Sunday, July 27, 2003

Matchmaker's life fodder for NBC show

By Eric Tucker
The Associated Press

With a keen memory for names and faces, and many single friends and acquaintances, divorce lawyer Samantha Daniels became so successful at playing Cupid that she started running a dating service.

And now her experiences have inspired a TV show on NBC's fall lineup: Miss Match.

It stars Alicia Silverstone as Kate Fox, a character modeled after Daniels who balances law and love, and is produced by Darren Star, creator of HBO's Sex and the City. Ryan O'Neal plays Fox's father.

Daniels, who says she's in her early 30s, founded her company, Samantha's Table, 31/2 years ago while practicing law in New York. She noticed that people seemed fascinated by her career and came to believe that she could pitch a television show about a professional matchmaker.

Then in late 2001 she met someone at a dinner party who set her up with an agent.

The agent put her in touch with Star, the TV writer-producer whose credits include Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place. Silverstone, best known for the 1995 film Clueless, signed on, and NBC became interested.

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said the network has ordered 13 episodes, which will air at 8 p.m. Friday.

"I think that what was especially appealing, besides Darren and Alicia, was the whole idea that everyone can find love," Zucker said.

Currently single and not dating, Daniels says she's set up 39 couples - and counting - who have gotten married, though Daniels is quick to distance herself from the stereotypical image of a meddling matchmaker who goes door-to-door peddling love and marriage.

"A lot of people picture matchmakers like Yenta in Fiddler on the Roof, who's old and unattractive ... and has a hair growing out of her chin," said Daniels, a graduate of Temple University's law school who divides her time between New York and Los Angeles. "I couldn't be further from that."

Daniels says at any given time she is trying to arrange dates for 50 to 75 individuals in both New York and Los Angeles. The company has a database consisting of about 10,000 eligible bachelors, who serve as potential dates for clients.

Daniels arranges the date after consulting with her clients; the two meet for a drink and the man pays.

Like many dating services, Samantha's Table caters to a particular clientele - in this case, successful, well-heeled professionals. Daniels says her clients include lawyers and models, investment bankers and executives, who operate at "110 percent."

"They find themselves with little extra time for them to go out and find people themselves," Daniels said.

The service charges $400 for an initial one-on-one consultation and inclusion in her database. Someone interested in becoming a client can pony up as much as $10,000 for a package including a concierge service, fashion stylist and other benefits.

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