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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, March 27, 2003; Noon ET

Academy Awards, Celine Dion does Vegas, Miss USA triumphs, non-stop cable war coverage, "Survivor's" naked chocolate-craving women, "Bachelor" lands a millionaire, "Are You Hot" finally put out of our misery, "American Family" vanishes and what's that Marine still doing on "American Idol?" So much reality, so little time.

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.

Washington, D.C.: I admit I watch (yes, even enjoy) American Idol. But I hate the tape they show when someone is kicked off; I feel like I'm at their funeral. But I'm also confused. Have all the singers automatically taped one of these for when their time comes, or does that mean they actually know in advance that they are being sent back to the farm and the "live" vote results are, umm, not so live. Thanx.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Re: American Idol, the voting is live and I believe every contestant has taped his or her own obit so that it's ready to roll if he/she gets voted out ... Now I have a question for you: how did you feel about all patriotic singing during last night's episode? Did it bother you as much as it did me? The whole thing creeped me out ...

Baffled in D.C.: Hi Lisa,

I'm an heir to a massive fortune, decent looking, and will probably never have to worry about how I'm going to pay the rent. So what the heck am I doing on a reality TV show?

Lisa de Moraes: "I also have aspirations of becoming a movie star and feel that this is a good way to get there without actually having to work at learning the craft of acting ... and maybe I'll get my photo on the cover of Us magazine and will no longer be under the shadow of my older, more successful brother. And, I get to humiliate 25 fairly good looking single women simultaneously. Plus, it will probably steam some family members which would be fun."... Those are among the reasons that come to mind. Pure guesswork on my part ... frankly, it beats me.

Brussels, Belgium: Was reviewing old chats, and saw that you didn't like "That '70s Show." Wonder why -- I think it is great. Started watching it in reruns on TV here in Europe, and couldn't bear to miss an episode. There are some neat ongoing stories, combined with really funny writing. What's the deal? Certainly "Friends" (which my wife adores) is not nearly as clever or inventive.

Lisa de Moraes: The jokes are too obvious ... not clever writing ... I'm not a big Carsey/Werner fan ...

Survivor Nakedness ...: Is it me, or did Jenna and Heidi NOT have to take off their clothes to get those Oreos? They seemed to enthusiastically volunteer it and I think all poor ol' Jeff wanted was for them to take a pass on immunity.

BTW, I really savored the moment that they kicked off the ornery old coot.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, Roger had to go because he did not appreciate that not all men hate women ... so sad when that happens. And I can't figure the Jenna and Heidi strategy. They said they'd strip for chocolate and then not only stripped, they gave up immunity. I thought stripping was in lieu of giving up immunity. Okay, so maybe they weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, or maybe there was a plan made ahead of time to strip to try to get some of the men to turn and fall. If so, why didn't all of the women strip and stay on the platforms. It was way too deep for me.

Is It Wrong?: Is it wrong that I was cackling wildly after Roger got booted off Survivor last night? He never saw it coming. The defection of half the men and the coalition of women. Hee!

Lisa de Moraes: I thought Alex nailed it when he said that the problem with Roger is that he is loud, he is obnoxious, he's bossy and he wants to be dictator ... yes, we all danced the happy dance when Roger got the boot ...

Julia gone ...: I think Kimberly is happy inside that Julia is gone. I don't buy their lovefest ...

Lisa de Moraes: I don't know. that runny mascara was pretty convincing. Or maybe she was weeping for joy because she dodged a bullet ...

Washington, D.C.: Our country is at war, but why is the marine Joshua Gracin still singing it up on American Idol? I know it's a feel good story for a lot of people, but he's a soldier, not an entertainer. I read that his unit has not been activated to deploy, but this guy should be training instead of going to choir practice.

Lisa de Moraes: I think that as of last night it seems really wrong for him to be there ... too frivolous for a Marine to be up there dancing on stage in a cowboy hat, given the times. Time to ship out, Josh ...

