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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, April 17, 2003; Noon ET

Do you feel the need to talk about: Deputy DA Deena getting whacked from "Survivor," remaining "Married by America" couples suffering rare attack of good sense, drunk contestant receiving red rose from Firestone Man on "Bachelor," judges finally noticing a certain sameness to the performances of "American Idol" contestant Ruben Studdard?

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.

Columbia, Md.: I was shocked on Tuesday night when Simon FINALLY said something bad about Ruben. That he's predictable, and needs to try something different! Do you think he'll take Simon's advice and sing something a little different next week?

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Ruben is probably still in shock that one of the judges actually dinged. I'm not expecting him to sing something a little different next week. He seems to pick his songs based on what movie he heard the song in. I think we've seen Ruben stretch as far as he can.

Columbia, Md.: Do you think Billie Jean was totally faking being that upset? Or you think she was trying to get sympathy from the viewers? And do you think they'll continue dating outside the show?

Lisa de Moraes: I think Billie Jean is a seriously troubled person who should never have been allowed to go on a show like that and those "relationship" experts should have spotted an emotionally unstable person right away and voted her off the show as quickly as possible. Shame on them and shame on her friends and sister for not having intervened to talk her out of doing the show...

American Idol Sucks: Can we please talk about something other than American Idol 2? I mean, come on already, the show is so over. The Amazing Race is a better show. I'd rather watch reruns of Flo's breakdowns than one of these pathetic wannabes on stage. And why is it that they don't perform with a musical instrument. I have more respect for a worse singer who actually plays an instrument, writes their own music and lyrics than one of these pathetic simpletons.

Lisa de Moraes: Can Britney play an instrument? I didn't know that having any actual musical talent was necessary to become a prefab pop star. Re Amazing Race, it is, unfortunately, not airing now. We take what we can get.

TVland, USA: Am I the only one creeped out by the masks (at least as featured in the commercials) for Mr. Personality? The ones they originally showed covered only the upper face (like a party mask). The new ones cover most of the head. They remind me of something a Hollywood serial killer would wear.

Lisa de Moraes: Very Wes Craven! I love the promo for the show in which the chick is seen slo-mo-ing with various guys in those colored masks and skull snoods while Louie Armstrong -- I think -- is singing "It's a Wonderful World."....I'm creeped out too, but I'll still watch. I love train wreck TV.

Canton, Ohio: Closet American Idol fan here - when, oh when is America gonna get rid of Carmen Ragamuffin?

Lisa de Moraes: I thought sure Carmen was going to go bye-bye last night. I'm not a big Kimberly Caldwell fan, but Tuesday's performance was one of her better ones.

Arlington, Va.: Um, hello? Like TRISTA isn't emotionally unstable? She has got to be the most --ed up person I have ever seen.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, Trista was sooooooooo scary. But on "Married by America" Billie Jean's faux fiance Tony kept making references to fact that Billie Jean had had a very traumatic childhood. That really disturbed me....

Danny, Orange County, Calif.: Lisa, I've been hearing increased chatter about the networks pushing realty shows on us because they basically get the "talent" for free. But aren't we starting to see an increased trend toward "you get what you pay for?" How long can they flash goobers like Trista Rehn and Puck on the screen before we all give up and go back to playing Trivial Pursuit during Prime Time?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes the talent comes cheap, but on "American Idol" for instance, the judges' price went way up for the second edition. Plus, there is no rerun value in these shows; reruns are where the networks make money on scripted programming; first run of an episode is frequently just paying the bills. And in many cases, reality programs are being moved into time slots where the network previously had no ratings traction; scripted shows weren't working for that network in that time slot, so they had little to lose.

Arlington, Va.: I see "Survivor" is a clip show tonight. What's up with that?

Lisa de Moraes: They're spreading it out to get maximum play with original episodes during the May sweeps. Sorry. How about Deputy DA Deena getting whacked last week -- she seriously overplayed her hand.

