Confessions of a self- obsessed bore
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