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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, April 10, 2003; Noon ET

Cancellation of "Survivor" online wagering got you down? Creeped out by the surviving couples on "Married by America"? Sick of the incessant fawning over Ruben Studdard by "American Idol" judges? Worried about what life will be like after Cher's "farewell" concert special?

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.

Takoma Park, Md.: Hi Lisa,

Tuesday night's Cher special just BLEW ME AWAY! She is SO FABULOUS! I prefer her kind of spectacular fantasy to ANY "reality" TV show.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. yes, Cher was brilliant. She's not a great singer, but the whole package was so fabulously camp. Loved her comments re Britney and J. Lo.....

Washington, D.C.: Lisa -- Have you watched any episodes of TLC's "What Not to Wear?" The two fashion critics are a hoot, with a cruel yet disarming kind of charm. Do you know if this show is a one-season thing, or does TLC plan to continue it? Thanks

Lisa de Moraes: TLC would love to turn this into a regular franchise, a la "Trading Spaces." We'll see. I agree that the two fashion critics are a hoot. Sometimes they're a little cruel, but usually it's when the 'victim' is being particularly obnoxious, like Hair Girl a week or so ago.

Suitland, Md.: Does Kelly and Justin's new movie look TOTALLY cheesy or what?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, totally cheesy. Does anyone buy them as a couple? Chemistry quotient there: 0.

Washington, D.C.: I just don't understand how Ruben Studdard can keep getting praises each week, from ALL the judges! Is he really that good? I think he sounds exactly the same each week, no variety. But at least he didn't wear that 205 shirt again!

Lisa de Moraes: Ah,you apparently did not watch last night's show in which the 205 T shirt was back. Ruben sounds exactly the same week after week and the judges fawn over him; Clay sounds similar week after week, with a much stronger voice, and they ding him week after week..I think the judges are doing their level best to make sure Ruben wins because producers think he's most marketable. Plus Carmen,which is why judges continue to give her a free pass and why you saw Ruben and Carmen doing that lame Ford ad during last night's show, which only served to further demonstrate how limited their talents are. Ruben has a lovely voice, but he can only do one thing. Plus, he looked terrible in white tie and tails in that ad. I have no patience for a man who does not look well in white tie and tails....

Vienna, Va.: I know you'll get loads of complaints about American Idol today, but c'mon! Carmen wasn't even in the bottom three! I am now thoroughly convinced this show is rigged by Simon who finds Carmen to be the only produceable contestant. My only other thought is that voters are so young they don't even remember the original "Call Me". Yikes!

Lisa de Moraes: Carmen's choice of songs was all wrong. She has an interesting yodel-y voice and is cute as a button, but Clay, Trenyce and Ruben are more talented. I'm with you on the conspiracy theory; see previous comments.

New York, N.Y.: Regarding "What not to Wear," I can't help every week but think that the male fashion guru could use a little help himself. I would think if he's offering the premise that he's a fashion expert that he would try to dress the part himself, don't you? It's a little off putting.

Lisa de Moraes: I love his hair but those boots -- kletter boots? cletter boots? clutter boots? -- are so not a good look. Apparently his thing is that he dresses Hollywood stars like J. Lo -- ick -- and female fashion guru's thing is that she dresses models for tony fashion mags. Or something like that. It's supposed to be a culture clash thing, I think.....

Wincing with embarrassment ... : Ruben's gonna regret doing that silly "get out of my dreams, get into my car" Ford ad that aired last night. Wow. That was awkward! Seeing that he's most definitely going to win this thing, hopefully that infraction will be expunged from his record.

Lisa, any thoughts on how much Ford, AT&T, Nokia, et. al., paid for such primo product placement? It's hilariously shameless ... to the point where it doesn't even bother me. All part of the spectacle.

Lisa de Moraes: Hard to say re advertising. There are wheels within wheels. As in buying ads but getting product placement in return which is worth a whole lot of money, possibly even more than the ad time. I don't think Ruben will regret doing that ad; it won't hurt him, other than to show us how awkward he is and that his voice really isn't to die for like the judges would have us believe. Both he and Carmen looked very "cabaret" as Simon would say, in that ad....

Kingstowne, Va.: How's this for a conspiracy theory about Fox Reality Programming: The "American Idol" voting, as such, is rigged, and Ruben will ultimately win. They're going to keep blonde Kimberly as eye candy for the young men to keep watching until the end. Then, there will be a spin-off show featuring Ruben, where he either gets gastric bypass surgery or goes on a diet and gets or a gym or a combination of all three. Week by week, viewers will watch some Fox "fitness guru" whip Ruben into pop-star shape. Then a lean, mean, velvet teddy bear Ruben will be unleashed on the public. What do you think?

