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CBS's 'Live for the Moment' exploits dreams of man suffering from Lou Gehrig's

MAKE A WISH: "Live for the Moment" host Jeff Probst, right, takes Roger Childs through the dying man's "bucket list," which includes skiing with a friend Childs hasn't seen in almost 20 years. (© 2009 Mark Burnett Production)
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"Well, it's not over yet, my friend!"

The social critic Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote a provocative and sharply argued book last year called "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America," could tear this show apart, if she wanted. Probst and Burnett still hope that "Live for the Moment" will be a big ratings hit, so they can find more dying people to dazzle in future episodes. I have a sinking feeling the show will do splendidly.

That's because it depends on the same lazy thinking that motivates ABC's hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the show that tears down the unpretty homes of sick and poor Americans, to then rebuild them, and give the recipient a whole new life. It's the same oversimplified generosity that believes too deeply in the healing effects of pink ribbons and charity triathlons, that believes texting an instant donation to Haiti is as meaningful as any other gesture. These sorts of shows also relentlessly subject viewers to the weepy pride of on-camera personalities, who could not be more impressed with their own selflessness.

After Roger has accepted donations for ALS research and $80,000 for his sons' college education (and pronounced himself "unworthy" of the largesse), Probst and "Live for the Moment" drive off into the sunset without a word about the future. You'd almost think Roger has been cured. These shows never want to get too real and neither do we. Our culture falls apart when there's not a happy ending, even in death.

Live for the Moment

(one hour) airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS

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