Real Reality: Lisa, Do you think there will or should be any significant consequence to the recent revelations from CNN about their conspiracy of silence regarding Iraqi atrocities? Is this typical behavior for news organizations in the present age?

Lisa de Moraes: There has already been a significant consequence. CNN came out of the '91 war with big league credibility; they came out of this one with egg on their face. I'm still trying to figure out why Eason Jordan thought it was good idea to write that op-ed piece.

12th Floor Metro Center, Washington, D.C.: This is probably too deep a question for this chat, but I sort of see where the CNN head was coming from in not reporting those stories. Do you think he was really looking out for the safety of innocent Iraqis or was he just trying to keep CNN in Iraq?

Lisa de Moraes: I suspect it was a combo of both, re: what Eason Jordan was thinking. And no question is too deep for this chat. We are a very deep-thinking bunch -- Mensa Chatters.

Marred by America: Holy hell, did that Billie Jean chick totally look like a train wreck when Tony dumped her? Although I personally liked her more than the other contestant, her naivete was a total turn off.

By the way, the other contestant (Lisa?) -- a friend in New York told me that a couple of years ago she was on all these day time talk shows when she was dumped from being Miss long Island cos of the Playboy thing. Many of these shows were Fox programs and Fox affiliates. Do you think Fox primed her up a bit before deciding to put her on as a contestant in "Married by America" (and just happen to be one of the finalists)? Not much reality there. But I guess reality is no longer a goal. Like a Simpson character once said: "We want TV ugly, not UGLY ugly."

Lisa de Moraes: Jill was so into her whole I did Playboy thing. It was all she could talk about. Oh wait, maybe it WAS all she could talk about. Golly, maybe Kevin is really lucky that she got cold feet? And got to disagree with you re Billie Jean being naive. I think she was emotionally unstable, but at the very least she was in total denial. Tony kept saying on the show that he had reservations.

Castle Shannon, Pa.: Did you hear that Whitney Houston is coming to "Boston Public"? What is David Kelley thinking? Doesn't he know she comes across as loony as Ann Heche?

Lisa de Moraes: Ah yes, which is exactly why millions will watch. And, if you've seen the numbers on Boston Public, that would be a good thing...

Albertville, Ala.: The new name of the TNN network is SPIKE? That's not a man's name, it's a dog's name!

They could at least pick a more appealing dog's name, like, well Rex. If Rueben wins on American Idol -- great name for a network!
Or, perhaps the 205 network?

Lisa de Moraes: My male dog's name is Vanderbilt. I think they should have called it Vanderbilt TV. Rex is not bad either. Men, dogs, so much in common ...

Silver Spring, Md.: Re: "The Bachelor." I must have missed something; why is that woman called "Tina Fabulous"?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently the other chicks in the pad have taken to calling her Tina Fabulous because they think she always looks fabulous. Personally, I think that red, white and blue gown she wore during episode No. 2, I think, was a perfect horror.

Kensington, Md.: Ms. Moraes, what do you think it bodes for our future as a country that so many millions of Americans waste their time and brains watching garbage like this?

While they sit on their couches mesmerized by whatever meaningless "conflict" they've allowed themselves to be manipulated into caring about, there is plenty of 'real' reality going on all over the world, much of it not pretty. Maybe if Americans turned off their TVs and started learning about the rest of the world (and not just when we are bombing it), we could find a way to make peace with it.

I now return you to your previously programmed drivel ...

Lisa de Moraes: You mean, as opposed to the millions of people who watch, say, football, on TV all fall and winter?...

Washington, D.C.: Yeah, Bille Jean was definitely a freak. And Tony was an arrogant flake. But you gotta admit, that breakdown in the closet was some good TV.

Lisa de Moraes: Very Real World. It was riveting television, yes...

A loyal lurker: Lisa, did you stop putting dot-dot-dots after everything because of that meanie from a couple weeks back? S/He was a JERK!

Lisa de Moraes: Not at all. Sometimes I'm in a ... mood, sometimes I'm not ... I think it's because I have only had one cup of coffee today.