Lisa de Moraes: Don't know if voting is rigged -- although I'm not sure what's to keep friends and family of the producers from phoning in a zillion votes for Ruben if that's who the producers want to win. I do think that Simon is trying very hard to influence viewers to vote a certain way, with moderate success. How else do you explain Trenyce being in the bottom three. Re Ruben, I think he is dangerously overweight and I wonder why Simon has only, to date, commented on the weight of Vanessa, Josh and, I think Kimberley Locke, when Ruben appears to be as big as a couple of them combined....

Chicago, Ill.: As someone who lives with a family full of Clay fanatics, I have to disagree with you about Clay having a stronger voice. He would do well on Broadway, but not in recordings, while Ruben sounds like Luther Vandross.

Lisa de Moraes: But Ruben does not look like Luther Vandross, or even Barry White. His voice is not as sexy as either other gentleman and he exudes no sex appeal, which is a big part of those other singers' total package. Don't get me wrong, I think Ruben has a very nice voice; I just think Clay's is vastly superior. But the producers apparently feel as you do that Clay is best suited for Broadway and therefore, despite his consistent excellent performances, they continue to ding him in hopes it will sway some voters....they clearly do not want Clay to win this. This show has become extremely cynical...

Vienna, Va.: Hi Lisa,

I’ve been looking forward to your chat all morning. I have a question for you about your TV viewing. How can you possibly keep up with so many shows? Are you constantly changing channels, or do you tape some shows? Also, has TV viewing taken over your whole life? It seems like you watch almost every show out there.

Lisa de Moraes: I watch a great deal of TV. I am lucky because I really enjoy watching a great deal of TV. I do get tapes of some programs and I tape others myself to watch later. I am not a fan of channel switching; I think it detracts from the experience. Plus, I am always interested in seeing who advertises on various programs, so yes, I actually watch the ads...

Burke, Va.: How do you like the BBC version of "What Not to Wear?" My husband and I think it should be renamed "How to Show Off Your Cleavage."

Lisa de Moraes: You say "show off your cleavage" like it's a bad thing...I think the BBC version is better than the American version, because it's less tame. Re cleavage crack, are you making reference to the opening of the show in which the two chicks get naked, or the clothing the victims end out wearing?

Gaithersburg, Md.: Submitting early -- Did anyone else notice on Tuesday night's American Idol, when they did the montage at the end, Ricky was wearing sunglasses that he wasn't wearing during his song. Is part of this show pre-taped? How did a clip of him in sunglasses suddenly appear? What's up?

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, I missed the whole sunglasses thing. Need more details...

Cambridge, Mass.: Hi Lisa,

Love the column and the chat, but I have to know: how many VCRs do you have? My guess would be at least 3 ...

Lisa de Moraes: Just two, like a normal person.

Ellicott City, Md.: Lisa,

Please comment on my theory for the Marine on Idol.

The assumption is that the real reason to be on this show is to create a profile for yourself. There are scores of opportunities the exposure can lead to. If that is true then Josh is really missing the boat. If PR is THE thing, he should announce on the next live show that he is voluntarily leaving the competition in order to make himself available to rejoin his unit and assume his role overseas. Say something like; "I can't in good conscience stay here in luxury while my buddies are putting their lives at risk and I need to be with them." This would make him a hero overnight and the best part is he wouldn't be risking his position because the producers have already promised him a spot in the next edition. He has no chance of actually winning but he would get the maximum benefit and would be the most famous Marine since Gomer Pyle? If only I was his agent!

Lisa de Moraes: I am SO with you on this one. But I think the time has come and gone when he could do that. I'm not sure it would benefit him to leave now, since the war is perceived as being "over." That might make him look cowardly. Before fighting broke out, having him on the show was shrewd, but once fighting started, I don't think he looked good living in this cushy house, getting massages and facials, participating in this fluffy little show, singing "Celebration" and such, while other people from Camp Thinggummy were off at war. Badly done.

Frederick, Md.: I'm a closet Married by America viewer. What is the deal with next week's episode, anyway? Fox has made it look quite wild, but then, Fox is good at that. Do they only get married if America voted for them? And by the way, for the record, both couples completely creep me out, I just can't stop watching for some reason . . .

Lisa de Moraes: It sounds from promos like Jill's dad goes postal -- no surprise there -- at some point during wedding episode. He's a Super Jerk. They should do a whole reality show on him, called "Extreme Makeover" in which he is given a lobotomy -- plus they wax his back.

