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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Dry Grins

If you want half a million dollars these days, all you have to do is go on the Fox television network and embarrass yourself for an hour or so.

This is what television has come to. It's hard to even blame the writer's strike, since the show is on the Fox network.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, the show is called "The Moment of Truth," and it airs every Wednesday night.

The show has a simple premise. Prior to the taping of the show, contestants are strapped to a lie detector and asked a series of 50 questions. The questions are tailored to that specific contestant's life details, and the producers then pick 21 questions to ask the contestant on air.

The whole idea being to embarrass and humiliate the contestant. If you're cool with being mocked and ridiculed across the country, go ahead, take the money and run.

Here's exactly how the show works. Host Mark Walberg asks the contestant a series of increasingly personal and embarrassing questions which have already been asked while the contestant is hooked up to the polygraph. The contestants don't know the results of the polygraph test, and they answer the question on air. If the question jibes with the polygraph result, they then move on to the next question.

For each question successfully answered, cash is awarded. If you answer the first six questions truthfully, a contestant gets $10,000, the next five nets a contestant $25,000, the next four $100,000, and so on. At the sixth level, a contestant is asked one question for $500,000.

If at any time a contestant lies, he or she loses all the money. In other words, to get a half million dollars all you have to do is be honest, no matter how embarrassing the question.

There's two problems with the show: the polygraph, and the embarrassment for entertainment factor.

For starters, polygraphs just aren't reliable. Any attorney worth their salt wouldn't allow a client to take one, and the entire show is based on the use of a polygraph. I'd be nervous too if someone was asking me, in preparation for a nationally televised show, highly embarrassing questions that were pertinent to the individual facts of my life. The results would be all over the place.

More importantly, the entire point of the show is to watch people squirm as they're asked, in front of a select group of family, friends and co-workers, not to mention a studio audience, whether, for example, they blamed their father for the disintegration of their family. Or whether they touched women inappropriately. Or if their gambling addiction has ruined a family relationship.

True to form, the show is not actually an American original. Much like "American Idol," which unfortunately leaped the Atlantic after being born as the British reality show "Pop Idol," the idea for "The Moment of Truth" was developed in Colombia and has spread to 21 countries.

So America isn't alone in its insatiable need for sordid, cheap entertainment at other people's expenses. But the fact that people watch this garbage is a little depressing.

I can't wait for tonight's episode.

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