the Hallmark Channel.
“That [celebrity news] stuff just isn’t interesting to me,” he says.
The Tom Cruise doppleganger spent spent 17 years — and accumulated three million frequent flier miles — traveling the globe to report on the latest made-for-ratings romance or reality TV controversy.
But now Mark tells me he couldn’t be happier to put the fake smiles, diva movie stars and manipulative Hollywood publicity machine behind him.
‘Do you see the wounds healing?” he laughs, motioning to his wrist. “They have finally closed up. There is no bleeding anymore. I am past that in my life.”
Mark, 49, now serves as co-host [with author and TV personality Cristina Ferrare] of the daily lifestyle series HOME & FAMILY.
“We don’t try to cheat the audience in any way,” he insists. “We don’t do things that are too contrived or [focus] a lot of the entertainment news.”
Mark was refreshingly candid about his former career when I visited the HOME & FAMILY set last week.
It must feel good to not be reporting on Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber right now.
MS: A lot of people don’t want to look behind the curtain and see the strings and levers and pulleys that are going on to manipulate careers and keep them going. After a while I was just like, “I don’t want to wash in that anymore.” So I am here.
What was the worst part of the job?
MS: There are so many times you go into [interviews] and you have to ask those inappropriate questions. And I was never comfortable doing that. I was raised never to ask a woman about her age or her weight and those are like the first two things out of your mouth when you are sitting down conducting those interviews [for E.T.]. ‘How fat are you?’ There is a lot of stuff I had to do in the past that feels rather out of bounds.
Isn’t that the case with TV in general?
MS: Maybe it is because of the real estate I am standing in now and where I am with my career, but I almost feel like there is a pushback. How much further do you think we can keep going? Remember when Simon Cowell first started speaking his mind on TV on IDOL. He actually said “You were terrible” and we were all offended by that. Now you’ve got the Real Housewives ripping out their hair extensions and scratching each other with their Lee Press On Nails. How much further can we go go without getting some pushback.
CF: It eats your soul. It really does! The f–king Kardashians? They are famous for nothing. I don’t understand the landscape of television and celebrities today. And who cares? Why do we care about these people?
Because shows like ET tells us to?
MS: People aren’t listening as much as they used to. The product is out there. You can drive up to the window and order what you want to eat. But you should just know what is going into the food that you are eating.
MS: I don’t disagree with that. I think though, a more articulate way of saying it is… If somebody puts a plate of food in front of you and says it is low fat and healthy, so you start eating it and go, “it kind of tastes good.” But then you realize the garbage that is in it. That is the way I feel a lot of our TV is. People don’t know what goes into the manipulation of that message. I wish someone had the cajones to pull the curtain back and show (the world) what a publicist does and what a manager does. How the big picture works in manipulating you to get to the theater, to buy those magazines…
You and I both know that when the heat went down on Sandra Bullock, she disappeared and nobody could find her. Tiger Woods, same thing. You can get off radar if you want and then you can selectively come back when you choose by working with the [celebrity-friendly shows and publications], by placing photos. It is possible.
There is a big handshake that goes on in that world and that is what I wanted to remove myself from as much as possible. I think people should be aware that. [This show] returns for me to a point where we are doing honest television. There is a lot of TV out there that escape television, whether it is DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES or whatever, that help you get away from your life. [HOME & FAMILY] tells you how to get back into your life. It teaches you how to live a healthier life, how to cook, how to be a better family person, how to be engaged with your family. I have said it before. This is not escape television. This is real reality television.
Has it made you a better person?
CF: Huge. I noticed a big difference from when he came on here a year ago. He was very damaged.
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