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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Friday, April 25, 2003; Noon ET

Not enough Monica on "Mr. Personality?" "Survivor" clip show disappoint? Wishing you could get back those 60 minutes you spent watching Monday's "American Idol: Halfway Home" snoozefest? Cheer up, it's the first day of May sweeps!

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.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Let's start with a question about "Amazing Race" in order to atone for having driven off the "Amazing Race" fan last week. Unfortunately I haven't received a question about "Amazing Race" so I'm going to wing it. Here goes: ... Glad you asked that Warwick, Rhode Island. "Amazing Race 4" is in the can and was originally set to have been on the air by now. But CBS held back the next edition of the show because "Star Search" was doing so well; the network slapped another edition of "SS" on instead ... okay, now I feel better.

Washington, D.C.: Love the chat show Lisa. My question is about blasted logos on our shows. I have some programs taped in the 80s and I hauled them out of the archive to watch and I noticed that my screen is free of any markings. No crawls, channel logos and what not. Today, 13 years later there's all kinds of interferences. Logos stay throughout a program all the way through. They don't just make an appearance and leave. The absolute worst offender is the E! Channel which over-promotes the A. Nicole show every chance they get. It's a big pink bar that takes up 1/4 of the screen and has that stupid barking dog at the end. Forgive me for going on so far but why all of this cluttering of our screens on TV and when will it cease in the near future?

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry, it will never ever, ever go away. In the 80s, people didn't have so many channels beamed into their homes. Now there are so many channels available to the average viewer that the networks worry you won't know what channel you're on, particularly since "Law & Order" this month, for example, will be one-third "Law & Order" broadcasts, which will make it seem like TNT, which is the rerun home of "Law & Order." I'm afraid you're just going to have to get used to those logos in the corners. With regard to those *&#!* ads that run across the bottom of the screen, that's just because the networks are greedy *&#@!*&.

Virginia: Did anyone else think Carmen doing the orgasm thing for the shampoo ad on Tuesday's Idol was a bit inappropriate (because she's still in high school)? Oh, never mind. I just looked online and she is 18, so there ya go.

Lisa de Moraes: Didn't she have a birthday or something while this competition has been going on? I think having the marine do ads must be giving someone pause ... not sure who but I really think someone should be pausing over that one. Like maybe the marine big cheese who thought having him on American Idol while there was a war going on and Josh's colleagues were getting killed while he was having massages, signing autographs and putting on about 5 lbs. a day ...

Rockville, Md.: Okay. It started with "Survivor" and went rapidly downhill from there, but the Monica Lewinsky show with 20 masked men is more than anyone should have to even have show up briefly on the screen. Makes you wonder exactly why those men wear masks to begin with. TV executives can't possibly believe anyone would want to watch her and her inane comments. And no, I haven't watched. I've only heard what MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has to say about her.

Lisa de Moraes: One of those masked men is Saddam Hussein ... I regret to say that about 12 million people watched this show. Don't believe what Keith Olbermann said about the show finishing fifth, those were not good numbers -- long story. "Mr. Personality" did very well in its first outing and gained more viewers from its first half hour to its second, which is always a good sign for a show ... Monica was pretty lame, but she barely had anything to say or do on the first episode. I'm hoping that changes for the rest of the show ...

Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Lisa. Yay! "Hunter" is back on the air! Why didn't you write a story about it? When it was on originally, I was in high school, and now I get to enjoy it all over again. It would be better though if Fred Dryer dyed his hair. Also, I'm strangely drawn to that new show "Platinum". I don't know why, but it's good ?!. What are your takes on these two shows?

Lisa de Moraes: My take on "Hunter" is that it's about to be cancelled. Sorry. It is doing very poorly; I think I wrote about it when NBC ran the two-hour movie during some sweeps or another and it did so well that NBC ordered it to series. In its first two telecasts as a series, including a second flick version and a one-hour episode, it performed poorly. I expect NBC to take it off the schedule for the May sweeps, which started last night. The season ends with the end of the May sweeps. Don't get too attached to that one. "Platinum" is from Coppola, so it's better than the usual UPN show ...

Silver Spring, Md.: A lot of TV viewers were really disgusted when Monica was given a job. Let's face it, she is famous for giving an important person "special treatment". Does this hurt the network and where can regular citizens file their disgust to the network for picking her?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently it doesn't not hurt the network, because the numbers were very good on the first broadcast of "Mr. Personality." It will be interesting to see how many people tune in for the second broadcast -- how many people had tuned in for the first broadcast ONLY to see what Lewinsky would do/say. There is a message board on Fox's Web site for the show, it's already packed with people who have the same feeling about them having hired Lewinsky. You should join the pile-on. It's a pretty wild ride ...