Herndon, Va.: Hi Lisa,

Based on all of the columns about The Practice lately, I've found myself watching it once or twice, including Monday night. Now I know I'm not a regular watcher, but is the viewer actually supposed to feel sympathy, empathy, anything! for Lindsay? What a bitch!

Also, I thought the whole "reality TV bad" thing was supremely heavy handed and lame.

Lisa de Moraes: Lindsay -- ick. Heavy handed, lame -- David Kelley after two seasons.

Somewhere, USA: I feel so out of it. I don't have any interest whatsoever in any of the so-called "reality" shows. I'd rather watch a sitcom (both types of shows are scripted, anyway). I'd much rather watch the seedy "Cops" show for "reality." More and more I turn to the Sci-Fi Channel, Court TV and the Animal Planet (I watch CNN or the major networks for news, but these days I can catch the main stories in 5 minutes).

Lisa de Moraes: I'm sorry. Then you must have no idea what we're talking about here.....

Virginia: Reality TV is edited so much that it is not really reality. Is it just me or were the late 1970s the peak of TV programming? For example, shows like the Rockford Files stand the test of time. Reality TV can't be run in syndication and can't continue to generate revenue for the networks after their initial run. Your thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: Best part about reality TV -- No Reruns!

Re: Takoma Park: I love the sarcasm!

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks.

Rockville, Md.: Hi Lisa -- first time poster. Might I say that I was horrified that Carmen stayed on last night on American Idol. Can people not hear her? I hope they wise up and vote her off the next time. GO RUBEN!

Lisa de Moraes: Carmen is not great, but this was not the week to whack Carmen. It should've been Josh's week; his performance was terrible; I don't care what the judges say. Don't worry, her time will come...

Washington, D.C.: Married By America: Neither of those couples should get married. Have a bad feeling that they're both being pushed off a cliff by the producers. Love the Playboy model's family, though! They should visit the Osbournes!

Lisa de Moraes: Maybe CBS should rename its "Beverly Hillbillies" reality show so as to get Jill's weirdsmobile family cast. Nope, I still like the idea of casting the dad on ABC's "Extreme Makeover" better. Re couples, both are frightening and depressing....

Just Curious: So, since you watch so much TV, are you fat?

Lisa de Moraes: No, and for that I have the fabulous genes of my parents to thank. And did you know that you can watch TV while riding an exercise bicycle? Or using a treadmill? It's true, it's been done.

Pittsburgh, Pa.: How do you think Harvey Fierstein playing a mother will fly in middle America?

Lisa de Moraes: Soar like an eagle....

Somewheresville: I believe Simon once told Ruben that he didn't look like a "pop idol." (i.e., a reference to his weight). I think he told Clay the same thing. As a result, I believe some people would like to see such a "non-traditional" pop star.

I think Clay is adorable in a grown-up Opie kind of way.

Lisa de Moraes: I believe Simon has told every contestant that they don't look like something or another. Simon is one miserable dude....

Arlington, Va.: One comment about Ruben: Thank God he wore an outfit with no visible numbers on it!

Lisa de Moraes: Did you miss last night's episode. 205 was back, alas. He looked so much better in real clothing during Tuesday's broadcast. I had the feeling he was wearing those jerseys because they were the only thing he fit into and imagine my surprise when he not only fit into actual clothing, he looked so much better. Ruben in a jersey is like Mamma Cass in a muu muu.

Arlington, Va.: You said last week you said that Saturday was Trading Spaces night for you. I've been a big TS fan, but I'm afraid it's going downhill. Some of the designers seem to be phoning it in, and the fact (rumor, I hope? What do you know?) that Kia will be back next year shows the producers' utter disdain for fans.

Also, do you read the TS recaps on the Web site, Television Without Pity? Excellent and hilarious reading.

Lisa de Moraes: I read many of the recaps on www.televisionwithoutpity.com. It's a great Web site. For those of you who don't actually like reality TV, you can read their recaps and still know what your co-workers are talking about the next day at the water cooler....

Boston, Mass.: Why, oh why, do they keep Kimberly Caldwell?! The girl CAN NOT SING. Ugh.

Just wanted to vent.

Also, does anyone notice how Clay is so much more friendly with the ladies than the other guys? Does anyone know if he's gay? The Gay Audience wants to know ...

Lisa de Moraes: Re Clay, don't know; don't care. He's adorable and a very good singer. Kimberly Caldwell must have a very very large family that has a very very large collective phone bill each week. She is so bad. Hot, but bad. Oh wait, that's a good thing in Man Land, isn't it.

