EVERY time you think you've seen the lowest of the low, the most ridiculous of the ridiculous, and the most frightening of the frightening, along comes something far worse. "Police Academy 8" was just one cop training movie too many. Boy bands should have died out after New Kids on the Block moved away. And now comes the new Fox reality show "Temptation Island." It is not only a sickening ripoff that mixes "Survivor" with "Jerry Springer," but a creation even lower than FOX's usual fare.
But that's just one side of the equation.
The show's premise truly is a mix of Survivoresque island reality and Jerry Springeresque redneck polygamous relationships. It puts four unmarried but committed couples on a Caribbean island in order to "test and explore the strength of their relationships" (www.fox.com/frameset.html). Like dropping hens off in a fox den, the show breaks the couples up and leaves them with 13 tan and ravenous predators whose sole purpose on the show is to tear couples away from each other.
Throughout the show, the couples are asked questions about themselves and one another to find out if "what they think they want is actually what they do want" (www.fox.com/frameset.html). But these sets of questions are just pointless attempts at gaining some credit as a helpful dating show instead of a water-locked orgy setting. The producers aren't kidding anybody. They're doing whatever they can to bring soap opera story lines to life in a reality television format, regardless of the immorality of it all.
The network and show producers have their priorities set where money is more important than morality and destroying relationships is ok, as long as it brings in the ratings. You would think they would have learned a lesson from last year's controversial and incredibly ridiculous "Who Wants To Marry a Multi-millionaire." That show forced strangers to take wedding vows after a mere two hours, and was followed by endless media attention with news of past spousal abuse, inevitable divorce after one week, and a nose job and Playboy appearance by the show's "winner." Imagine the controversy in store for the 26 network pawns.
There's already trouble brewing. It's been reported that one couple failed to divulge news of having a child. Since this breaks the show's rule, the couple reportedly gets kicked off the show. Apparently FOX doesn't want to be responsible for breaking up a child's parents. How thoughtful of them.
Despite the immorality of it all, FOX knows exactly what they're doing. They're not simply immoral heathens who want to corrupt their viewers. They create this crap for one reason and one alone. Americans eat it up.
Sure, it's hard to label an entire nation as sex and controversy hungry, but the Nielsen ratings really do help out with those generalizations. When a show about ripping relationships apart draws nearly as many viewers as quality programming like "ER" and "The West Wing," that's when you know there's a problem. And that premiere episode audience of 16 million viewers is sure to grow, as water cooler and Tupperware party gossip of cheating and hot feisty redheads abounds.
People not only want to watch the show, they want to be on it. The same people who waste an hour watching it would love to waste months and years of devotion to their significant other just for television - and possibly sexual - exposure. On the FOX website, thousands of messages are displayed, and many follow somewhere along the lines of "I'd volunteer my wife and I in a second...however, I can make no promises...a few drinks, a lil partyin', one thing leads to another...and before you know it, you're busted in front of a national audience. But what the hell, life's a bitch."
The show may not involve married couples - that would be the last straw - but breaking up a committed relationship is still breaking up a committed relationship regardless of if wedding rings are involved. But either way, the audience for scandalous reality is there, and it is growing. The more shows like this that air, the more people who are drawn in to the temptation of living vicariously through sexy singles. It's the same audience that keeps MTV's "The Real World" a hit, only multiplied by the power of trashiness.
As the morals of Americans become looser with the new Millennium, and the audience for the kind of crap that FOX currently produces grows, television is sure to be littered with similar - and most likely worse - shows that seek to capitalize on both the show's success and the audience's demand. It's a vicious cycle. And it never will be broken until either the supposedly socially responsible television networks stop producing such unwatchable programs as "Temptation Island" or Americans stop watching it. All we can do is hope.
(Brandon Almond is a Cavalier Daily associate editor.)