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Bachelorette Picks Poetic Fireman (AP, Feb. 20, 2003)
The TV Column
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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2003; Noon ET

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a front row seat -- a winning formula for Fox's "American Idol," now in the thick of its second season and already breaking primetime ratings records. A new crop of contestants, ripe for the barbs of bitchy Brit Simon Cowell, have viewers tuning in two nights a week for the spectacle. But, if young singles (including a former bondage-movie star) competing for the affections of a construction worker built like a rock (with matching IQ) are more your speed, Fox also offered "Joe Millionaire." But Sarah lost to Zora. And then there's ABC with "The Bachelorette." Trista upset the table Wednesday night and chose fireman/poet Ryan rather than Charlie the businessman.

Join Washington Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes every Thursday at Noon ET to discuss the latest gripping developments on "American Idol," "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelorette."

De Moraes has written the TV Column for The Post since 1998. She served as the TV editor for the entertainment industry trade publication the Hollywood Reporter for almost a decade.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Washington, D.C.: Hello Lisa:

I think the IQ comment was un-called for -- you snob! I bet there are areas in life you would be considered ignorant. Gossip column (you) vs. world politics.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Sorry about last week's chat being cancelled. Watching that endless clip-job episode of Joe Millionaire last week gave me a migraine. Now on to question: I know absolutely nothing about anything except television.. aren't I lucky I have this particular job?

Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Re: the Joe Millionaire finale ... okay, you know the end of the world is near when Fox, FOX! is trying to sell the American public on the notion that fairytales really do exist.

For weeks I enjoyed the cattiness and superficiality of it all, and then the fairytale ending ... oh the humanity.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you! I was hoping for a Fox twist -- like offering Zora $1 million to walk away from lover boy. Instead they have the butler hand them a check for a million bucks. The treacle, the treacle!

Joe Millionaire/The Bachelorette: I do not like them, Sam I am. Count me in the minority, perhaps, but the fact that this mindless drivel is racking up huge ratings for the networks that air these shows is a sad comment on the state of affairs in our country. I'm proud to say that I didn't watch an entire episode of either show. And Survivor? How many times will people tune in for the same old, same old exercise in broadcasting led by Jeff Probst? Until the networks start airing thought provoking, quality entertainment (which is now usually only found on HBO) I'll keep the old boob tube switched off and enjoy a good book.

Lisa de Moraes: You mean as opposed to , say, Adam Sandler movies?
I too am so over Survivor, but about 20 million others are still fans ... And you keep up that book reading. I hear it's good for you.

Washington, D.C.: Ms. de Moraes,

I love your sardonic quips in these chats. My question is this: Do you like television? I was just wondering.

Lisa de Moraes: Love it!

Washington, D.C.: Help. I snickered my way through most of the Bachelorette, but found myself teary at the end last night. Is there any hope for me?

Lisa de Moraes: NONE! I'm sorry, but Trista's baby talk was like fingernails on a blackboard. My heart was breaking for that poor Ryan. Seems like a nice guy. I'm hoping/presuming that this "Bachelor" romance will end like the other two -- splitsville.

Arlington, Va.: Was it just me or was Trista's voice escalating into hypersonic range last night? Her baby talk made me want to throw the TV out the window.

Lisa de Moraes: She got worse as the show went on. If she intends to have a career in Hollywood -- assume she does, otherwise why would she go on this show not once but twice -- she needs a voice coach ... Run, Ryan, run!

Gaithersburg, Md.: Maybe I am just uptight, or simply don't get it. But I watched "American Idol" on Tuesday for the first time and was appalled that Simon told Vanessa that she needs to lose weight. I guess that image sells CD's. But it seems to me that those thoughts should not have been voiced out loud when Simon and the producers of that show know young girls are a huge target audience of that show. Young women today struggle enough with trying to look like super models. In my opinion, Vanessa had a great voice, a great image and deserved to advance to the top 10 based on that, regardless of her weight. Clearly, so did America, since she did advance last night. Thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: The weight of the contestants does not seem to be influencing the voting, so apparently American viewers -- at least American Idol viewers -- disagree with Simon. But it is a reality that women are expected to be thin on the bottom and large up top in the pop music biz...sorry, but that's what sells, which is why Mariah Carey's top always falling off of her in all her promo shots, and why Christina Aguilera poses nude on the cover of Rolling Stone ...