Burke, Va.: Why is Paula Abdul still a judge on American Idol? Whenever a contestant is singing, she's standing up dancing like one of the fans, and she only gives negative feedback after following Randy or Simon's lead.

Lisa de Moraes: She has become a total groupie, I agree. Someone needs to strap her to her chair. This show is far less interesting now that Randy and Paula aren't even attempting to critique the performances ... Simon is the only judge still doing his job ...

Suitland, Md.: What was up with Simon on "American Idol" yesterday, saying that Paula Abdul is his idol?

Lisa de Moraes: How I wish that Host Hairboy had thought to ask Simon what on earth he was talking about. I have no idea what he was talking about but I'm sure had Ryan asked him what the heck that was all about Simon would have turned it into a ding on Paula ...

24: This is the one show I have watched religiously all year. I was looking forward to the grand finale, but started to get suspicious when all the previews touted a "all new episode" and not "the thrilling finale."

What is up? How much longer will this show run? As much as I love it and am glad it's continuing, I'm getting a little peeved with Fox for toying with my expectations.

Lisa de Moraes: Get in line ... a lot of us are annoyed with the way they're dribbling out episodes of 24 ...

12th Floor Metro Center: Am I weird for having watched the Miss USA Pageant on Monday night? I sort of got sucked in after watching those babes on Fear Factor prior to the pageant. That's my latest, new addiction.

Lisa de Moraes: I too am a keen fan of pageants ... love train wreck TV. Miss USA did a whole lot better on NBC this year than it had done on CBS. Of course NBC ran it on a Monday, which is a high HUT night, instead of Friday like last year ...

Capitol Hill: The military employs a lot of people who are athletes and entertainers whose main job is to put a face on the service. Sure, they are still soldiers, sailors and airmen, but they are really helpful in recruiting. Josh Gracin is great publicity for the Marine Corps (join the Mrines. Become a singer!). Seriously, there are Army track teams, Navy bands, Air Force choirs ... not everyone is deployed.

Lisa de Moraes: I agree that he used to be great publicity but somehow this week, given what's going on in Iraq, he seemed really frivolous ... they should've pulled him out and then he would have been a real hero. Fox has said he can come back on the next competition and will automatically be a contestant, so they have nothing to lose by pulling him. I'm not sure that he is still making the Marines look good. I think he may make them look like they're playing faves with him while other Marines are being killed ...

San Francisco, Calif.: ABC is the most unreliable network because it is the quickest to pre-empt programs like "The Family" for more war coverage that is routinely available on CNN, MSNBC, etc. What do you think about this?

Lisa de Moraes: ABC last week preempted the most primtetime programming of any broadcast network for war coverage because ABC is having such a lousy primetime season. Yanking low rated programming -- which includes much of their week -- probably improved their weekly average because almost all of ABC's war coverage in primetime was carried "sustaining" which means without advertising. Programming carried sustaining is not included in a network's weekly average. Without all the low-rated stuff and with war coverage not rated, that meant the Oscar broacast, which scored a hefty average of 33 million viewers, became a larger percentage of ABC's primetime total tally, boosting its weekly average ...

Midwest: I had to turn off American Idol last night when they started singing "God Bless The USA." It's a horrible song that's somehow taken on the status of a second national anthem among many people (did you hear about that guy who was assaulted because he refused to stand up during it?).

I understand trying to balance patriotism with entertainment, but come on. The Burt Bacharach stuff was enough.

Lisa de Moraes: I do not understand trying to balance patriotism with entertainment. I don't see the cast of 24 singing "God Bless the USA" at the end of their broadcast, nor the cast of "Everybody Loves Raymond." I thought it was wildly inappropriate last night and made Josh look even worse for being there ... I did not hear about the guy who was assaulted because he refused to stand up during it ...

Richmond, Va.: I was just happy that Roger didn't realize that 'he' was supposed to strip before jumping in the water, too.

Lisa de Moraes: I, on the other hand, wish the women had said they would strip if the men did ...

