Reality TV Hits Bottom
By Christopher Gildemeister
How do you know that reality TV has finally hit
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,
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
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.”