Con­fes­sions of a self- ob­sessed bore

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Ker­rie Mur­phy

Ev­ery so of­ten, a con­tro­ver­sial re­al­ity show hits the air­waves, shock­ing our oth­er­wise up­stand­ing and sen­si­ble so­ci­ety to its core.

In the lead- up, the me­dia tut- tuts about the de­prav­ity of television pro­duc­ers, peo­ple’s greed­i­ness and des­per­a­tion for fame, the in­sa­tia­bil­ity of au­di­ences for tacky schaden­freude or some com­bi­na­tion of all three, and ev­ery­one agrees the whole af­fair amounts to a pre­mium econ­omy ticket on the next hand­bas­ket to hell.

Then the show airs and no­body watches it. At least they don’t in Aus­tralia. Who Wants to Marry a Mil­lion­aire , Play­ing it Straight , My Big Fat Ob­nox­ious Fi­ance and Honey We’re Killing the Kids all did tepid busi­ness, some be­ing shunted into the late night sched­ule to spend their last re­main­ing episodes alone.

So the most shock­ing thing about Mo­ment of Truth is that the net­work both­ered air­ing it in prime time; and per­sists in both­er­ing when only about 850,000 peo­ple tune in.

For the other 19 mil­lion peo­ple, Mo­ment of Truth has a struc­ture sim­i­lar to Who Wants to be a Mil­lion­aire , in that the con­tes­tant an­swers a se­ries of ques­tions to win the big cash prize, with the abil­ity to opt out for a lesser prize at var­i­ous stages. But in­stead of gen­eral knowl­edge ques­tions, the con­tes­tant is asked per­sonal ones, which is as good an in­dict­ment as any of our self­ob­sessed times.

Con­tes­tants are asked 50 ques­tions while tak­ing a poly­graph test be­fore the show, then asked 21 of them dur­ing it, in front of fam­ily and friends, so peo­ple know pre­cisely what they’re in for yet go ahead any­way. To get an an­swer right, they have to tell the truth, as de­ter­mined by the test.

Per­haps once it would have been shock­ing to see peo­ple con­fess that they’re still in love with a for­mer fi­ance, but af­ter The Jerry Springer Show , where peo­ple claim to be mar­ried to horses, or Cheaters, a show that spies on un­faith­ful part­ners and on which the host was stabbed in one episode, it’s barely worth rais­ing an eye­brow.

It is odd view­ing, though, as fam­ily and friends urge the con­tes­tant to keep go­ing and quite pos­si­bly lose their job or re­la­tion­ship, while ev­ery­one strug­gles to look cheery. The au­di­ence ap­plauds an an­swer, with host Mark L. Wal­berg ( who also hosted the un­savoury Temp­ta­tion Is­land and, oddly, the US An­tiques Road­show ) quickly point­ing out that they’re cheer­ing the ends ( get­ting a ques­tion right) and not the means ( ad­mit­ting to drink driv­ing).

But it’s not com­pelling for long. Quiz shows suc­ceed when the home viewer can play along and feel smarter than the con­tes­tant when they beat them to an an­swer and, apart from guess­ing what a con­tes­tant’s an­swer is go­ing to, be based on their re­ac­tion, Mo­ment of Truth doesn’t have that. As a re­sult, it’s more like a mo­ment of meh.

Mo­ments of tosh: Mark Wal­berg coaxes guilty se­crets from par­tic­i­pants

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