Fairfax, Va.: The patriotic singing on Idol last night didn't creep me out -- actually, I thought it was nice that they acknowledged there are more important things going on in the world these days. What DID creep me out was seeing Kimberly crying her eyes out over Julia's demise. Puh-lease.

Lisa de Moraes: She needs to get waterproof mascara ...

Metro Center: What's the word on The Amazing Race 4?

Lisa de Moraes: Probably you won't see it until the summer ...

Washington, D.C. Metro Area: Have you heard anything about a new reality show on ABC called "The Swap?" Something about two families that switch wives for a week? Think it'll be any good?

Lisa de Moraes: In theory it should be fun. what they're really doing is exchanging mothers ...

Steve,Orange County, Calif.: L-Dog, how long after the final episode of Survivor will it be before Heidi is baring her implants for publication?

Lisa de Moraes: Give it three months ...

Rockville, Md: We thought you were too high-brow to watch reality TV. You dis it all the time in your elitest column!
Explain yourself!

Lisa de Moraes: Hello? Who is "we"? I presume they are people who do not actually read my column or they'd know I really enjoy reality TV. You're thinking of the Reality Sucks column which conducts the Reality Sucks chat in one hour, sponsored this week by David E. Kelley and, apparently, Rockville, Md. ...

Los Angeles, Calif.: Do you know anybody who actually watches "Dawson's Creek"?

Lisa de Moraes: I have loads of friends who are fans. I used to be one of them, but I think it's jumped the shark and I'm glad they're going to call it a day ... I take it you're a non fan?

Harrisburg, Pa.: While this is slightly off-topic, what do you think of television viewers seeing the ultimate reality TV show: the war in Iraq? I believe most of us believe the war won't be over until we see Jeff Probst extinguish Saddah Hussein's torch. Author Chris Hedges raises an interesting point: he fears viewers are becoming desensitized towards war. It comes across like a video game. We don't see the horror of war. Do you have thoughts on how television is presenting the war, and how viewers are taking war coverage?

Lisa de Moraes: I agree with concerns that it comes across like a video game which is why I think it is important for TV to show the pictures of the dead soldiers. People need to see how horrible it is, not just the gadgets and the awesome snaps of bombing at night ...

HUT night?: What in the world is that?

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, that's Homes Using Television. Sunday and Monday are very high HUT nights; people like to sit at home and watch TV on those nights. Also Thursday is a pretty high HUT night. But Friday and Saturday are very low, which is why you see NBC, for instance, burning off its feature-film inventory on Saturday nights ...

Jersey Girl: Did you hear that a small town in New Jersey is declaring this Saturday, "Zora Day" in honor of the Joe Millionaire winner ... parade and all?

Lisa de Moraes: Wow, isn't Zora so over?

Washington, D.C.: I forget what "jump the shark" means. Can you explain?

Lisa de Moraes: When you know a show has lost its way, or is losing steam, run out of ideas, getting old, etc. ...

Speaking of David Kelley: Which network bought his new pilot for next season? I'm assuming he didn't go to ABC.

Lisa de Moraes: Kelley is doing his next series for CBS -- which his spokeswoman insists has nothing to do with Kelley giving CBS topper Les Moonves a part in that upcoming episode of "The Practice" which he also named after Moonves: "Les is More."

Charlotte, N.C.: I know they don't provide a breakdown of how many votes each contestant on American Idol gets each week, but if it's even close to the polls out there (USA Today does one each week), why not just declare Clay Aiken the winner and be done with it? The recent poll had him pulling 47 percent (!) of the votes, with the remaining 53 percent divided among the other NINE candidates. Can we say "landslide"?

By the way, your talk-live equivalent over on USA Today only has this to say about our boy Clay: "his ears are even bigger than Martin Landau's." A pox on her! This kid is downright adorable.

Lisa de Moraes: I thought Ruben was going to win ... Clay has nice ears -- I get he can get FM on them ... I love Clay.

