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The TV Column
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Lisa's 'Survivor' Discussions
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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, March 6, 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. "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelorette" are finished their runs but there's more. "Are You Hot?", "Survivor: The Amazon", "Star Search" and Married By America" are on now, plus others.

Join Washington Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes every Thursday at Noon ET to discuss the latest gripping developments on America's Reality TV.

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.

College Park, Md.: "I'm a Celebrity" is so horrendous. Is it getting good ratings? Gawd, I can't believe even one person would watch it: sooo boring and lame. I bet CBS is actually happy that it lost the court case due to its similarity to "Survivor;" it only reflects how well "Survivor" is produced and conceived compared to "Celebrity."

Also, "Star Search" was lame in '87 and it is lame in '03, someone stop the insanity. What TV needs is good ol' Latino-style telenovelas: titilating television galore.

Lisa de Moraes: Have you heard? ABC has bought a celebrity edition of "I'm a Celebrity." CBS says that if they do a celebrition edition of "Survivor" they will definitely cast it with actual celebs, not this sorry bunch on ABC's show ....

Fullofit, Calif.: Ms. deMoraes,

Ah wood like to ask y'all a question in a suthin accent?

Is TV completely devoid of real reality?

Lisa de Moraes: That would be news programming. Unless of course, you're counting the face accents CBS News is having their voiceover artists do when reading scripts of translations of Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein. Then it's Art ... Love your accent, by the way ...

Sterling, Va.: Lisa,

With the not-so-high ratings of "The Family", "I'm a Celebrity", and "Married by America", are these considered failures or modest successes (like -ugh- Big Brother)?

Lisa de Moraes: I can't believe their respective networks are happy with those numbers, though they are spinning madly that they are. One of the trade papers today actually said the Family debut was a good number because it did better among young adults than an NYPD Blue rerun would have done in the timeslot. Can't you just hear the ABC spinning wheel revving on that one? That said, I loved The Family, especially George Hamilton ...

Working hard, lol in Gaithersburg, Md.: 7th heaven -– I will admit I liked it. It use to be such a good show –- and because I have watched it from the beginning I still find myself watching it. It is upsetting how stupid they are making those characters look. Please tell me that new writers are going to step in soon to save the show, or that a final episode is in the works.

Friends: I remember how I needed to be sure to watch this show every week and now I don’t even care. They are pushing this Ross, Rachel, Joey thing too much it is sickening. I even just read somewhere that they are going to bring a Black Actress, Aisha Tyler, onboard to add some more craziness to that love triangle. Spare me!

24: Thank goodness Jack’s daughter finally got a little sense this episode, huh? But what of the president’s wife –- why did he just let her stank butt go free? I would have put in a cell.

Sabrinia the Teenage Witch: How old is this chick anyway? This too use to be cute with all the “magic” that use to take place. I watched and episode and I really don’t think “magic” was used at all..

Okay enough of that…

Saw a commercial for a new show on TLC, I believe called Faking it. A person in given time to get book smart on a particular career and then has to fake their way threw it. This sounds like a real funny show –- any thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: Wow -- so many questions! Here we go: since this season it's been doing some of its best numbers, I doubt WB thinks it has a problem with Seventh Heaven, and no swan song in sight. Re Friends, NBC always seems to want its shows to have tense three-ways as often as possible, like they did not Good Morning Miami with the assistant when they figured out that the show sucked and the ratings did too. Remember that bit Conan O'Brien did hosted the Emmys on NBC, when he said that NBC had directed him to have a serious relationship with someone in the audience -- immediately -- and then turned to Jennifer Aniston in the cast, after which he turned to Gary Shandling and they did what whole 'young love on the beach' video. O'Brien wasn't kidding -- that's what NBC does .... And finally, re Jack's daughter, someone needs to strap her to the railroad tracks and leave her there until that Sherman Oaks mountain lion finds her or a train comes ....

Forest Glen, Md.: Is there any sense of a backlash beginning against these reality shows?

Does anyone actually think that the participants of "Married by America" will stay married for more than their 15 seconds of fame?

I'm not trying to hold myself up as any sort of snob -- I love TV as much as the next person -- but I really wonder about these people that willingly succumb brain cells to these shows.

