Is the father of teen sailor Abby Sunderland the second coming of balloon boy's dad and (reality star hopeful) Richard Heene?
Laurence Sunderland called the comparisons to Heene "ridiculous" on Monday's Larry King Live despite reports that Sunderland signed a deal for a reality TV deal shortly after his 16-year-old daughter hit the high seas on her own.
Was Abby's journey to become the youngest to sail around the world solo all a ploy for a TV show venture? "That's absolutely ridiculous. My passion is first and foremost for my children and their endeavors. And it's absolutely, totally ridiculous and totally unfounded," Sunderland told Larry King.
Sunderland addressed an earlier report from the New York Post that he had signed a deal for a reality show. After saying there was no reality show, he acknowledged that he signed a "shopping agreement" — meaning to develop an "inspirational" reality show (about Abby and son Zac, who sailed across the globe by himself at 17) then shop it around to a network.
He also told King that Abby had several cameras aboard.
Sunderland said the individual who approached him about the project, Ted Caloroso, has "a personal vendetta against me." He said Caloroso was going to take the show in an unethical direction, depicting him as a bad father and predicated on Abby dying in the venture.
The two reality shows, titled Adventures in Sunderland and Abby's Journey, were still listed Monday on Magnetic Entertainment's website. The company did return calls and e-mails for comment.
Sunderland, a sailing instructor from Thousand Oaks, Calif., told the New York Post he had signed the deal for a reality show when he was financially broke. "The show might be about family, it might be about Abigail's trip. It's something that was shopped around," he told the Post on Sunday.
Abby was rescued Saturday after setting off two emergency beacons in the Indian Ocean last week.
Once news surfaced about the possible reality show so quickly after Abby's SOS, the project invoked comparisons to Heene, who famously tricked authorities into thinking his 6-year-old son, Falcon, was aloft in a helium balloon — so he could generate interest in a reality show. He later pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempting to influence a public officer and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.