White Plains, N.Y.: Lisa -

What do you think of the reality programs on other networks such as "The IT Factor" on Bravo following young actors (in Los Angeles this season)? I am addicted to this show. Perhaps because it is less contrived than others in its genre. Does it have more "class" because it is on an artsy channel?

Lisa de Moraes: You mean Bravo, the network that just bought the reality show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"?... in which four gay guys ambush and make over some poor straight slob ... very classy ...

Joe Bachelorerte: How about Charlie from Bachelorette gets together with the foot fetish girl from Joe Millionaire and they are filmed for a reality TV show?

Lisa de Moraes: Hosted by Frenchie ...

Arlington, Va.: Ryan was the completely wrong choice for Trista. He's like a deer caught in headlights.

Lisa de Moraes: I know. He's roadkill, poor little boy.

Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Lisa,
Just wanted to say I love your writing -- I didn't think that a television column could be entertaining but yours definitely is!

I think they should do a reality show combining the concepts behind Joe Millionaire and Ultimate Makeover. For example, you think you're getting breast implants, but instead you get a nose job. That would be good TV!

Lisa de Moraes: I would certainly watch ... it should be on The Learning Channel, right after Trading Spaces and What Not to Wear ...

Falls Church, Va.: On this message board this really angry guy said he was going to make Fox pay for lying about when Joe Millionaire was going to make his decision (he claims that Fox misled people in their commercials that it was going to happen last week). He said that he is a Nielsen participant and that he would watch the final episode (the "real" final episode) on an unconnected television in his home.

Do you think this is for real? I've never considered this. Can those people really get revenge on networks by purposefully not watching a show on a TV that is connected to the device and thus causing their ratings to be lower. How many people does one person represent?

Lisa de Moraes: Nielsen has a fairly large sample so I doubt it would make much of a difference. But I understand the anger. That was a total bait and switch ...

Alexandria, Va.: So what's the gossip on what happened with Aaron and Helene from the Bachelor? Last night during the Bachelorette, ABC ran a promo for next week's show on Aaron and Helene and how they're doing, and said that Helene requested separate interviews, and then it looked and sounded like she is very bitter about something. Any inside scoop?

Lisa de Moraes: Splitsville ...

Arlington, Va.: Luckily, I knew beforehand that Monday's episode of Joe Millionaire wasn't the finale. However it would have been nice if the wry and usually reliable John Maynard had noted that the episode was going to be a lousy clip show.

Do you find the pacing of these reality shows frustrating? Just like in Survivor, the endgame portion is sort of like going to the dentist -- not a whole lot of fun and mostly a sense of relief when its over.

Lisa de Moraes: John Maynard did not note that it was going to be a lousy clip show because John Maynard was lied to by Fox, as were the folks who did the TV listings for all major publications around the U.S. Everyone had the wrong information because Fox deliberately gave them bad information ...

15th and L: I hope you can help me out with this. Give me one good reason why these "reality" shows are not the end of Western Civilization as we know it.

Lisa de Moraes: You say that like it's a bad thing ... repeat after me: change is good. Sitcoms suck ...

Downtown D.C.: So what was your beef with the fact that Joe didn't get 'engaged" to Zora after the fifth and final date? You said it was severely lacking in romance, but I think it shows measured thought and balance to put the ring on her right hand instead of traipsing off to get married a la Trista.

Getting engaged on TV after five dates (or so) is a recipe for disaster. At least Joe had the sense (not much of it, I know) not to repeat the Bachelor's folly.

Lisa de Moraes: I simply wonder whether after about five Bachelors, in which the happy couple do not march down the aisle, and a few more Joe Millionaire like shows, where the ring is put on the right hand, people will grow tired of watching these goopy "romance" reality shows in which there really is no big payoff.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Lisa, hello,

What's with ALL the hot tubs on these reality shows, especially all the dating reality shows. Maybe I missed something, but is that what life is really like in "reality"?

(Serious question: Wouldn't you think it would be a no-brainer for some spa maker to become an advertiser? It could be a gold mine -- The Official Hot Tub of "The Bachelorette" or The Official Spa of "Blind Date.")

Lisa de Moraes: As Fox reality guru Mike Darnell recently told The Washington Post: The jacuzzi is to this generation what the drive-in movie was in the '50s." I think he's got it right ...

Aaron/Helene: Are on tonight, not next week for uninformed viewers.

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks for that ....

North Bend, Ore.: I was just wondering if Joe Millionaire and Zora will be appearing in any talk shows in the future?