Lisa de Moraes: These people on "Married by America" don't even have to get married. It's another Fox bait and switch. All they have to do is agree to be "engaged" which is just another way of saying "date" and hang out in a house together for some period of time after which they can decide to get married. Or not. But if they get married, they get a car, or a house, or something. Isn't that just another way of saying extortion, or bribery, or prostitution, or something? .... And re backlash, the numbers they're getting is all about backlash. There's too much, too bad stuff debuting now ... it's what the broadcast networks always do. They just can't help themselves ....

ABC has bought a celebrity edition ....: Did you mean CBS?

Lisa de Moraes: No, I was kidding. You know, it's supposed to be a celebrity show but they're not actually celebrities so ABC went and bought a celebrity edition of the show. You had to be there ...

Chicago, Ill.: George Hamilton is the best reality TV show host ever! Maybe he is what is needed to keep Married by America from being so boring. That has got to be among the dullest shows ever put together. Who came up with that stupid secrets segment?

Lisa de Moraes: Even George Hamilton, who is my new fave TV personality, couldn't save Married by America ... everything about that show stinks .... notice how they were trying on last episode to reassure viewers that it will cease to be a lousy game show soon and turn into a dating docu if they will just sit tight .... I would have guessed one of the advertisers would have thought up the stupid secrets segment except itt's not called A Coca Cola Stupid Secret Segment, or a Ford Focus Stupid Secret Segment. So I'm stumped on that one ...

Buffy: What do you think will come of the spin-off rumors? Do you think they ever thought of keeping the show, but without Buffy? Most importantly, how can we mend my boyfriend's broken heart? He's been down ever since he heard the news.

Lisa de Moraes: Most spinoffs tank. I'm thinking of AfterMASH or whatever that was called ... If they're smart, they wont' go there. They've already done one Buffy spinoff, called Angel. Odds of a second one working are slim to none. You're on your own re your boyfriend and good luck on that one ....

Alexandria, Va.: With Clinton/Dole added in the middle of 60 Minutes, are they just cutting the length of the main segments and keeping Andy Rooney at the end?

On a related note, I heard Charles Grodin was leaving 60 Minutes II ... what will they do with that spot?

Lisa de Moraes: I'm told each segment will be slightly shorter on the weeks that Clinton and Dole appear, which will not be every week. But the Clindole thing will only last 2-3 minutes, so it's not going to involve too much cutting of segments. I hear they are going to keep Andy Rooney at the end ... And who knew that Charles Grodin was still on 60 II ....

Washington, D.C. 20036: Lisa, I know a lot of people bewail the state of TV today what with the terrible reality shows prevalent on the air. And I mostly agree with them. But there's one excellent reality TV show that's been unfairly tarred with the same brush as the much-inferior shows: The Amazing Race. God I love that show. Any news on when TAR4 might be on the air?

Lisa de Moraes: CBS is being coy. Will only say spring ... sorry I don't have more info on that one ....

Herndon, Va.: Ms. dM: I'm one of the outsiders -- no "reality" TV at all, unless you count watching about 10 minutes of one of the first "Survivor" episodes. Obviously, I just don't get it. My question: how long can this trend last?

Lisa de Moraes: Last week I said it was a genre that was here to stay. This week, I think it will last about 3 more weeks ...

Rockville, Md.: Hi Lisa:
Survivor: Over it
American Idol: Put up with it
Joe Millionaire: Enjoyed it
I'm a Celebrity: Loved it

Am I nuts? Can't wait for "I'm 2"

Lisa de Moraes: Yes ....... you are ... I was totally with you until the I'm a Celebrity line. It was not well conceived, well shot or well edited. I admit there were some unintentionally hilarious moments and I will never ever look at Bruce Jenner the same as I used to when I only thought of him as a former Olympics star ....

Arlington, Va.: Why exactly does that new marriage show on FOX stink so badly? I fell asleep watching it last night. Who would have believed they could make such a concept so boring.

Lisa de Moraes: It's a really badly planned show. It's too scripted, the people are too well rehearsed in what they are going to say, the set looks like the old Greed set, the host, Sean Valentine, brings nothing to the show. And the only really good moments -- when the family members/friends are grilling the three contestants backstage -- we don't see nearly enough of and they keep editing away when something good starts to happpen.

Charlotte, N.C.: I love him, I love him! I was sure that "America's" vote for the American Idol wild card would be one of the skanky Britney wannabes but no, that was left to the judges. America chose Clay Aiken, the down-to-earth guy with southern charm and a knock-out voice. Say what you want about what reality television says about our taste, I'm feeling pretty good about us right now!

