Film and TV

Moment of Schadenfreude

Switching suddenly from PBS' Antiques Roadshow to Fox's new reality-based game show Moment of Truth? Host Mark Walberg must need a neck brace from the whiplash. Or at least a hot shower, you know, to scrub vainly away at the shame.

Moment of Truth has a dark, dark heart. It puts contestants through a battery of lie-detector questions, the responses to which they aren't aware, and then invite them to tell the truth—or what they're trying to pass off as the truth—on national TV, and with a panel of their loved ones right in front of them. The more they reveal, the more money they make. It's sort of like stripping, except without the benefit of nudity (so far). It makes you wonder how far the final question, worth half a mil, must go. I shudder to think.

The key to a show like this is that you can't like the contestants too much. If you did, if you felt for them too much, it wouldn't be fun to watch them squirm. And the first player was a fairly good choice—a former jock, current personal trainer, sort of a cocky little frat boy with a generically-pretty blonde-chick wife (with an exotic accent!). In other words, someone no one's going to mind being taken down a peg. Or two. And this guy was. He was forced to admit that his wife might not be the person he thinks he'll spend the rest of his life with (big surprise), and then he lost trying to claim that he'd never touched an attractive female client more than necessary in putting her through training. (Which sounds like an awfully vague question for a lie detector to, I don't know, detect. But aside from the name, "truth" doesn't seem to be really the point of all this. More like "schadenfreude".)

You'd think this dreck-fest of a show would at least be interesting—you know, in that same way that we paid attention to Anna Nicole's death, or Britney Spears' car-exit peep show, or the entire career of Jason Mewes. But it's not. The show is so drawn out, with each question being followed by a hollow female voice saying "That answer is…" (wait fifteen seconds or so while the contestant and his family and friends pretend to look nervous) "…true." (Or "false", but I trust you get the idea here.) And this makes the pace of the show so utterly glacial that it makes the aforementioned Antiques Roadshow seem exciting by comparison.

I was all set to hate Moment of Truth, honestly, and to rail against it as yet another sign of the coming television apocalypse, brought on by the Writers' Strike and perpetuated by the bad taste of the worst among us. But after the first episode, I feel sort of sorry for it. It's trying so hard to be evil, but Moment of Truth is so small, so insignificant, so boring—that it probably won't be around long enough to have the chance. -- Teague Bohlen

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Sean Cronin