Lisa de Moraes: I think Fox is keeping them under wraps now until next week's "aftermath" episode. Then you will see them everywhere ...

The Pay-off: That's why Fox is bringing us "Married in America!"

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I suspect we'll all be sated after that show...

Vienna, Va.: Why are all of these shows coming on involving all these cruel ideas? All of these shows play into the minds of gullible and foolish people who will do anything to be on TV. If someone goes on TV, shouldn't it be somebody who is at least substantive? Even if he/she is not, shouldn't that person at least have a neat trick or trait? All these shows now seem to be talentless. And finally, if the mean guy on American Idol butchers the lives of so many singers, why doesn't he sing himself?

Lisa de Moraes: If all record execs had to be good singers, then all all movie studio suits should be good directors, all sports agents would have to be great athletes, and all newspaper editors would have to be good writers and where would that leave us ...

Somewhere, USA: I'm sure this chat will be filled with people droning on and on about how they find reality show offensive, and people who watch them are idiots, etc. Here's a news flash: the vast majority of television has always been trash. Whether it's stupid sitcoms, dumb movies of the week (remember those), Dallas knock-offs, whatever. Network TV is a big and an easy target, but it's a reflection of the society that we have developed.

Also, Amazing Race and Survivor are both great shows.

Lisa de Moraes: My colleague Paul Farhi has a theory that I subscribe to, which is that the majority of most everything having to do with entertainment is trash: books, movies, etc. But TV is most easily accessed, so you get to see all the trash easily. But you do not read all the bad books in a bookstore, and you don't go to NYC to see all the garbage that passes for "art."

Burke, Va.: I watched my first reality show, Joe Millionaire, the other night. My reaction is this: why do people watch this stuff? When Zora said "Let's continue the journey" I felt my dinner lurching upward. If a sitcom or drama had such dreadful dialogue, it wouldn't last two weeks.

Lisa de Moraes: It's not fair to ready only the last chapter of a book and dismiss it as junk. You were clearly not invested in Cinderella the way other viewers were ... okay, I give up, you're right, her speech was SO lame. She'd been reading too many Harlequin novels. So too has Trista. Loved the way Ryan kept interrupting her "I've picked you" speech last night, to ask her "is it over yet?" That was priceless, you have to admit ...

Los Angeles, Calif.: Lisa, hello. I wrote last week, but you were canceled (or at least were put on "hiatus"). So, pretty please, I am dying to know: What is going on with everyone jumping into hot tubs on all these reality shows? And the dating shows? Three, four, five, six in a tub! Rub-a-dub-dub, indeed! Lisa, is that what "real" life really is like? Man, if it is, I am so living an un-real life. And, wouldn't you think some spa/jacuzzi maker would jump all over this to become, say, "The Official Hot Tub of The Bachelorette" or something like that? Couldn't that "Joe Millionaire" guy become a spa spokes model? There's big bucks there, no?

Lisa de Moraes: Another hot tub question. You guys are really disturbed about the hot tubs, aren't you? Oh, Mike Darnell also said that hot tubs are a great way to get good-looking people out of their clothes on TV. Maybe that's the better response ...

Alexandria, Va.: If it weren't for "Alias" and "Buffy," I'd have pulled an Elvis-style TV shooting by now.

Lisa de Moraes: Then you'll need therapy soon. They'll both be gone next season ...

Arlington, Va.: Hi Lisa -

I saw someone on television saying that all of these reality shows are just a short-term fix for the networks. Once the networks realize that they can't make any money syndicating these show, they will switch back to the standard fare. Any thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: I disagree. Joe Millionaire, believe it or not, skewed very upscale, which means Fox could charge a very good price to advertise on the show. It's true the old TV model in which a studio or network builds a library of reruns does not hold for reality programming, but there are other revenue streams to be had. Think of the money being made from the recordings and concert tours on American Idol, for instance. The industry just has to figure out a new model to make this as lucrative as the old one. Which they will do.

Sigh: Only in D.C. are women cynical and jaded enough to describe a poet and a dreamer like that Ryan character as a "deer in headlights," or "roadkill."

Lisa de Moraes: Don't get me wrong, sweetie. I loved the guy to death. Poetry. Dreamy. 6'5". Blue eyes. All great It's his getting caught in Trista's snare that has us despairing ...