Lisa de Moraes: Isn't Clay a doll? Glad voters chose him. He's easy to root for. You just knew the judges were going to pick the babes when they announced who the wildcard contestants would be. They were nearly all babes. I think the producers were horrified that the voting public was picking so many people who weren't size 0 because they had okay voices -- although I'm still baffled by the choice of Ruben ... But let's face it, American Idol with Kimberly is going to be better than American Idol without Kimberly because ... I forgot why...

Izu: On all the "reality" shows I've seen, most people on them represent a physical ideal that goes just way beyond the norm. My idea for a reality show: everyone must be at least fifteen pounds overweight or have some sort of physical deformity. No six-pack abs or women with bra sizes above a B allowed. Sure, it would tank, but it would be more realistic.

Lisa de Moraes: You obviously aren't watching the latest edition of American Idol. See previous posting .... at least half of the contestants are "overweight" by Hollywood standards and there's barely an ab in sight. Clay, the one we were talking about a minute ago, is a skinny guy, and Ruben is downright obese ....

Washington, D.C.: I have to disagree with those that hated "I'm a Celebrity". I found it to be exactly the mindless entertainment I needed after a long day at work. Nothing can beat Downtown Julie Brown threatening Alana Stewart. And Chris Judd was such a sweetie! I'm am so over J. Lo now, she was an idiot to leave him!

Lisa de Moraes: I think Ben Affleck has more of a future......

The old folks home: So "Fans of old "Saturday Night Live" reruns ...". Ouch! You just had to say "old" and "reruns", didn't you? Dagnabbit! By the way, it would be a better segment if they used Darryl Hammond as Clinton and Norm MacDonald as Dole.

Lisa de Moraes: You betcha! Sorry re the "old" reference but they did original air quite a while ago. I'm hoping SNL brings back the bit now that Clinton and Dole are debuting on 60 ....

Come on Fox: Is Fox trying to kill 24?

I am tired of getting 2-3 weeks of new episodes, then having a mutli week break for some reality series. First Joe Broke (I think) and now American Idol are delaying Fox's best show for weeks.

Three weeks until we see the next episode?!

Lisa de Moraes: Judging by this week's episode of 24 I think the writers have run out of ideas and begged Fox for the break so they could try to figure out another way to get that idiot daughter in peril again -- maybe she could get picked up in a car that becomes part of a slo-mo car chase over a parking infraction -- ....

Chiming in on Cutie Judd: I second that Cris Judd is a sweetheart. In the long run, he will be glad to be rid of that barracuda J.Lo!

Lisa de Moraes: Had he not been married to that "barracuda" J. Lo he would never ever ever have been cast on I'm a Celebrity. All you Judd fans out there owe J. Lo big time .... you stop dissing that poor sweet girl ...

Somewhere, USA: I think that had the judges not already known that Clay had the popular pick (come on, of course they know in advance), one of them would have picked him. The show can't be totally devoid of talent. Yes, there are some good singers on there, but he clearly, CLEARLY is levels above.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, that "I can't read the card" thing last night was totally staged. What a happy coincidence that none of the judges picked the ONLY singer that all of them agreed had done a sensational job the night before ....

Wooster, Ohio: Lisa:

Thanks for the chat.

Was "I'm A Celebrity ..." really shot in the Australian outback? It sure looked like some cheesy set in a studio lot. At least Survivor looks like it's really in the Outback, Amazon, etc.

Lisa de Moraes: Looked like the back lot at Warner Bros. to me .... waaaay to many koalas hanging around if you ask me ....

Clueless: I too am clueless about the appeal of reality TV, on both sides of the Atlantic. When I was living in the UK, the whole country was riveted by Big Brother and I was snoozing in the corner of the couch. I love mindless TV, but I'd rather watch a 90210 rerun any day. With reality TV, I either feel like I'm watching a car wreck or paint dry. What am I missing?

Lisa de Moraes: I think it's a mistake to lump all ready programs together. Some of them are highly amusing. Others are absolutely like watching paint dry ... it's like any other programming genre. Except sports which is all boring .... I only added that so the cavemen would come back and chat -- I really miss them ....

Stupid Survivor contestants: Okay, so I could probably complain about the "young chicks" on Survivor for an hour, but my biggest concern is why oh why didn't they pack on at least a little extra weight before coming on the show?

