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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, April 3, 2003; Noon ET

Should Fox have booted "American Idol" contestant Corey Clark for failing to disclose his arrest? Did Josh get more votes than Carmen and Trenyce because he's a Marine? Should either dysfunctional couple on "Married by America" be allowed to wed? Is it fair for Barbara Walters to ask Julianne Moore to kiss her while the camera is rolling?

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.

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

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.

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.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. For those of you who participated last week, we're going to start this morning's chat with a pop quiz.

The expression "Jump the Shark" refers to:

a) The episode of "Gilligan's Island" in which the professor devises a machine out of palm fronds that enables Gilligan to catapult himself over shark that is trolling the lagoon, in order to reach the cocoanuts.
b) An episode of "Vega$" in which Dan Tanna races his vintage red T-bird up a ramp and gets it airborne so as to jump over a mobster who is trying to take over the Desert
c) An episode of "Happy Days" in which Fonzie dons water skis and flies over shark.

Columbia, Md.: Do you think Josh sang bad on purpose on "American Idol" Tuesday night? I'm sure he knows that he's getting a lot of criticism for still being on the show while his fellow troops are fighting in Iraq. Maybe he wants to be the next one kicked off?

And, don't you think it's ironic that he sang "Celebrate Good Times?"


Lisa de Moraes: Very not smart for the marine to have picked "Celebrate" to sing when some of his colleagues are getting shot up in Iraq. I don't think he sang poorly on purpose. I think he just sings poorly...

Rockville, Md.: Watched "The Pitts." I won't worry about cliches: it's the pits. Lordy, that was one horrible show. Bad writing, bad acting, bad directing. There's just no excuse for crap like this. Thank you.

Lisa de Moraes: Another example why reality TV is hanging in....

San Francisco, Calif.: Will fans of ABC's "The Family" get to see the last few episodes on ABC or cable or some other way? If not, then ABC cheated the millions of people in its audience who want to see who won that contest.

Lisa de Moraes: ABC says it's going to relaunch "The Family" in the summer. I hope they do; I really miss George Hamilton.....

The end in sight for reality TV?: Remember how TV news in the 1990s were dominated by one trashy tabloid story after another? Fisher/Buttafuoco, the Menendez brothers, JonBenet Ramsey, Kerrigan/Harding, OJ? That parade came to an end with the Lewinsky revelations and the Clinton impeachment. It was like TV felt nothing could top that story, or else viewers had had enough, or both.

Do you see the same thing happening with "reality" TV, as in the Iraq war being the ultimate expression of the form? The "embedded journalist" reports do seem like true reality TV, because these people could die at any moment.

Lisa de Moraes: The trashy tabloid stories didn't just dominate the news, they dominated the TV movie genre. They killed the TV movie genre -- them and Halmi. I do not think reality TV will go away. I think it will stop being such a craze at some point. That may already be happening. A lot of the newer reality stuff isn't catching hold...

Washington, D.C.: Wow, that was cruel on American Idol the way they made Trenyce and Carmen sweat til the very end, only to then tell them they will both stay for another week!

But since they are combining votes from this week's and next week's show, don't you think it will be hard for Trenyce and Carmen to get out of the rut they are already in? They'll have to do extra good next week.

Lisa de Moraes: I assume that anyone who ever voted for Trenyce or Carmen will get out their phones and vote to save these two poor women. It was really mean what they were put through -- I thoroughly enjoyed it...

Fairfax, Va.: Lisa,

Why in the World did Kimberly Caldwell not make the bottom three?! She cannot sing, she only screams her songs in one note. She's absolutely horrible to listen to. I guess I am the only one who thinks this!

Lisa de Moraes: Um...because guys think she's totally hot? And wow, she's dating the great, great, great, great great grandchild of a long dead president...cool!

Maybe I'm Just Jaded...: But....

Come on! Fox didn't know that Corey Clark had a rap sheet? I'll bet they secretly WANT these sordid secrets to surface! No such thing as bad publicity, after all. Do you agree on some level?

Lisa de Moraes: I used to, but I'm no longer of that camp. This one was a big embarrassment to them. They do need to sack whatever firm they have vetting their contestants. Smoking Gun told me it took them only 45 minutes to find the case....

Washington, D.C.: When does the position for Reality TV Contestant Screener open up at FOX, or are they already accepting applications? Prediction: at least one more Idol contestant gets the morality boot.

Lisa de Moraes: The fact that Trenyce nearly got booted, and may still, I think had something to do with the story that broke about her "ordeal," as Paula kept calling it. If she's voted out next week, she will have gotten the "morality boot" as you put say. Who knew "American Idol" fans were so stuffy?

