Zap2it March 31st 2003
Zap2it March 31st 2003

She isn't living the "Charmed" life any longer, but Shannen Doherty is still involved in scary stuff.

The actress returns to weekly TV as host of -- and occasional participant in -- "Scare Tactics," a half-hour series debuting Friday, April 4, on Sci-Fi Channel. The show sets up unwitting people in elaborately staged situations fully intended to panic them, until they find out the joke is on them. In one segment, Doherty supposedly is kidnapped from a hotel room while interviewing a woman to be her new assistant; in another, a man at a firing range accidentally "kills" Doherty's uncle, played by an actor.
While most hosts of this type of show don't take an active role in the action, Doherty relishes it. "Originally," she explains, "I was hired to do just the wraparounds. The more we did and the more we watched the segments, everyone started thinking, 'This could be really interesting if Shannen got more involved.' They asked me if I would, and I said, 'Yeah.' With the firing range, it was set up that I was an investor in it. Of course, I was thinking, 'There is no way this is what I'd ever spend my money on' -- but hey, it's TV. Whatever."

Doherty got into the spirit of "Scare Tactics" fully by making one of her best friends a victim of the show. "That went tremendously," she reports gleefully. "My friend is a burly guy, very manly. In this particular case, he was the only one who was calm at the start; by the end, he was hysterically screaming, 'Get me out of this car. Let me out.' I showed him the tape recently, and he said, 'I can't believe this is going to air. I'm not going to tell anyone when it's on.'"

As with anyone who sets up somebody for "Scare Tactics," Doherty knows there's a risk of earning the person's wrath once the scare is over. "In all the segments I've been involved in, once everybody realizes what's gone on, they think it's hysterical," she says. "They're really happy to have been brought into it."

One notable exception is a woman who is suing the show's creator-producers, two actors and Sci-Fi Channel over a prank meant to convince her she was under alien attack. According to Doherty, the segment was taped a long time ago, and she thinks filing a suit just weeks before the show's premiere is a bit curious.

"I wasn't there for that one," she says, "but that's a little sad to me. Also, everybody signs releases. This is supposed to be all in good fun, but we're not going to air that segment, which to me is unfortunate. It was by far one of the best pranks we did, but I think we do have to respect a person's privacy when all is said and done."

Doherty calls her "Scare Tactics" role "the easiest, best job anybody could ever have." She finds it an ideal way to be a regular TV presence again without many of the demands she faced on hourlong dramas such as "Charmed" and "Beverly Hills, 90210."

"I didn't necessarily want to do another TV show," she says, "but if I did, it had to be something I could feel connected to really powerfully. At the same time, you want a paycheck coming in. 'Scare Tactics' came up, and I only have to work six days out of the year on it. That's just for the hosting, then I have the option to be involved in the pranks. It leaves me plenty of time to do other things."

Doherty realizes her image of being unpredictable works for "Scare Tactics," but she admits she's not particularly a fan of unscripted shows. "I'm pretty disappointed with network TV right now," she says. "I was flipping through the channels recently, and I came across that show 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' During it, there were commercials for two other reality shows, and all I could think was, 'What is happening here?' Either there is going to be a huge backlash, or everybody's going to start watching channels like HBO and Showtime and TNT."

"I don't really think of 'Scare Tactics' as a reality show," she adds, "in the same way I don't put 'The Jamie Kennedy Experiment' in the reality-show category. Because he's on a network, he can't get away with as much as we can. We're sort of the extreme side of that. As long as nobody's getting hurt and everybody's having a good time doing it, it's something to be proud of. It's also fun to watch."

Since her friends now know what she's up to with "Scare Tactics," Doherty notices many of them being a lot more cautious around her. "I love to go to Las Vegas," she says, "so whenever I say, 'Hey, I'm going to Vegas, anybody want to come?' they're all like, 'No. Absolutely not.' I tell them we're not filming anything, but they still won't go."