Columbia, Md.: Well, now that Carmen has been voted off, don't you think it's soo obvious who the next people to go are? Josh will probably be next, followed by Trenyce. The top three will be Kimberley, Ruben, and Clay. They may as well go straight to the top three.

Lisa de Moraes: What a pleasant surprise to see Josh make the bottom three this week. I think that was a first. Kimberley Locke is SO much more talented. I hope you're right and it gets down to Kimberley Locke, Ruben and Clay. They are by far the most talented ....

Washington, D.C.: Oh no, what is American Idol gonna do without Carmen? She was the star of those silly Ford ads!

Lisa de Moraes: Make new Ford ads, I guess. Don't they do new ones every week?

"Ed" Fan: Lisa! I almost had a hissy fit yesterday when there was no sign of your chat at noon (I fired off an e-mail to the Post and they so kindly replied you'd be online today).

Have you heard anything definititve about the future of 'Ed'? Thanks.

Lisa de Moraes: Sorry about cancelling yesterday's chat ... thanks for joining today. Nothing definite on Ed. It did better on Friday nights. Well, actually it didn't but NBC's expectations are much lower on Friday than Wednesday. Ed may be saved because its audience, while not large, is well-educated and has money, which is attractive to advertisers. Sometimes it's not just about how many people watch a show, or even about how many 18-49 year olds watch, but how many well-educated, 75K-plus 18-49 year olds are watching ... Don't write off "Ed" yet ...

Greenbelt, Md.: I just read that the star of "JAG" just signed on for $300,000 an episode for the next two seasons. Is this show really that popular? Sounds like it could be a Drew Cary mistake to me.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm with you ...

Reston, Va: No way Tina "Fabulous" from The Bachelor is 23 years old! Kirsten/Kristen (whichever one is left) states that she is a merchandiser. Not sure what that means. How about an article comparing what the women say their careers/jobs and age are versus the truth.

Lisa de Moraes: Of course we would have to extend that to the men on reality shows as well ... I think "merchandiser" is another way of saying "telemarketer" or "sales clerk." Not sure.

Not a reality question, but a good one ... : I was watching a rerun of The Caroline Rhea show on some Family Channel (I think it was ABC Family). One of her guests was Wanda Sykes, and when Caroline said to watch Wanda's new show at 9:30 on BLEEP. Later on, the name of someone's network was BLEEPED, too. What's up with that? Is Fox offensive to family ears? Even in George Bush's America?

Lisa de Moraes: Wow! I totally missed that. Thanks for the tip!

Timonium, Md.: Can you tell me how it is that all TV shows seem to take commercial breaks at the EXACT same time? It makes it nearly impossible to flip back and forth and keep up with what's going on! Is it a function of how show's are written? Or is this a grand conspiracy to make us actually watch commercials?

Lisa de Moraes: It is a grand conspiracy to make us actually watch commercials ...

Arlington, Va.: So when is the Amazing Race premiering? That and Survivor are the two reality shows I don't miss. Whoever does the casting for Amazing Race has done a great job. Seems like each season has had at least one pair that were very easy to dislike (Ian and Terry from this past season, Team Guido from the first season).

Did this most recent taping have to work around the war, or was it completed before then?

Lisa de Moraes: It's already in the can. I agree that casting on "Amazing Race" is terrific. The format bores me a bit, all that racing from point A to point B. But the couples make it really fun to watch ...

Capitol Hill, D.C.: I'm torn, Lisa. As an avid TV watcher, I would gladly prefer to watch quality sitcoms over reality programs any night, but there don't seem to be any quality sitcoms available for viewing, so I end up getting sucked into the reality programs because that's "the only thing on," thereby adding to the insanity because then the networks think that that's what I want but in reality I'd rather watch a good sitcom or drama.

I suppose I could turn the channel to a cable show, but for some reason even though I have thousands of channels I tend to stick to the NBCCBSABCFOX conglomerate during primetime (leftover habit from non-cable days, perhaps).

How will we end this evil cycle? I can only hope that reality will end like the blessed death of night after night of primetime Regis and his irritating game show.

Whew! Now that I've vented, I can go chat with my colleagues about last night's American Idol results. Bye!

Lisa de Moraes: Don't go!! Unfortunately, there will be no quality sitcoms to watch regardless of whether there are reality TV series on the schedule. Reality series replaced sitcoms that sucked, which is why no one was watching them and the network pulled them and slapped in a reality show. If sitcoms writers are genuinely worried about the proliferation of reality TV they should, hello, WRITE BETTER SITCOMS. Networks prefer to put scripted shows on the air, particularly sitcoms, because advertisers aren't so skittish about scripted stuff as they are about reality shows, and sitcoms repeat well, whereas reality series do not repeat at all. And you should get over teh NBCCBSABCFOX thing -- I know it's hard, seriously -- because there's a big cable world out there. Personally, I adore Turner Classic Movies. No commercials, generally great old flicks. A total pleasure ... Except when they run John Wayne movies -- ick.