Washington, D.C.: Gotta be C. Fonzie then turned into a teacher and wasn't the rebel anymore!

Lisa de Moraes: Hooray!

24/7 CNN: Do you think CNN should have two channels now, one for only war and one with other news?

And your boy Bill Hemmer said "my bad" today when he made a mistake, quite funny.

Lisa de Moraes: Rick Squarejaw? I love him....

Owings Mills, Md.: Just when I thought Fox couldn't stoop lower for ratings, they out-Joe M$ themselves. Last night's "conclusion" to "American Idol" was pretty manipulative. Though I guess it was predictable, given that Corey was booted off this week and Fox always has their eyes on when this "A.I." season will end -- at the culmination of May sweeps.

Also, will we ever see Ruben in an outfit other than his 205 muu-muu?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, Fox is determined that this show will wrap on the final night of the May sweep, which is also the final night of the season. They weren't going to let Corey's arrest mess that up. And re Ruben, I don't get why Simon keeps dinging Clay for singing same way each week, while Ruben does same and he says Ruben should win. Both have really nice voices and both look and sing the same way each week. I guess Simon thinks Clay belongs on Broadway but Ruben he can make it...The muu-muu has got to go. Don't tell me The Gap, or whatever store it is they did the product placement with recently, couldn't find him another shirt to wear. I'm sick of the 205!

Idol : How about Fox, giving those girls a pass last night and not booting one since they had thrown Corey off already this weekend. Now they can air all the commercials they sold Coke and Ford, by having all the planned shows.

Lisa de Moraes: Bingo!

Niles, Mich.: Is the "gay-baiting" between Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest really perceived as funny by viewers or is that part of the viciousness of the AMERICAN IDOL "concept"? More discussion of actual musical factors to affirm the contestants would be appreciated by those of us who sing and who enjoy the contestants' best efforts more than the repartee between the judges and "host".

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you on that. The joke got old in about five minutes...

Washington, D.C.: My new theory: Josh wins. Who's going to vote against a Marine now?

Lisa de Moraes: I get the impression that Simon is real worried that that is just what's going to happen. If it gets down to marine boy and one other contestant, will voters have the nerve to vote against the marine? I don't think Simon has any interest in trying to package a country singer....

Washington, D.C.: What's up with Simon? He just gets meaner and nastier as the weeks go by. Doesn't he produce the show, too? So what's he got to complain about?

Lisa de Moraes: I think he's really constipated.....

Simon Sayz: Lisa, Lisa,

Don't you think that Simon is trying to force Kimberly on us. He's being nice to her and she's CLEARLY awful. Whut's up with dat?

Lisa de Moraes: Kimberly is dreadful, but she survives week after week. I blame horny men who have cell phones and know how to use them....I thought Simon liked Carmen, aka Yodel Girl, the best....

Bethesda, Md.: Finally NYPD Blue returns this Tuesday. I can't wait to see who gets to say "bullsh_t" this week. Seriously , whose crusade is this to make sure they slip it in every week?

Lisa de Moraes: It's their trademark, kind of like how Hitchcock did a cameo in his flicks....you get obsessed with waiting to see where it'll pop up...

Washington, D.C.: Hi, Lisa -
Your responses to questions often make me laugh out loud -- love the way you write!
What's your take on Wanda at Large? I know it has done well rating-wise and I think it's really good. Definitely a character we have not seen before.

Lisa de Moraes: She's much funnier than her show -- she killed at the press tour. Too bad they're trying to stuff her into the same old sitcom formula. That said, it's not a terrible show -- certainly better than a lot of sitcoms that have debuted this season.

Somewhere, USA: From the look on Simon's face, they evidently sprang that decision not to boot a contestant on everybody, including the judges. He looked shocked. As for Josh, I don't think he wants to be there anymore, and can't figure how to get off. Fox wants to keep their Marine.

Lisa de Moraes: I suspect everyone wants marine boy gone -- marines, Josh, Simon, producers, network.....but no one wants to make the first move. Don't forget, if he leaves now without being voted out, the producers are stuck having him back on the next edition as a finalist...

Can't Spare A Square, Va: Best Chat Host at The Post --

You mentioned in a previous chat that the great BBC show 'The Office' is going to be developed by NBC. I know the chances of this working are are bad as the lyrics to David Brent's opus "Freeway Love", but do think it COULD work if they kept the mockumentary format and casted Bob Odenkirk as the lead?

Lisa de Moraes: I'll take anyone in the lead instead of David Spade. And it's Universal that's developing -- my guess was for NBC, just because it seems like a very NBC show.

