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Thursday, January 24, 2008

America faces its "Moment of Truth" and fails

Remember that famous psychology experiment that studied participants' willingness to obey authority figures by giving people increasingly dangerous electric shocks? That's what came to mind while I watched Fox's new reality show, "The Moment of Truth." Instead of high voltage, contestants are strapped to a lie detector and peppered with a series of embarrassing questions like "Have you ever cheated on your wife?", all with their families watching in the audience. If they answer honestly, they get money, which presumably they will later use on alimony. And who, in this analogy, are the mindless sheep who kept cranking up the amps? If the ratings figures are to be trusted, the answer is: America.

According to this article from, last night's debut of "Moment of Truth" was the highest-rating series premiere of the season, seen by 23 million viewers. It retained nearly all of "American Idol"'s audience, which is reasonable, because "American Idol" fans have already lost all sense of shame. The high ratings can probably also be attributed to Fox's advertising campaign for the show, which trumped it up as "the end of Western Civilization." Who wouldn't want to watch that?

Whether or not it will keep such high figures week-to-week is doubtful, since the clips I saw during commercial breaks from "Mythbusters" were not so much outrageous as they were boring. The pacing was dreadfully slow as each sucker took his sweet time playing Faust, balancing the desire for cash with the potential for destroying all who love him.

While the concept of the show may turn my stomach, I can't really feel bad for the poor schmoes who volunteer as contestants. They're no different from the "Fear Factor" idiots who eat disgusting things for prizes, or the "Rock of Love" twits who make out with a disgusting thing for ... something, I don't know. The thing that bugs me about "Moment of Truth" is that it's really nothing new: people making asses of themselves on national TV. We've had that in this country since "The Newlywed Game." The thing is, I can't help but wonder how much more electricity we as audiences are willing to pump into the limp, smoldering body of reality TV, before its nothing but ash.

Which reminds me, I've got this great idea for a new reality show. You give contestants a series of buttons, see, that deliver electric shocks to someone in another room...

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Since I don't plan to watch this, a running tally of the questions would be phenomenal, Adam. Personally, I hope someone gets asked, "If you were desperate enough to eat one of your family members, what kind of dipping sauce would you use?" With no sense of shame, I'd go with honey mustard.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At January 24, 2008 at 11:04 PM  

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