Charlotte, N.C.: Requisite Clay Aiken question. (Come on, who doesn't find this kid adorable? And, no, that wasn't the question.) So, what's going on with our Clay and Simon's former favorite, Carmen? Looked awfully cozy there last night during the "group sing" -- hugging, a sweet little kiss, even. I wonder if this is why Simon has been dinging Clay the last couple of times out. Failing to appreciate that this gawky but very self-possessed kid has charmed most of the country, he doesn't feel he deserves little 'ol Carmen (failing also to appreciate, apparently, that the rest of the country sees Carmen as about as bland as yesterday's vanilla ice cream). Whaddaya think?

Lisa de Moraes: Re Clay, see previous question.

Washington, D.C.: America's Most Precocious Kid, or whatever it's called, the underage version of American Idol: I actually think is more entertaining than Idol. You get to see those dead serious stage parents, too.

Lisa de Moraes: The parents can be scary -- particularly the mom of that little blonde girl who sang first on the debut episode. But the show has a geeky fun quality to it. I'm partial to the little kids; they were all adorable.

Sick and tired of reading about Idol: Why don't you do this chat on a Friday so we can talk about the latest episode of Survivor? Talking about Survivor, I think Rob is an idiot. He was so jealous of Dave and will now probably be jealous of Alex 'cos he's better looking than him. I really do not want Rob to win.

Lisa de Moraes: Idiot, like a Fox. He was at least smart enough to hook up with Amazon Woman Deena...but Matthew is my fave on that show. He makes my skin crawl.

15th and L: seriously, what is the deal with the 205? Is it a secret code to that Raelian dude in Montreal?

Lisa de Moraes: I can't remember. I know he gave a reason early on in the show; said it had something to do with his home town. But it can't be the zip code. Phone exchange maybe? Somebody help me out here.....

Somewhere, USA: Are critics and viewers just not on the same page? After Tom Shales' review of the Cher special, I didn't watch it and then the ratings go through the roof! What's up with that?

Lisa de Moraes: That's often the case, with TV and movie reviews. And let's not forget books -- have you ever seen a book critic give a rave review to a Harlequin romance? Cher has a big fan base; they were going to watch this special even if every critic in America panned it.

Washington, D.C.: What's your take on the psycho girls vying for the heart of the Bachelor? Last night's episode was entertaining, with the drunk, the emotional basketcase, and the 30-year-old stalker all getting roses.

Lisa de Moraes: Yup, Rich Boy really knows how to pick 'em, doesn't he. And his mom -- it was his mom, right, maybe his dad? -- says she doesn't know why he's not married yet. Maybe it's because he is attracted to women like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. The wonder is that he's not dead yet.....

Washington, D.C.: What's the word on the new Monica Lewisnky show, Mr. Personality? If it was just personality, then how come all the men look great!

Lisa de Moraes: Which men? Do we have men yet? I've seen the men in the promos, but I'm not aware that they've finished casting men for the actual show yet. Please, more details....

Chicago, Ill.: Two questions, was the Cher concert on Monday or Tuesday night? Did it affect the ratings for American Idol?

Also, I know that The Family is not great but it at least deserves better than Are you Hot? and All-American Girl. Why can't they let this show run its course?

Lisa de Moraes: Cher concert ran on Tuesday night; it did not compete against American Idol. Did not, therefore, affect ratings. The Family got pulled in an effort to salvage it, much like ABC did with "The Mole" way back. It will be relaunched in the summer. It was getting killed on the schedule now...remember, reality series do well in the summer...

Somewhere, USA: Missed Cher...what did she say about J. Lo and Brit?

Lisa de Moraes: She said that this was her farewell tour because of all these other girls who were coming up to take, not her place certainly, but somebody's place. She named J Lo. and Britney. She said she wanted this show to be fabulous so that she could dare them to try to follow her act, or something to that effect. It was funny... They don't stand a chance.

205: It's the area code for Birmingham, Ruben's hometown.

It could also be his 8th-grade weight.

Lisa de Moraes: We have an answer! I thought it was something phone-y.

Re: Married by America: Is it just me or does the Billie Jean seem to be on something?

Lisa de Moraes: Billie Jean seems to need therapy, seriously. This show is not good for her.

Washington, D.C.: I thought all the men on Mr. Personality would be masked? Will the audience be able to see what they really look like?

Lisa de Moraes: Viewers will know what their faces look like; princess will only know what their abs, pecs and butts look like -- but that's important too....

Lisa de Moraes: I lost track of time and I'm out of it. Thanks for participating.

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