Breaking up is hard to do; Shannen Doherty may help

Times Staff Writer

BREAKING up is hard to do. Enter: Shannen Doherty, a Hollywood actress who knows a thing or two about endings and now wants to help you break up with your boyfriend, fire a lousy employee or kick your lazy roommate out the door. On national television.

"Breaking Up With Shannen Doherty," which the controversial "Beverly Hills, 90210" star hosts and executive produces, premieres Aug. 22 on Oxygen. Doherty, 35, helps those in need of ending relationships by creating fictitious circumstances to get the two people in a room together so she can watch their behavior -- and then step in herself.

"I've certainly been through a couple of relationships, as we all know, and some marriages," she half-joked Tuesday to a roomful of television reporters and critics at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena. "Being a woman at the age that I'm at, you learn through life's experience, which is more than a degree."

The process is as simple as lying to a louse called Steven, luring him to a restaurant under the guise of appearing on a cooking show with his girlfriend, and having Doherty appear. That's right, Doherty does the dirty work -- and we mean dirty. This guy, unaware that he's being watched, at first hits on Doherty by asking her if she's ovulating. When Doherty reveals his relationship is over, he announces he's relieved.

But not more relieved than Doherty and the girlfriend, or viewers for that matter.

Now, if only Doherty could break up with the press ...

The actress, who began her career at age 9 and became as infamous as she was famous when she starred on "90210" for her diva and bad-girl ways, became emotional when she was asked if her goal of helping people had anything to do with cleaning up her image.

"I'm not going to lie to you; it hurts a lot to read the stuff I read about myself, and it hurts me and it hurts my mom a lot," said Doherty, who choked back tears as she looked at her mother, who was nearby. Doherty acknowledged she had only herself to blame for much of what had been written about her, but she later asked reporters to give her another chance.

"I hate to use the word 'unfair' because, again, I have to stand up and say it wasn't just the press," she said. "I played a huge part, a huge part, and everybody has a job. And if I'm creating some of the drama, then you guys have a job to report it.

"But where I start to say 'OK, now we're getting out of hand' is when nobody lets it die," she said. "Nobody says, 'You know what? She was young. Give her a break.' Give me a chance to mess up again. Stop writing about stuff that happened 10 years ago. Stop bringing up every bad thing in my life. And give me another chance to mess up. If I mess up again, then write about it. But just let me breathe and let my parents breathe. Let them pick up the paper and it says one nice thing about me."

You got it, Shannen. We are moving on to the fact that you said you have been on only one date in the last 18 months and have reached a time in your life when you can declare: "I don't need a man to make me happy."

Looking fit in a strapless black top and white slacks and refreshingly her age (read: no Botox), Doherty 'fessed up about something else regarding her show. She is not selling herself as an authority on relationships.

"I think an expert doesn't mess up nearly as many times as I have," she said. "I think that I'm good with getting over relationships. I'm good with dealing with the guilt, the tears and the mourning and the grief because God knows I've done it enough."

These days Mr. Right would not be an actor, but he would be a man who is "fiercely independent but he gives me my space. But I want to know he's protective of me, loving, compassionate, kind, funny and secure with himself."

And if he hired a Hollywood star to break up with her in front of a national audience?

"To be honest, my reaction would probably be one of shock," she said. She paused. "But I would not sign the release."

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