Heidi's body doesn't look like it will be able to support her breast implants much longer.

Lisa de Moraes: Um ... because they're all wannabe Hollywood starlets and they are using this as a very long audition reel and it's important for all those agents and casting execs to see that they are a size 0 ....

Somewhere, USA: Lisa, I've chosen to look past your shameless smear of our Football pastime. There, I feel better.

Was there talk about reviving the Celebrity Sports Challenge shows that ran 20 years ago? I remember Harry Hamlin competing, and I think what with the sudden surge of this reality dreck, a celebrity competition is lurking around the corner.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm sure someone somewhere is working on one right now ....

Silver Spring, Md.: About Are You Hot? Can you tell me why it airs at 8 p.m. and not 10 p.m? Putting aside how awful the whole thing is. Can we just talk about how wonderful it is for the whole family to sit down and watch as Lorenzo points out some tiny bit of cellulite on someone's butt. I am sure young teenage girls who already have self image and self esteem issues won't take this to heart.

Lisa de Moraes: There is no way to defend this show at any hour....

Lisa, snap out of it!!!!!: "Poor sweet girl" is apparently de Moraes for "selfish, talentless slut."

Lisa de Moraes: Big J. Lo fan, huh?

Midwest Confusion: Why would someone who is successful and attractive as the folks on "Married by America" claim to be subject themselves and their families to the embarrassment of that show. Dont get me wrong -- I watched it last night and was captivated even though I am reading a fantasic true crime book. I just don't understand how these people go back to their careers and friends and not feel like total freaks. My job is not even that interesting and I would never jeopardize my self respect by going on a show like that.

Lisa de Moraes: And the best part about Married by America is that you can watch the show AND read that fantastic true crime book at the very same time and not miss a thing! I suspect -- stop me if you're heard me say this before -- that they're on the show to break into the entertainment industry, not to find a soul mate...

Kingstowne, Va.: How about a new reality TV show based on Franz Kafka's novella "The Hunger Artist"? IN that story, the star is a guy who sits in a cage on display in a public square and starves himself with nothing but water for 40 days (about the maximum humans can go without food before doing serious organ damage). Fox or now even ABC could recruit a bunch of chubsters hell bent on losing weight and getting on teevee and lock 'em up in a house for month with nothing but Evian (an official sponsor!) and and 20 cameras. The person who loses the most weight, or the last person who doesn't bolt the house for the nearest KFC, wins a million bucks. I think it would be sensational! Whaddya think?

Lisa de Moraes: I think David Blaine already did that show for ABC ....

Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: This is really strange. The only television programs that I get wound up about are Survivor, Buffy, and the NFL. All three are getting pounded in this chat.

Is there something wrong with me?

Lisa de Moraes: No, sweetie, just your taste in TV programming .... Actually I think many people, including some CBS suits, feel Survivor is better this time around than it had been the past few editions. It had gotten tired, but the whole male/female thing they've got going on is fun...

Minneapolis, Minn.: I read your column daily, and have been wondering what your background is. Have you always loved TV? Where did you hone your writing skills? How much TV do you watch in a given week? Any other information you would like to share?

Lisa de Moraes: I am an avid TV watcher -- aren't I lucky to have landed the only job I am remotely qualified for? And I'm flattered that you think I have writing skills .... I think I watch about 15 hours of TV a week. I lose track ... More during sweeps and LOTS more when pilots for the next season come out ....enough about me...

Survivor: I heard that the "contestants" didn't know it was going to boy vs. girl until after they were cast, and the girls were not happy about it. Why would it matter? Would they have 'not' gone on the show if they knew that ahead of time? I doubt it.

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, which show are we talking about here?

Alexandria, Va.: I think reality TV shows were better when they were called "documentaries".

Lisa de Moraes: Ah -- a college grad!

Potomac, Md.: Is there no end in sight to these reality shows? Should we even call them "reality" shows since they aren't reality but contrived situations to plague on shallow people's need for attention? -- on an aside: I enjoy your column and support your desire to see more minority figures on TV ... and less Stick People.

Lisa de Moraes: I don't know who came up with the name "reality" shows, but it has become something of a joke, hasn't it....thanks re column comments...

Columbus, Ohio: Bring back Temptation Island!

Lisa de Moraes: Suddenly, Temptation Island seems like a pretty classy show, no? I'm out of time. Thanks for participating ....


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

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