Washington, D.C.: So, who is your favorite judge on American Idol and why? Who is your favorite contestant right now?

Lisa de Moraes: Simon and Clay. Simon is unpredictable and has a vocabulary that extends beyond "dawg" and "you really stretched and made the song your own." Can't say that of other judges. Clay is very talented and yet keeps getting picked on by judges.

NW: Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, What's up dawg?

Although both pretty much equally bad, Kimberly Caldwell getting booted off before Carmen? And on the first week that Carmen got totally ripped apart by Simon?

I will never watch the show again.

Lisa de Moraes: Carmen was terrible this week. But Josh is by far the worst because he revels in the fact that he can only do one thing -- country. He's become very agressive about it. At least Kimberley Caldwell and Carmen tried to, okay, I'll say it, "stretch" their performance. Carmen failed, yes, but she tried and I give points for trying.

Baltimore, Md.: What are Vanderbilt's favorite TV shows?

Lisa de Moraes: He LOVES that TV ad for some SUV, where the dogs pile into the back with a tennis ball and they drive off somewhere where there is, I think, a beach or something, and they have a good time and then the dogs pile back into back of the SUV and they're all covered in mud and look exhausted but like they've had a really good time. Vanderbilt watches that ad very closely whenever it comes on. He's a Yorkie and has big-dog aspirations. It's his "American Idol."

Washington, D.C.: The last couple of chat sessions, you mentioned that Josh should have left the show when he had the chance with the guarantee of coming back next year as a finalist. It's obvious that he can't beat Clay or Ruben, so why not leave voluntarily, use the time to train/learn how to sing besides country, and then come back next season. I really can't wait for him to be voted off.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you. He's a one-note song -- literally. It would have been much better PR if he had left the show to go serve his country while the other contestants sang "God Bless the USA" as he exited stage left. Do you think they sing "God Save the Queen" on the British version?

D.C. Metro: Do you think Kimberly should have gotten voted off? I think Carmen should have been the one to go. But, I'm sure she'll be the next one voted off next week anyways!

Lisa de Moraes: You're probably right ...

Neverland: Well gosh, even Michael Jackson warned us about Billie Jean ...

Lisa de Moraes: Now That's Clever...

The Mini-apple: What was up with Kimberly C's hair last night? It was like a mullet without the shaved sides. We thought our cable was wonky.

Lisa de Moraes: no comment.

Jaime from the first Big Brother: Lisa, if CBS would have waited til this year to air "Big Brother," would I have a better chance of being a star?

Lisa de Moraes: You expect me to remember a contestant from the first " Big Brother." What are you -- NUTS? First Big Brother contestants are so over...

Clay: That thing that Clay does with his eyebrows is getting old. I'm as gay as they come, but I'm over it.

Lisa de Moraes: I think when Simon said that he preferred Clay with his (Simon's) eyes closed he was really talking about that eyelash fluttering thing Clay does. It is a bit much, but so is the head weaving that Ruben does every time he sings. That drives me nuts....

Washington, D.C.: RE AI2: Do you believe that Ruben or Clay can be pop stars? Clay belongs on Broadway, and much as I like 205's voice, come on -- he's no Usher!

Lisa de Moraes: For that matter, I don't think Kelly Clarkson is a pop star either.

Capitol Hill: Lisa,

Fox has done it again!! They PROMISED that this time, a couple WOULD get married! What liars! I can't believe I fell for the ruse. Am I the only one who feels cheated?

Lisa de Moraes: We all feel cheated...

Washington, D.C.: Any word on whether Boomtown will come back next season? What a great show!

And just how bad are the numbers for Boston Public? Is it in danger of being yanked?

Lisa de Moraes: Boston Public's numbers aren't terrible, they're just not great. Kelley is definitely having a slow season. Stunt casting it a pretty reliable way to get people to sample or re-sample a show...

Alexandria, Va.: I have to say, I love Tina Fabulous. I thought I was the only woman who could throw a decent spiral. However, there's now way I could do it in stilettos, since I don't own any.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, she gets points for that.....