Columbia, Md.: Why was Kimberly Caldwell on Idol yesterday crying like crazy when Julie got kicked off the show? I mean, even Julie didn't look that upset! And remember, these are the same two girls that were bickering in the early episodes. Is Kimberly that fake? And how come nobody told her that her mascara was running all over her face when they were all singing at the end?


Lisa de Moraes: Like I said earlier, I think she may have been weeping for joy cause she dodged a bullet ...

Alexandria, Va.: The guy in the cowboy hat is a Marine? Isn't he, um, a little fat to be a Marine? Also, am I the only one who thinks he really sang out of tune on that Garth Brooks song he sang the other night?

Lisa de Moraes: I don't know if he's too fat to be a Marine ... I was impressed, however, that when he and Simon finally had a pushup showdown, Josh seemed to get tuckered out before Simon did. Josh was slowing down and Simon was still going strong ... I think Josh actually has a nice voice ... I just wonder if his presence on this show hasn't turned from good PR into bad PR for the Marines ...

Just Curious: Do you watch any daytime TV? Soaps?

Lisa de Moraes: Unfortunately, it's tough for me to keep up with soaps and still get out a daily column ... I try to watch a couple epiosdes of as many programs as I can each year, including daytime, so that I know what's going on ....

Silver Spring, Md.: Don't you think Simon has been soft-peddaling criticism for the cute girls. The yodeller is awful but he always says she's great. I think he is worrried that someone who doesn't look like a popstar might win.

Lisa de Moraes: You've got that right! Didn't he pick yodel girl as his wildcard contestant. Actually I think her voice is very distinctive and she has good pitch and she could turn into a very interesting singer. Maybe that's why he keeps rooting for her. But he is definitely easier on her than others ...

Alexandria, Va.: I've never been a big survivor fan in the past. I've watched shows from each series, but never really got into it.

However, I'm really enjoying the Amazon series, and try to watch most of the episodes. It just seems more interesting to me than the past series, and I'm not quite sure why (I'm a woman, so it's not the naked chicks).

Lisa de Moraes: I've always thought the casting on this show was terrific. And mixing up the gameplan this time around has made it more interesting ... it was getting a little stale ...

State of Confusion: Ms. de Moraes,

What's with "an all, new (fill in the blank)".

Are there some shows that are partially new like a Law and Order with the same crime and investigation but a different trial ?

Lisa de Moraes: "All new" is like "continue on." Drives me NUTS. Glad to know it bugs others too ...

Confusion, State of: Wait, I'm so confused! I caught that part of American Idol last night, and the cute blond who was bawling gets to stay? And the brunette who was completely composed is leaving?

Lisa de Moraes: Blonde girl: Drama Queen. Brunette Girl: had been in bottom three every week and saw it coming.

24 Fan: Helloooooo! It's called 24 hours! The finale won't come until the 24th episode! Just like last season! Why do you think they named it that?

Lisa de Moraes: I just wish they would air all 24 hours consecutively. Because this show is serialized, it's tough to follow when they skip around and run reruns ... that's all, calm down ...

Jump the Shark ...: OK, you've explained what it means. Now can you explain WHY it means that? Because jumping a shark means certain death? Is there a Jerry Tarkanian reference here? What gives?

Lisa de Moraes: I have absolutely no idea, but it's a very efficient expression so I embrace it ... I also don't know why a restaurant says it has 86-ed something on the menu when it's no longer available ...

Rockville, Md.: Lisa,

Was it the gin talking or did I hear Ryan Seacrest say that there was going to be an American Idol, Jr.?

I agree, Randy and Paula aren't doing their jobs. Also agree that Josh's presence didn't seem right, notwithstanding the row of Marines that showed up in the audience.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, Fox will debut an American Idol junior version in early June. June 3 I think but don't hold me to that. NBC tried to slap on its own kiddie clone of Idol the other day, but it got zapped for war coverage ...

Hmmm: Does it.....also.....bug you......when people....who are supposedly journalists.....(read: talented writers).......put.......... dots......after....every......darn...... sentence they write.....................?