Joe M.: Lisa -

"Spending time with you is really neat. I think we connected on several different levels. I hated all the lies. It just eats at my brain."

Lisa de Moraes: Good times, huh?

Fairfax, Va: Do you think the finish of Joe Millionaire was rigged?

Lisa de Moraes: Better question: ask me if I care ...

After Married in America: The next Fox show will be Divorcing in America.

Lisa de Moraes: That's the sequel. November sweeps. Look for it ...

The Innocent Dude: So help me with this, Lisa -- what was that hand motion supposed to indicate that Sarah did to Melissa on the last episode of Joe -- she seemed to think she may have done something wrong?

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry. Don't understand the question. Please restate ...

Niles, Mich.: How can the statistical estimates of viewers for "Joe Millionaire" be taken seriously when it seems that people might watch a few seconds and then channel surf away after getting the outcome? That show that was rather "canned" (pre-taped last November) seemed distasteful from its initial publicity. I hope that any sequels are plagued with sabotage by those being recruited as stooges. Disgruntled viewer.

Lisa de Moraes: The numbers on tv programs that are relevant are the "average audience" which is not the number of people who surfed in and out. The surfing number is the gigantic number you always see a network put out for big franchise events, like Super Bowl, etc. ... it's usually twice the size of the average audience stat.

Realistic in Texas: No, the women aren't so cynical in Washington. It's clear (to me) that Ryan is a nice guy, a little dim, and Trista has her eyes on the Hollywood prize.

Lisa de Moraes: Agreed, except the women in washington part. They are cynical. Everyone here is cynical. It's a survival tactic ...

New York, N.Y.: I simply wanted to comment about Simon Cowell's negative remarks about the performers on American Idol that spark such fury in many viewers. I am a dancer in New York, and from the perspective of REAL performance culture, Simon could almost be considered "nice" to these kids. Everyday performers like myself and my friends audition and are rejected with comments like :lose a few pounds, get implants and get back to us, etc. And while it is hard to hear at first, if you are confident, it is just part of the business as I'm sure many other viewers understand. I just wanted some less experienced viewers to understand that the auditioning experience is not pretty and to succeed is to survive. While it might not be "right" it is true to life, which is what a reality show is supposed to depict.

Lisa de Moraes: Just wanted to post this comment. I do not think that Simon's comments are intended to be cruel for the sake of TV. I believe he is a reflection of what the recording industry is like. And most other entertainment industries. You notice how almost all of the women on all of these reality shows have large breasts? Can flat-chested women not climb a tree as well, or remember details about other contestants on "Survivor?" And it's a known fact that large breasted women can read maps better on "Amazing Race."

Washington, D.C.: Trista and Ryan headed for Splitsville? I don't know ... they looked pretty cozy on Good Morning America today.

I just "got into" reality TV with Joe Millionaire and Bachelorette this year. I was totally fooled on both shows ... I definitely thought Evan would pick Sarah (They were ALL OVER EACH OTHER!)... and I thought there was no question that Trista would pick Charlie.

Lisa de Moraes: I know. I was so depressed ...

Ryan from Bachelorette: Were you surprised Ryan's final videotape message from St. Louis wasn't a poem or rhyming jibberish?

Lisa de Moraes: It was jibberish. It just didn't rhyme ....

Washington, D.C.: Why, oh why, did your colleague Tom Shales write that glowing review of this week's episode of "The Guardian"? I watched it for the first time based on his rave and was bored to tears. What a dull show. I'm not even sure what the "big twist" was that he was all shook up about. What was he thinking?

Lisa de Moraes: I think you just answered the question when you said you watched it for the first time ...

Reality TV bites: Lisa,

For those who think that shows with a script and actors are lame, I have one word: 24. Care to comment?

Lisa de Moraes: Jack Bauer has the dumbest daughter on the face of the earth... That's all I have to say about 24 ...

College Park, Md.: I wanted "Joe Millionaire"'s twist to be that all the WOMEN were actually millionaires. That would have kicked butt.

Lisa de Moraes: I was hoping for ANY twist that was more Fox-like. Fox has been drinking the Disney kool-aid. Meanwhile, Disney-owned ABC is getting very Fox-like, what with "Are You Hot" and "Extreme Makeover" on its schedule. When did Fox become the class act?

Trapped in a D.C. side street: Hey Lisa,

I am confused. What is a "season" now on TV? I long for the good ol' days when it was clear. Now it just seems to be whenever someone decides the show ends.

