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The TV Column
TV Week
Lisa's Reality TV Archives
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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, March 20, 2003; Noon ET

Has "American Idol's" Simon Cowell become irrelevant? Can an actual family competing on "The Family" be a stereotype, as one Italian American group has suggested? How much clothing will the women of "Survivor" take off? Is there any body part left to eat on "Fear Factor?" And what were the suits at ABC smoking when they decided it would be a great idea to have Lorenzo Lamas judge hotness?

Join Washington Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes every Thursday at Noon ET to discuss the latest on Reality TV -- and those other shows too.

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.


Bethesda, Md.: Okay, will we ever know which player from The Bachelor is now engaged? They certainly hinted that it was Brooke. Will we ever see the last 15 minutes?

Lisa de Moraes: I have a better ABC programming question -- where in the world was Peter Jennings last night when the "war" broke out -- or not, depending upon who you talk to...to whom you talked? I've got call in to ABC to find out whether we will ever see the last 15 minutes of that "Bachelor" "where are they know episode." I suspect they'll tell me you don't get to see it until we've plugged Saddam Hussein ... And tonight you can just forget about seeing the finale episode of "Are You Hot" -- all that time invested and we will never know who is the hottest man and woman in America. What a travesty. Then there's Miss USA on Monday. If the pagent people hold their little pageant, but there's no broadcast network there to show it to the millions of pagentistas around the country, will the lucky girl actually have been crowned Miss USA? ... so many questions.


MTV: Lisa, what was up with MTV going into "news" mode yesterday and preempting new episodes of Sorority Life and Fraternity Life?

Also, any word on when (if) they'll show the ending of "The Bachelor: Where are They Now?", which ABC cut away from yesterday to go cover some silly little skirmish in the Middle East. We were just about to see Trista pick out her wedding dress and see Brooke and her new man.

Lisa de Moraes: The brain trust -- I almost wrote bran trust, which seems just as good -- at Viacom, which owns CBS and MTV, among other networks, has decided that the MTV crowd is dying to get MTV-style news of the "war" because they don't know for CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, FNC or MNSBC. Viacom also claims that young viewers get most of their news from MTV -- and VH1's Behind the Music. So on occasion they're taking CBS News people, put them in middy tops, toussled their hair, applied extra lip gloss and voila! -- MTV correspondent! Yes, MTV also has its very own deeply embedded correspondents ....


Morristown, N.J.: I'm a big Bonnie Hunt fan and I thought she was very good substituting for Letterman last night. Her show seems to getting fair ratings and was renewed for another year. Is she regarded well at ABC and what are the chances of her show catching on in the future?

Lisa de Moraes: Wow -- I didn't know that Bonnie Hunt had her own correspondent embedded in Morristown, N.J. This was is much bigger than I thought! ABC picked up Hunt's show for another season prematurely. It is not doing very well, though for ABC even a couple more viewers in a timeslot may be a 100 percent improvement over their performance in the slot last year. I think Bonnie Hunt has had more than her share of opportunities to show that she can do a successful sitcom for broadcast TV-- twice at CBS and now at ABC ... She has not succeeded -- next! I agree that she is very good hosting a late night show...


Somewhere, USA: Why does Simon (from "American Idol") continue to praise Carmen? For example, on Tuesday's show, both Paula and Randy had not so great things to say about her, but Simon still said she was great. Can he not admit he made a mistake with his wildcard pick?

I mean, she totally missed some of her notes while singing on Tuesday, but Simon just doesn't seem to catch it. But if anyone else had made those mistakes, he would have criticized them right away!

Lisa de Moraes: Simon wants her to stay because he wants to keep the babette quotient high on this show so that guys will watch. How do you think Kimberly has lasted? No coincidence that these two were judges' wildcard picks. Viewers picked a bunch of people with good voices but who lacked the "package" as I think Simon has put it. They were not lookers ... Simon thinks that if she sings her praises, he might convince some viewing voters. Apparently he was right.


Washington, D.C.: So Monica Lewinsky will have her own show.

You know what? GOOD FOR HER! No matter what she does, she'll have an "infamous" stamp on her, so she might as well have some fun with her career. I wish her good luck.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you. More interesting, I think this hire demonstrates that the networks are worried about recent reality TV numbers which suck. They no longer believe that the concept is enough, so they need a "celebrity" host. Fox struck big numbers with "Joe Millionaire" which had no big name to speak of. It made a "star" out of Evan Marriott" for at least a few weeks. But "Married by America" in the same timeslot is tanking and "Mr. Personality" is the next ag-bat in the slot. Some people will no doubt tune in just to see La Lewinsky.


