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Reality TV Hits Bottom

By Christopher Gildemeister


How do you know that reality TV has finally hit bottom?


When the program’s host admits – on the air, in front of millions of viewers – that he is uneasy about the show.


That’s what happened on the Monday, February 25th episode of Fox’s new reality game The Moment of Truth. Halfway through the program, host Mark L. Wahlberg told the camera, “This is the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on television. Quite honestly, if I had had my vote, it would not have aired.”


Wahlberg had good reason to be uneasy. Under the show’s format, Wahlberg was required to ask the contestant, Lauren, a series of increasingly intimate and hurtful questions…questions which seemed designed to humiliate and devastate her husband and family.


After asking, “Do you believe you might have been in love with a former boyfriend on your wedding day?" Wahlberg remarked, “I don’t know if I have the stomach for the rest of these questions.” When Lauren confessed – with her husband sitting only feet away -- that she was, in fact, in love with another man during her wedding, The Moment of Truth twisted the knife even further by bringing out Lauren’s old flame to ask in person, "Do you believe I'm a man you should be married to?" As host Wahlberg remarked, “I’m sure I’m not the only one watching this program wondering if that hundred thousand dollars is worth it, given what we’re doing,” Lauren went on to confess to being sexually unfaithful to her husband on national TV. A clearly disturbed Wahlberg said, “The questions I’ve already asked you, a couple of them, are way over my line.”


Such questions would be over the line for any halfway compassionate person. Unfortunately, Fox’s writers clearly are not even halfway compassionate. A still-shaken Wahlberg said on Access Hollywood the next day, “I was begging her to stop…”


This is all the more reprehensible in that, before the program’s premiere, The Moment of Truth creator Howard Schultz boasted, “We wouldn't ask questions where children could be watching and could be harmed by the question." Apparently, showing this program in the 8:00 p.m. ET timeslot (7:00 p.m. in Middle America), where millions of children were exposed to questions that could easily lead them to wonder if their Mommy and Daddy really love one another, does not pose any harm whatsoever to children.


Unfortunately, Fox is not alone in dragging down the reality show format. The latest iteration of CBS’ perennial purveyor of personal conflict, Big Brother, has featured several inappropriate scenes in recent weeks. On the February 19th episode (chosen as this week’s Worst of the Week), unmarried couple Jen and Ryan have sex in a bathroom The show’s caustic antics continued the next night, as the February 20th episode – airing at the Family Hour of 8:00 p.m., naturally – unleashed a flood of muted profanity on all the children in the viewing audience:


Chelsia: "It's really [muted f******]  bothering me.  If you hear me talking [muted s***] about somebody, call me out on it."


Amanda: "I have not heard you talking [muted s***]…I never said you talked [muted s***]."


Chelsia: "I'm [muted f******] pissed off, listen to me for a minute!"


Joshuah: "You're a [muted f******] horse face.  Everyone hates you in this whole [muted f*****] house…Shut the [muted f***] up, you [muted].”


But the true depth of the contestants’ cruelty and contempt for one another was revealed when they turned on Amanda, who had previously revealed that her father had committed suicide by hanging himself. The ever-callous team used this sad fact by rubbing it in Amanda’s face: 


Joshuah: "She doesn't say anything [muted f******] wrong.  Give her a [muted f******] halo."


Woman: "Or a noose."            


Joshuah: "Like her dad!"


While big-name networks Fox and CBS were busy destroying marriages and exploiting personal tragedies, the bottom-feeding MyNetworkTV was promoting seedy behavior among young adults. The first episode of Paradise Hotel 2 was sufficiently sickening to justify being awarded the PTC’s Worst of the Week; and the program has descended even further since then. The February 18th episode featured an “Adam and Eve party,” in the course of which all the women present dressed in coconut bras and tiny leaf bikini bottoms, and contestant Tanya invited the men to drink tequila out of her belly button. Contestant Johnny took advantage of Tanya’s abbreviated clothing by smacking her on the bottom. Tanya later gets into bed with contestant Mike, who is shown in flashback telling the other men on the show that he will sound a “mating call” if he “scores” with anyone sexually. After bedding Tanya, Mike stands on his patio and bellows his "mating call," leading to sniggering and leers from the other men. Needless to say, all of the contestants have only known one another for a matter of days…a point obviously of no concern to MyNetworkTV.


The creators of so-called reality TV’s greatest brag is that their programs are supposedly not scripted, but instead “tell the truth.” But after watching his program destroy a marriage, The Moment of Truth’s Mark Wahlberg reached a conclusion all TV producers should take to heart: “I honestly believe that some truths are better left unsaid.”


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