Tuned In

The Moment of Trite

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Oh, Moment of Truth, how could you disappoint me so? From the get-go, Fox’s lie-detector game show sounded like the ultimate concept in trash TV: essentially, an amped-up, primetime version of The Jerry Springer Show or Dr. Phil disguised as a $500,000 competition. By asking contestants uncomfortable questions in front of their loved ones, it promised to give us hot-button talk-show topics (“I Think I’m Addicted to Gambling!” “I Want My Wife to Get Lipo!”) in rapid-fire succession, but without the boring psychoanalysis and host interviews.

Oh, like you haven’t. / Kelsey McNeal/FOX

But the first episode at least was a snooze. For Mrs. Tuned In, who is a better person than I am, the reason was simple: “Why do I care about any of these people?” For me, it was more complicated. First there were the simple aesthetics. A show proclaiming itself to be unlike anything else on TV shouldn’t have a set and a style that are exactly like everything else on TV, or at least every primetime game show: the same electric-blue, techno-Colosseum stage; the same hyperdramatic music; the same streeeetched-out question-and-answer format with the verdict (“That answer is…”) seemingly delivered by the voice of an OnStar navigator.

All of which might be forgivable if there were more payoff for the build-up. For a show that’s supposed to be about honesty and transgressing the boundaries of polite society, there was little real tension or drama. Part if that, I think, came from the format, in which the contestants took a 50-question polygraph test before the taping, then re-answered the questions on stage. The participants, if not their loved ones, had heard every question before, so they had to know if there were any real bombshells out there, and they seemed too well-rehearsed. I mean, wasn’t the point of the show to see that how-dare-you-ask-me-that indignation that came from an out-of-left-field question? It added a distracting meta-element, since the contestants were thus not just answering questions but gaming their ability to fool the lie detector in an earlier interview, which we never saw. Combined with the fact that most of the “shocker” questions were boringly tawdry or vague (what does touching a personal-training client “more than you were required to” mean, anyway? Would a high-five count?) and the show failed even on its own lowbrow terms.

Either that, or I’m finally starting to develop a conscience about watching TV. I refuse to entertain that possibility, though.