Lisa de Moraes: Technically the TV season begins in mid September and ends with the wrap of the May sweeps. It used to end in April, until some idiot decided it should include the May sweep and make the lives of people who cover television a living hell ...

Wooster, Ohio: American Idol's Vanessa may not be terribly overweight, but her choice of outfits that resembles sausage casing must make it hard for Simon to avoid weight-related comments. I suspect her look -- including those fat-stuffed outfits -- was designed to make the voters notice her, which it did!

Lisa de Moraes: She is certainly someone trying to create a "look." So she should not take offense when one of the judges comments on her "look."

Washington, D.C.: I don't know who is watching reality television, but it certainly isn't me or anyone I know. I hear reality TV programs get the ratings, but for the life of me, I can't imagine why intelligent people would choose to watch such obnoxiousness. I find it disturbing that I can't turn on my television without being subjected to scenes of couples cheating on each other or some half-wit guy hanging out with a gaggle of virtually naked bimbos in a hot tub. Have Americans become a bunch of voyeurs looking for their next prurient fix? If so, head to your closest peep show, but leave the rest of us out of it!

Lisa de Moraes: Sigh ... again, the Realty TV Bites chat session is at 1 p.m. ... this week sponsored by the Cast of The West Wing ...

Cheverly, Md.: Lisa, any info you can share on the upcoming spin off of My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It was such a fantastic movie, I'd hate to see it end up a disaster sitcom ...

Lisa de Moraes: Interestingly, CBS had NOT sent out tapes on this show, which should be a slam dunk. That does not bode well for the show. Usually when a network does not send out tapes, it's because it does not want anyone to review the show....

Arlington, Va.: Lia, to follow up from your earlier comment- do any sitcoms NOT suck? I'm thinking of That 70s Show and the Simpsons (which is in decline), but I can't think of any others ...

Lisa de Moraes: You lost me on "That 70s Show." That's in my Sitcoms Suck Top-10 list. (I just know I'm going to hear from the Washington Post Decency Police on all these "suck" references) ... I'm mourning the loss of "Sex and the City" except that the last batch of episodes weren't so good. When did it become such a serious show?

Alexandria, Va.: Sheesh, sounds like the bitter person needs to tune into "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" exclusively. Bleeecchhhh.

Lisa de Moraes: no comment needed ...

Silver Spring, Md.: I'm sorry, I don't get it.

If you hate it, turn it off.

I have enough reality in my life, thank you very much.

Lisa de Moraes: yes, TV reality is so much more fun than real reality ...

American Idol Fan: The thing about American Idol is that all the kids who reach this level, while talented singers, are not singing their own material, they are not artists with products that can stand alone -- so they have to be judged based on greater appeal. Simon is simply judging them on a large part of what will make them successful, if the public disagrees, well -- that is what the show is about. I don't understand why people are in such a tizzy over this?

Lisa de Moraes: Still, it's an interesting conversation....

The Innocent Dude: Sarah made kind of a loose fist and moved it toward her mouth. There were some interpretations at work that that, well, indicated something, uh, happened in the bushes?

Lisa de Moraes: That's what I thought you were talking about but I didn't want to go down that path unless I had to since this is a family paper. Monica Lewinsky comes to mind, yes ...

Massachusetts: Lisa,
Do you really think Trista and Evan are well-regarded in Hollywood? It seems to me that anyone with half a brain cell would see them as pitiful tools, but I've also read that they've been shmoozing with A-listers. What gives?

Lisa de Moraes: Schmoozing with A-listers? That's the Fabulous Fox Marketing Machine in action. Have any of the stars of recent reality TV shows actually become famous, except in a faux Kathy Clarkson kinda way ... don't think so ...

Washington, D.C.: What exactly is the end result of Joe Millionaire? Are they supposed to be engaged? Best friends? Something else?

Didn't having "Joe" out and about the week before the finale trying to pick up the President's niece lessen some of the suspense?

Lisa de Moraes: They're probably as "together" as any of the couples on past "Bachelor" editions. Or any of the daytime dating shows ...

Kingstowne, Va.: Seems to this viewer that the editors and production staffs of both "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelorette" engaged in a great deal of creative snipping and pasting for the final episodes in order to leave the impression that Sarah and Charlie would be chosen by their respective suitors. Do you agree?

Lisa de Moraes: Absolutely. It's all in the editing ... I'm out of time. Thanks for joining ...


That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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