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TV Review: FOX’s The Moment of Truth Proves People Will Do Anything For Money

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Would you reveal your deepest, darkest secrets for $500,000? That's the premise behind FOX's latest reality game show, and summer filler program, The Moment of Truth.

NBC pretty much broke the mold for what people would do for a cash prize in Fear Factor, the show most famous for what contestants had to eat (like rancid cow testicles) and endure (being put into a tank with various insects crawling over the contestant's body) to win a cash prize. On that show, the top prize was $50,000. FOX has upped the ante by offering a top prize of $500,000 if contestants can answer a series of embarrassing, humiliating questions.

Hosted by the charisma-challenged Mark Walberg, the premise is pretty simple: can a contestant answer a series of questions truthfully? Prior to taping, contestants are strapped into a polygraph machine and asked over 50 questions. Twenty-one of the most potentially embarrassing questions are then used in the show.

Inexplicably, guests join the contestant; family, spouses, and significant others are on hand to watch the train wreck and cheer the contestant along. Although how you're supposed to cheer your daughter on when she answers "yes", that she has had sexual experiences that her mother would find offensive, is something of a mystery.

The guests have access to a button that they can press one time if a question comes up that they don't want to hear. Yet the family and friends of the contestant seem hesitant to use the button (such as when a paramedic contestant was asked if he had ever falsified official reports in the course of his duties; I wouldn't want to know the truthful answer to that particular question).

A cash prize is awarded for answering a certain number of questions truthfully, from $10,000 up to $500,000, and one false response ends the game.

Walberg, best known perhaps as host of another FOX masterpiece of television, Temptation Island, will often preface each question by asking the contestant if they think they are a good person or treat others well, for instance, and then ask the contestant if they had ever fled the scene of an accident. He attempts to inject humor into the proceedings, but frankly I don't think anyone is watching for one of his quips. He's supposed to be sincere and earnest, although I suspect a more sarcastic host might be more entertaining. You listening, FOX executives?

And on it goes, each question progressively more humiliating, until the contestant either mercifully ends their run and takes the cash, or is caught in a lie.

There are a large number of questions asked about the contestant and their relationships with friends and family, designed to embarrass said family member/spouse/friend. A contestant with a husband who had gained weight over the course of the marriage was asked if she still was sexually attracted to her husband (no); another, who had been married a few times, was asked if their current spouse was more attractive than the previous spouses (no). Cut to a shot of the "surprised" spouse who, apparently, didn't know his significant other as well as he thought.

You really have to wonder why anyone would even want to appear on a show like The Moment of Truth. In tonight's season finale, the contestant had no hesitation in revealing herself to be a drunk and, let's just say, very outgoing with members of the opposite sex. Another contestant spilled the beans on how she was a kleptomaniac, thug, and pyromaniac (which was ironic as she was a volunteer firefighter).

It's hard to fathom the train of thought that begins with "I sure would like to win $500,000 on a reality game show" and ends with auditioning for The Moment of Truth.

The show started as a success, with its January debut drawing more than 23 million viewers (thanks in large part to the show that preceded it, a little something called American Idol). However, according to USA Today's July 8 online edition, its viewership had dropped to an all-time low of 4.6 million viewers. Even so, FOX has threatened a new season of the show, this time to include celebrities, doctors, lawyers and other professionals who are ready and willing to be humiliated before a (now) small audience.

Me, I think I'd rather be poor and have my dignity. Unless, of course, the top prize gets increased to, say, a million dollars. Then I'd be ready to blab. I guess everything does have a price.

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