Reston, Va.: Enough already. I am proud to say that I have not watched one single episode of any reality show. Now if you want to put the Hollywood celebs in Baghdad and call that a Celeb Survivor show, I might watch.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm loving that show concept. I'm sure Mike Darnell at Fox would listen to that pitch. But most of these shows do not feature celebrities. What programs do you watch?

Washington, D.C.: Will the "Fox and Friends" morning show promote "Mr. Personality?" I would think Monica might not want to be put on the spot with those right wingers, given her history with WJC.

Lisa de Moraes: Interesting question.

Re: M by A: Anyone who actually thought that any of those people would marry a total stranger DESERVES to feel cheated. I knew when I found out before the show aired that there was no marriage requirement, that there would be no marriage.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, smart people read the small print ...

Washington, D.C.: Lisa: Do you have any information about whether The Amazing Race, my favorite reality show, will be returning to TV? I miss it so.

Lisa de Moraes: I am now convinced that the CBS publicist for Amazing Race visits this chat every Thursday because I get asked this EXACT same question every single Thursday. For the last time, Amazing Race is coming back this summer. I will no longer entertain "when is Amazing Race coming back" questions.

Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: Re: Billie Jean. I don't think she was faking it, I think she was really thrown for a loop that Tony said, essentially, "I don't," especially since she had just said 'I do'. She got all dressed like a bride and walked down the aisle for a guy who didn't want to marry her. OUCH. I mean, guys wear tuxedos for all sorts of things, girls wear wedding gowns to only one occasion, and they expect it to be the happiest day of their lives. That's why she started sobbing in the closet "I'm a joke." That's why Dwayne said Tony should have come "even 5 minutes before she put on her dress" to let her know.

Lisa de Moraes: Dwayne should have told her to get the heck out of there before she put on the wedding dress. That's what a real friend would have done ...

The Bachelor: I only watched a few minutes of it last night, but did you see the part where Amber asked him what his favorite chain restaurant was? And then she couldn't understand how he could like Italian food but not the Olive Garden? Too funny.

Lisa de Moraes: Very funny. But my fave part of this show so far is how large a role alcohol has played. His family owns vineyards and he just booted off one contestant who doesn't drink and another who apparently kept getting drunk..See, we can have deep, mensa-like thoughts on this chat ...

Married ... : I missed half the finale. What was it that caused the man in the commercial to say, "You wanted drama, you got it"?

Lisa de Moraes: We never got to see who it was who said that or why on the actual show. I really take issue with networks that put stuff in promos that doesn't make it onto the program. I've seen it happen before on Fox reality series. Like on the Joe Millionaire finale.

Huntsville, Ala.: Someone help me understand this. I'm serious! Clay Aiken is a charmer, no doubt. But lately it's gone a step further -- I actually think the guy is darn good-looking! Sexy, even! Now, if you break it down to components, it doesn't make sense. He's all angles and ears and spikey hair. But I swear when you put it together it just works. And, because it's not some kind of overt, overwhelming, macho sexy, there's an unthreatening quality to it. When you combine sexy and unthreatening you have your average boy band member, so why does Simon still not understand the marketability of our boy Clay? Does his ability to actually sing (unlike most boy band members) disqualify him? Theories?

Lisa de Moraes: I cannot explain why the judges have it in for Clay, but they do seem to ... any theories?

Mr. Personality: Am I the only one hoping that the lady ends up picking someone who looks just like that FUGLY guy in the commercial who removes his mask? I am happy that they will be in full face masks, and do hope that there are some "booby prizes" among the men.

Lisa de Moraes: You just know they've cast some guys who do not fit conventional definition of handsome. But rest assured that all of them are aspiring actors.

Re: Publicists: Do you honestly think that they plant questions in chats like these? That's below the belt if true. Then again, after seeing Colin Farrell in "Phone Booth," I wouldn't put it past them.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I honestly believe publicists plant questions in TV-related chats.