Dulles, Va: I know Reality TV is hardly the place for civil rights statements, but do you think ABC will do a Bachelor or Bachelorette where the "lead character" is African-American? All we've seen so far is the lilliest of white people be the lead (Aaron Beurge couldn't have been more white) and a token or two African-American "contestants". Do you see any change in the future?

Lisa de Moraes: Unfortunately no. Another network was casting for its version of Joe Millionaire/The Bachelor in our market, among many others, recently and the casting call said that they were interested in finding a "caucasian" guy, or some wording to that effect, while wanna-be women contestants on this show did not have to be white ....


Montana: Survivor was also interrupted -- grr. I did, however, hop on the CBS site to find out who got booted. Shawna -- ah, it would have been sweet to see it!

Lisa de Moraes: I suspect that CBS will rerun it sometime before next week for those markets in which it got interrupted ...


Rapidly losing interest in "Survivor": The series last Summer didn't hold my interest, and this one seems even worse.

I'm tired of looking at half-naked women on the TV (yeh, I'm old-fashioned). I doubt I'll watch it any more.

I find it difficult to sympathize with their "problems." After all, they applied to be on the show, they were not drafted.

Having the ratings for this series been dropping or holding steady?

Lisa de Moraes: Ratings on "Survivor" are great. Sorry. Last week it was the third most watched program, behind only CSI and the Tuesday edition of "American Idol." Even sorrier to hear you are tied of looking at half naked women on the TV. You must not watch much TV anymore...and finally, yes I agree with you totally re whining -- on all these reality shows the whining factor is very high, like someone forced them to go on this show. It's time for them all to drink a big glass of Shaddup ...


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Lisa. When will America realize that Carmen Rasmussen cannot sing?! It's painful listening each week on American Idol. Also, last night, Corey definitely should have gotten the boot over Charles (even though Corey is way cuter).

Lisa de Moraes: Corey -- Charles. I would have been thrilled either way. Both dreadful performances ... Charles was actually really cute when he wasn't wearing those baby sets (matching bonnet and top)which, unfortunately, was hardly ever ...


Metro Center: There are so many rumors circulating these days! Help us keep these constestants straight, please. Are Zola and Evan still together? And is Trista really going to marry Ryan? I saw a clip of her last night wearing this ugly wedding dress with a green sash . . .

Lisa de Moraes: E and Z were never, ever, ever together ... He's pretty much said in his own illiterate, grunty sort of way that he only picked her because he felt it made the best Grimms Fairytale Ending ... I doubt that Ryan will be able to escape Trista's clutches. She appears to badly want that televised wedding ... green sashes should never be worn anywhere except St. Patrick's Day parades ...


Annandale, Va.: Does Fox have any explanation as to why the rules for Married by America keep changing?

Lisa de Moraes: That one's easy. It's because the ratings keep slipping ....


Arlington, Va.: Can we predict that Alex will be the next survivor voted out of Jabaru, so he and Shawna can be reunited once more, post-Amazon grime clean-up?

VERY convenient that the war didn't start until after Survivor was over -- though, wouldn't you agree that war makes for the best round-the-clock reality TV of all?!

Lisa de Moraes: More important, American Idol was over too, at least on the East Coast ... Now they just have to wrap it up before Oscar night ... I'm hoping Alex is the next off on Survivor, but for other reasons, having to do with my lack of ability to tolerate him any longer ...


Arlington, Va.: How will reality TV survive if their programs which require viewer voting get interrupted by war coverage?

Lisa de Moraes: I suspect American Idol, for instance, will stop telling us how many votes each broadcast scored .... If an episode is cancelled altogether -- seen on no coasts --they will broadcast it at a later date, I presume...But I don't think the broadcast networks expect they'll be on 24/7 "war" coverage for more than three days, unless something really huge happens, and even then they may interrupt primetime for an hour to do an update ...


Suitland, Md.: How do we know if American Idol is really counting up votes? For all we know, they could be making up who gets the lowest votes!

Lisa de Moraes: Fox -- making it up? I'm SHOCKED!


The problem with War as Reality TV: Not enough sexual tension. And no convienient way to let the viewers decide the outcome.

Lisa de Moraes: I don't know -- CNN's Bill Hemmer, aka Rick Squarejaw -- is pretty hot...


12th Floor Metro Center: I, too, like Bonnie Hunt. But her show just ain't funny. Same with the show after that, Life is Perfect. Good concept, nice cast, but the writing just isn't there.

Lisa de Moraes: Cast of "Less than Perfect" is sensational, especially the fabulous and lovely Eric Roberts ... I think the writing on "Less than Perfect" is far better than on Bonnie Hunt's -- oh wait, she just improvs -- and that if "Less" was on another network, say NBC on Thursday, it would be doing far better...but then where would NBC put its brilliant comedy hit "Good Morning Miami."