Lisa de Moraes: Just hit the exit button, sweetie ...

Yodel Girl?: That would be which one? (Hey, we're not all up to date on nicknames!)

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, I meant Carmen. I think she was seen yodeling in some backstage clip the other day. She's awesome at it ...

Washington, D.C.: Not reality TV, but -- I heard this is the last season for 'Alias' and 'Ed' (I think 'Ed' is one the absolute BEST shows on network TV these days). What gives?

Lisa de Moraes: Alias has already been picked up for next season. Ed isn't doing well, but it has a very upscale audience, or something, which is why NBC is trying to salvage the show ...

Google: Is it that hard for people to use me? "Jump the shark" is from a Happy Days episode. This info is avaiable, by some amazing coincidence, on jumptheshark.com

Lisa de Moraes: There you go. Thank you Google!

Arlington, Va.: Lisa -

You left out the best part of "jump the shark" .... Tell how it came about.


Lisa de Moraes: Hahahah

I know! I know!: The phrase "Jump the Shark" is derived from the "Happy Days" episode when Fonzie jumps over a shark on water skis. This is (according to critics) when the show pretty much threw in the towel.

Lisa de Moraes: More info ...

Boston, Mass.: Hey Lisa,

Do you watch CSI? I love it -- particularly the original -- when are we going to get new ones on Thursdays again?

Lisa de Moraes: When basketball is finally, thankfully, over ...

Camp Springs, Md.: During the Oscars they usually show those who have passed. I noticed this year they didn't show Lynn Thigpen of the show The District. She also appeared in films. Why didn't they show her?

Lisa de Moraes: There were several people I was surprised that they did not show ...

Yay!!!: I just read that NBC is cancelling "Just Shoot Me." Hopefully, they'll follow suit and do the same with that awful Good Morning Miami show. Suzanne Pleshette deserves way better.

Lisa de Moraes: Hoping, hoping ...

Somewhere, USA: Kind of sad that more Americans could list the remaining contestants on "Survivor" or "American Idol" than could even find Iraq on a map, much less say anything about its history, culture or politics, though we're at war to change it (Iraq not, alas "Survivor" or "AI"). Nothing new about that, I guess.

Lisa de Moraes: Did you see the really frightening first episode of, I think, "All American Girl" in which some of the wannabe contestants were unable to answer questions like "how many states are there in the United States."

Darnestown, Md.: Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. A few weeks ago you declared war on the NFL. Today it's the NCAA tournament. On a chat devoted to reality TV, which is Gaelic for dreck.

I love you, but you're perpetuating the stereotype ...

Lisa de Moraes: I love you too, but I've never been able to get that interested in sports on TV ... it's pots of fun to watch in person ... I just don't get the whole TV thing ... TV programming, on the other hand, is like watching paint dry in person, at tapings.

Shark Jumping: Refers to the Happy Days episode where Fonzie does a water ski jump over a shark. Apparently, that was the sign that Happy Days had gone from "good" to "over."

Lisa de Moraes: Okay, okay. Personally, I thought Happy Days had jumped the shark long before the jump the shark episode ...

86: Rumor has it that the phrase "86 it" is based on the address of an old speakeasy in Greenwich Village, called Chumley's. There's a front door to the street and a back door to a hidden courtyard, which exits on another side of the block. When cops showed up during prohibition, someone at the front would yell, "86 it!" and the drinkers would rush out the back and onto another side of the block.

That's what I've heard.

Lisa de Moraes: I am learning SO much doing this chat! Now can someone explain to me why David Kelly series start off so great and then take a dive after about 2.5 seasons?

Arlington, Va.: Lisa, even more fun that watching reality programs is watching the strange changes in personnel and programs at either CNN or ABC. Connie Chung getting dumped or how ABC took a program that won its time period, The Practice, and changed its night so it would get creamed by reality shows. Your David Kelley story this morning is perfect turnabout is fair play.

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks, I think. I've run out of time. Thanks for participating!

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