Washington, D.C.: Lisa, not really a reality question, but I wondered if you had a scoop on the switch of "Ed" from Wednesday to Friday? Is that a move to "save" it (which seems backward because the Friday night slots are terrible). I hope it doesn't mean that NBC is pulling the plug on it, or preparing to. What a shame if a smart and original dramedy were removed in order to find space for another dumbed-down pick-a-date or gross-out reality show.

Lisa de Moraes: NBC moved "Ed" from Wednesday because it was getting pulverized there. Of course it did worse on Friday, but NBC's expectations are much lower on Friday...I know it sounds loopy, but that's the thinking..

Re: Singing Marines: I beg to differ. While I agree that the song choice was poor, I think Josh is one of the stronger singers in the contest. He even admitted when Randy asked him, that he was sick that night.

Lisa de Moraes: Baby had a cold?....Kelly Clarkson with laryngitis sounded better than Josh last Tuesday. It was, to quote Simon, dreadful...

Wanda Rocks!: Hopefully she gets the ratings to keep her on the air long enough to really cut loose. She is a lot funnier on her football gigs than her writers let her be on the show.

Lisa de Moraes: I agree...Hope show is successful enough for her to get a swelled head and start throwing her weight around and sack the writers. Like Roseanne...

WDC 20007: You don't like David Spade? First football, then Buffy, and now Just Shoot Me. I can't win around here -- he's hilarious.

Is JSM toast? It hasn't been on in ages.

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, JSM is pretty toasty. They're bringing it back, but I think just to shoot it and put it out of my misery...

Ruben's clothes: The Gap couldn't get him a shirt -- they don't carry larger sizes.

Lisa de Moraes: Maybe the Trading Spaces guys could make him a shirt out of old patio awning....

Philadelphia, Pa.: So, I'll never get back that hour of my life spent waiting for someone NOT to get kicked off "American Idol." I'm embarrassed by how mad it made me. I had to turn on "The Bachelor" afterward to see someone get kicked off something!

Lisa de Moraes: Good for you! And you got to see not one but 10 women whacked...bet that helped a lot.

Washington, D.C.: Saying "Wanda at Large" is better than what we've seen in other sitcoms -- isn't that the equivalent of "damning with faint praise". I don't find the show a bit funny. Are there any sitcoms that debuted this season that will return next year AND that are truly funny (that lets out Bonnie Hunt's show)?

Lisa de Moraes: No. Sorry, but no.

Here on earth, USA: Wanda at large sucks! There are so many bad sitcoms on that when a non-awful one shows up, people think it's good.

Lisa de Moraes: I know. We're all so abused -- it's true.

Forest Glen, Md.: Is "24" coming back next year?

Sorry to not make this a reality question, but I'm in love with this show!

Lisa de Moraes: You can talk about any show you want here. Yes, 24 will be back next year. It's getting big numbers now, following AI....

Returning Sitcoms: How about "Less than Perfect"?

Lisa de Moraes: I will watch anything with Eric Roberts in it....

Arlington, Va.: Who do you think will win Survivor?

Lisa de Moraes: I was rooting for Deena..She's so deliciously evil -- very Richard Hatch.

Beltsville, Md.: Reality TV hasn't been good since Rich Hatch.

Lisa de Moraes: See previous answer...

JTS Moment on 'Idol': If it didn't have one before, no one going home was it. All of a sudden, it was the 2000 Presidential election all over again, votes don't count!

Lisa de Moraes: I was thinking the same thing as I watched -- Deja Florida

Gaithersburg, Md.: Last night's American Idol -- I assume they opted not to vote off a contestant due to Corey's early departure as a way to keep the show on longer. But ... really cheesy show. And was Simon actually trying to be nice by not naming Rickey at the end of the show as the person who belonged in that bottom three? Not that I disagree with him, but he was very subdued last night.

Lisa de Moraes: He was not speaking of Rickey. He was talking about Josh. Remember he said that Josh's performance was so bad if he had sung that way early on he would not have even made the initial cut. Not that Simon had anything good to say about Rickey's performance, but I think it's clear he was talking about Josh...

Charlotte, N.C.: Okay, I'm not completely naive. Kimberly gets to stay on American Idol because she's eye candy, Josh gets to stay because he's a Marine, Carmen gets to stay because, well, because she's so bland no one pays much attention. So I understand the judges tweaking comments to better their chances if need be, so that the audience stays. But Clay? Everything you read everywhere says America loves this kid, but Simon can't wait to, to use your word, ding him. People will actually tune in for Clay, he's such a charmer. So why is Simon trying to hurt his chances?

Lisa de Moraes: I think Simon is worried he might win and he doesn't think the guy can be packaged as a pop star. Remember he's stuck trying to market the winner. When someone gives a good performance and Simon savages him or her, I assume Simon's really saying that he doesn't want to sign that contestant to a contract for reasons other than his or her voice, and he's trying to influence voters in that direction. Plus, Simon has been a real pain in the neck this edition...whine, whine, whine....