Re: Survivor and the Bachelor: Let me see if I have this right, some chatters are upset that the networks cut into insipid reality shows with war coverage. Is that right? Amazing.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I can't stand reality shows (although I did watch the last episode of Joe Millionare and have seen two episodes of American Idol ... thankfully my Beatles CDs were nearby for the emergency detox).

Lisa de Moraes: I know. All 500 channels should have covered that shot of the mosque in Baghdad with nothing going on around it while sirens blared ... And it's always a good idea to watch the first episode of "Joe Millionaire" before watching the last one, so that you know what is going on and have some sense of who the players are. It's like reading a book, or watching a movie, or singing a song, or saying the pledge of allegiance ... really, it's much better to start at the begining.


Washington, D.C.: You think Peter Jennings got any flak from ABC for not getting to his anchor chair until 10 o'clock, almost half an hour later than his counterparts?

Lisa de Moraes: I loved Tom Shales' line: "perhaps he was embroiled in an importantly fashionable dinner party." Yes, I'm sure they got flak for it ... they're not off to a good start.


Somewhere, USA: Who's your pick for winner of American Idol? I think it'll be between Clay, Ruben, Trenyce and Kimberly Locke.

Lisa de Moraes: Lose Kimberly -- who has a singing range of three notes -- three fabulous notes sung from a gorgeous face sitting atop a maginificent body, but three notes nonetheless. The other three are all going to be signed by Simon's company, I'll bet, regardless of which is the winner....One of those three will win, I'm betting...


Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

Are you single? How about I pick you around 8? There's a good chance I'll stand you up, what with SmackDown! on tonight and all, but something tells me that we'd really hit it off together.

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, tiger. "Smackdown" is scripted. You ought to know that ... and I don't do scripted...


CNN'scoverage ... : Sanjay Gupta is mighty fine too ...

Lisa de Moraes: Sanjay was looking pretty frightened this ayem....


Washington, D.C.: I want to see the pre-empted episode of Mr Sterling. I don't want them to cancel it!

Am I the only one (aside from my husband) who feels this way?

Lisa de Moraes: Yup, pretty much ... sorry.


Annapolis, Md.: I think you're confusing Kimberly Locke with Kimberly Caldwell. I totally agree with you if you mean the latter.

Lisa de Moraes: My bad ... I meant Caldwell, of course. Kimberley Locke has as nice voice but she HAS to find something else to sing besides Over the Rainbow. She tanked when they made her pick a Motown song and this week, she goes and picks the Over the Rainbow equivalent from the movie Wiz ... She's got an Over the Rainbow fixation and it's going to sink her ....


Washington, D.C. Do you think interest in some of these programs will wane due to the war? Or, is it just what we need for a diversion in these troubled times?

Also, wasn't it nice of Bush to postpone his speech until after American Idol? I understand he was holed up in the residence "having dinner" but I'll bet he was busy dialing to vote for Ruben Stoddard.

Lisa de Moraes: Who does he think he's kidding. He was watching American Idol. Interest in reality programs has already waned, except a handful, including Survivor, Fear Factor, Idol -- I think I'm missing one. Once again the broadcast networks have taken a good thing and overbred it until the gene pool has been seriously damaged ... There was a definite lack of appetite for reality TV post-Sept. 11, but I'm not sure an overseas war is the same thing, unless, of course, there is a retaliatory terrorist attack here in the U.S. ...


Toronto, Canada: This is for the hater of reality shows. It's possible -- even probable -- that most chatters had their tongues planted firmly in cheek when they made the comments about pre-empting reality shows for war coverage. I guess along with reality shows, you aren't that fond of comedies, either.

Lisa de Moraes: Thank you ...


Washington, D.C.: Since the red carpet is out and Barbara Walter's special has been delayed, why doesn't ABC just start the Oscars at 7 so we can all get to bed by 11? Is 4 o'clock in the afternoon too early for Hollywood?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, all that glamour takes hours and hours to put together ... having been to the Oscars, I can tell you that it's hard to get into the mood at 4 p.m. ...


Monica: "As Ms. Lewinsky can attest, personality is mostly from the waist down." The women in my office thought that was truly a cheap shot.

Lisa de Moraes: and?...


Finding It Hard To Work, Va.: I love reality TV, but I also love "faux reality TV" like the British mockumentary 'The Office'. Have you seen this show, and do you know when/if BBC-America will be airing the second season? Your chats ROCK!

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks re: rocking. And I am a HUGE fan of The Office. It is brilliant. I'm sorry to say that a U.S. studio has bought the right to re-develop it as a sitcom for this country; it will undoubtedly end up on NBC, with the hideously untalented David Spade in the lead role ...


Lisa de Moraes: I have run out of time ... thanks ...


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