Arlington, Va.: I enjoy the NBC dramas, but the schedules have become so irregular, with so many reruns, that I've just about lost interest... is NBC deliberately sabotaging it's adult shows in order to make room for more "Fear Factor?"

Lisa de Moraes: Not sure which "adult shows" you are talking about.

Charlotte, N.C.: I admit it. I'm shocked. Even though it was clear from Day 1 that Kimberly Caldwell couldn't sing, I thought the "millions of dirty old men with cell phones and the willingness to use them" theory had merit. I.e., there were more than enough guys out there who would keep voting for her just for the eye-candy appeal (which, frankly, escapes me, but what do I know?) to keep her on American Idol until damn near the bitter end. I was wrong! I'm torn between relief that the American public can discern talent -- or lack thereof -- and confusion that I so misjudged the strength of the dirty old man contingent. What do you make of this?

Lisa de Moraes: Since I learned everything I need to know from TV, I know from those ads in "American Idol" that only cute blonde girls use cell phones to vote on "American Idol."

Washington, D.C.: ... Since there is no pic of you. What celebrity do you mostly resemble? ... if there is one.

Lisa de Moraes: Cruella De Vil ...

Somewhere, USA: Do you think Rosie O'Donnel is totally over. She was a great talk show host, but she can't really sing, dance, and as a stand up comic, not that funny.

Lisa de Moraes: zzzzzzzzzz ...... (so over)

Washington, D.C.: Any possibility that we'll get another Kim-free episode of "24" before the season ends?

Lisa de Moraes: We can always hope.

Herndon, Va.: Why did I watch Married by America? And why am I strangely drawn to these shows?

washingtonpost.com: You're amongst friends here ...

Lisa de Moraes: Embrace the horror, dear ... It's easier.

Washington, D.C.: I sat next to Michael Darnell in first through third grade at Loesche Elementary School in Philadelphia. The summer after third grade he disappeared and showed up a year or two later on "Big John, Little John" on TV.

Lisa de Moraes: What was Mike like then. As strange as now -- and I mean that in the best possible way.

Clay: He has been honing his image from day one, and looks a little different (more refined, less homely) every week.

Lisa de Moraes: I agree, except I think the "handlers" on the show have been honing him, and Kimberley Locke, and all the others. And I have to say, doing a pretty good job.

Clay Theory: I think the reason the judges are starting to give Clay a hard time, and the reason Simon offered a slightly negative remark about Ruben, is because they want to create more of a sense that this is actually a competition. Hence Simon's remark last night that Kimberly L. is now a contender. For a while there it seemed like they might as well boot everyone off and have the Ruben/Clay showdown.

Lisa de Moraes: Of course you're right. This show was getting boring, Ruben this, Ruben that, Ruben we love you just the way you are. Blah!

Bethesda, Md.: Two hours of The Bachelor to see four women go? Is anyone else starting to get creeped out by Andrew himself? Starting to seem like an empty suit who is clueless as to dating.

Lisa de Moraes: Firestone Man is fun to look at, but not much going on upstairs ...

205 Flava: Inquiring minds simply HAVE to know...did Ruben really buy all those 205 jerseys, or did 205 Flava decide to get some billboard advertising for their product and give Ruben the shirts for free? Are there any rules prohibiting his acceptance of such a gift during his time on the show?

Lisa de Moraes: Good question. I presume not, since Fox has sold all product placement on the show and that company is not among them, as far as I know. He says 205 is his area code -- I know that because mensa chatters reminded me last week, or week before ...

Washington, D.C.: Re: My Amazing Race Question. Lisa -- I have never sat in on one your little chats, so I had no idea that you were inundated with Amazing Race inquiries. You'll be happy to know that because of your curt and slightly paranoid reply I wont be returning.

Lisa de Moraes: ...sigh ... another conspiracy theory gone bad. I hate it when that happens..

Lisa de Moraes: Once again I've run late. Thanks for participating ...


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

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company