Chicago, Ill.: Eric Roberts?!?

I used to trust your judgment, and live for the day when you would call me Pookie. Now I think that there is nothing for me to believe in anymore.

Lisa de Moraes: Hey, he's much more talented than his sister. Oh god -- that's pathetic! I give up, I just like looking at him...

Miami Beach, Fla.: Why is everyone so bi_ _ _ y about the fact that Josh is a Marine? It's not like he's shirking any duty here; he's NOT EVEN DEPLOYED.

Lisa de Moraes: Wow, did you put in the _ _ _ or did the producer? Can't we say bitchy here? What do they call a female dog during the veterinarian chats -- b_ _ _ _?

Washington, D.C.: FWIW, Simon declared Clay the "one to beat" a few weeks ago. I don't think he has it out for him.

Lisa de Moraes: I remember that with confusion. Seems that as soon as Simon said that,he started to turn on the poor kid.

Washington, D.C.: Lisa,

Do you think Shepard Smith is HOT in a Vulcan kinda way?

Lisa de Moraes: The Eyes! --- aaargh -- They're burning a hole in my brain!!

Jumping the Shark: Did you get a chance to peruse this Web site? A great time waster when you're not wasting time watching reality TV. But then again that's your job.

Lisa de Moraes: I know. I love my job. Aren't I lucky?

David E. Kelley slams reality TV: In case you missed this week's "Boston Public," the two main plot lines were thus:

1. Hot blonde lawyer turned teacher returns to courtroom to deliver scathing tirade against reality television, which coarsens our culture and exploits human frailties all for the voyeuristic pleasure of a leering, drooling America in decline.

2. Vern "Mini-Me" Troyer is stuffed into a locker and does a bit of shin kicking when removed by the authorities.

Question: Is Kelley that much of a disgusting, sleazy, hypocritical, self-righteous scumbag? Or was showing that "scripted drama" can be every bit as degrading as "reality TV" part of the joke?

Lisa de Moraes: Isn't it interesting that Kelley spends so much time slamming reality TV while he's trying to goose the ratings on "The Practice" with a guest starring arc by Tamyra, who was the hottest thing on the first edition of "American Idol" which is -- oh, that's right -- a reality show!

Washington, D.C.: So, how soon could you tell that they were kicking NOBODY off American Idol last night? For me, it was when they started the Bottom Three proceedings with a half-hour left in the show. Then, when the last two sang, I knew that was it.

I commend FOX for milking this for what it is worth, but the elimination show does NOT need to be an hour long.

Lisa de Moraes: And a NON-elimination show CERTAINLY shouldn't be an hour long...

Minneapolis, Minn.: I'm with you on Eric Roberts.

Didn't do much for me when he was younger -- a little too scary.

But now, WHOA!

Lisa de Moraes: Thank goodness. I'm not insane -- or at least I'm not insane alone...bless you.

Silver Spring, Md.: Do you think Trenyce's shoplifting and bad mug shot had anything to do with her making the bottom 3?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I'm sorry to say I do. Like I said,who knew that "American Idol" fans could be so stuffy and uptight...not us, of course. The other ones...

Re: Clay: If the demographics for American Idol are the same as the ones Simon would be marketing to with the winner, how could he not love Clay? The kid gets most of the votes on the on-line polls, leaving the remaining contestants to split the rest among them. What would be so hard about marketing someone the audience is so clearly charmed by? Is the demographic for American Idol so different than what I assume?

Lisa de Moraes: I didn't say I get it. I too am stumbling in the dark trying to find an explanation for Simon's Really Strange Behavior.

Greenbelt, Md.: You mentioned in last week's chat that Sunday, Monday and Thursday were the nights with the highest number of viewers. If one of the networks would put decent stuff on Saturdays, don't you think the viewers would be there? CBS was a goldmine back in the 70s; and "Golden Girls" was always in the Top 5-10 during its run in the 80s.

Lisa de Moraes: I think they've frittered away the Saturday audience for so many years now that it will be really really hard to get them back...Me, I'm devoted to Trading Spaces on the night.

Tamyra: She was on Boston Public, not The Practice.

Lisa de Moraes: Meant "Boston Public" -- my bad. David Kelley point still valid - seems to want it both ways.

So glad to see them go...: Long time Buffy and Angel fan, but boy have they jumped the shark. They both needed to go last year.

Lisa de Moraes: It's always sad when shows don't go away in time....

Hey: You cr--k me up!

Lisa de Moraes: thanks! I think I'm out of time. Thanks for joining me; it was fun.

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