Suitland, Md.: Whoa, Carmen had some major acne problems, didn't she?

Lisa de Moraes: ... and that matters because ...

Washington, D.C.: I liked the TV shows Monk (ABC) and Hidden Hills (NBC). They haven't been aired lately. What are their chances of coming back next season? Thanks for any insight.

Lisa de Moraes: ABC bought reruns of Monk from USA network. I think ABC tried to work out arrangement where they would get the first run of the show but it did not happen. Hidden Hills will probably not be back, sorry.

Re: the Bachelor: Thank God crazy Liz is gone! She was WAY too into it -- how could she be so in love with him after never having more than a few minutes alone with him? I'm waiting for her to start stalking him and the remaining bachelorettes by showing up on their hometown dates.

Lisa de Moraes: Liz was very, very scary ... like Billie Jeanne on "Married By America."

Re: Capitol Hill: I suggest FX. "The Shield" is simply excellent and that new show "Lucky" is also very good. Your thoughts Lisa?

Lisa de Moraes: "Lucky" tanked in its second telecast. If you want this show saved, call all your Nielsen household friends fast ...

Alexandria, Va.: I watched the Bachelor last night, and I've decided that I don't like Tina Fabulous. I'd like to see Andrew with the girl who he took on a private date to the spa for massages. Tina is too snooty!

Lisa de Moraes: Tina is a drip ... other women should creep up on her at night and cut off all her golden tresses ... that would be so much fun ... this Firestone Man is such an idiot he may actually end out with her. Won't he be sorry. Why are the men on these Bachelor shows so dumb?

Arlington, Va.: (Hanging my head in shame): Did anyone other than me get sucked into "Extreme Makeovers" on Wednesday night? All I can say is "wow."

Lisa de Moraes: I watched it too and couldn't believe what I was seeing. I actually felt faint when they showed those two chicks right after their face work. The blonde looked like she'd been beaten to a bloody pulp, and the plastic surgeon was in the foreground, saying "this went really well, she's in some pain but we can control that with pain killers." Yikes!

Masks: OK, I admit it. I watched Mr. Personality ... But I'm not going to any more ... The masks scare me and I think Monica and the chick are kinda' boring.

Lisa de Moraes: This show could've been loads more fun if they'd had more interaction between chick and Monica ... I was hoping for that. Instead, Monica was barely there and stuck pretty much to script. A shame ... I love the masks. They're really creepy. I hope she ends out picking the dweeby guy with the long blonde hair, given her remarks about how very good looking some of the guys she dumped were. Or the unemployed guy. That's my second choice ...

Washington, D.C.: That Cristina girl on The Bachelor is a train wreck! I can't BELIEVE he is going to meet her family! What did you think of this week?

Lisa de Moraes: This week's show made me lose all hope that Firestone Man had a brain in his head ....

Silver Spring, Md.: Lisa:

Caught the bottom half of Idol, and though not enthralled or even interested, I was struck by an odd paradox. Idol produced at least one winner so far that has for the moment the number one record in the country. (Who knows what happens to Idol 2.) But has even one of any of the other shows (Survivor, Mole, Bachelors, etc.) had at all the degree of success? The Idol loser from last night was on the cover of today's USA Today, for crying out loud. Can we wonder where is Richard Hatch now? Could anyone find the first Big Brother winner? Does anyone care really about Star Search or NBC's Exploit-a-Kid competition? Even if Kelly Clarkson and American Idol are flashes in the pan, it seems that Idol is the clear winner overall, outlasting and crushing its competition. Is anyone taking notice?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, "American Idol" does seem to be the only reality series in which the winner has an afterlife. But that Joe Millionaire guy, Evan Marriott, didn't do too badly with all the commercials he's cut. He probably made some good money doing those ... I think the smart winners of these shows realize they have a very short shelf life and that their best chance of cashing in is by doing commercials. There is little hope they will actually be able to launch an acting career off of a reality-show win. Yes, I know, that chick from Bethesda did that awful move with Rob Schneider, and Tamyra Gray has been appearing on "Boston Public." Still, the track record is not good for these people ...

Mr. Personality: Oh definitely the unemployed guy! And you're right, Monica barely uttered a word.

Lisa de Moraes: I got the feeling she was added as an afterthought, because Fox got panicky about the show, having seen the terrible numbers on "Married by America."

What's next for West Wing?: President Bartlett gets shot at more than John Rambo. Now they're hyping a kidnapping. How long will it be before someone in the West Wing is attacked by a shark?

Lisa de Moraes: November sweeps ...

Disgusted: When in hell is Monica Lewinsky going to go away forever?

Lisa de Moraes: Never. At least not in our lifetimes ...

Baltimore, Md.: Darn, I was hoping that Randy and Simon's reverse psych. would work and that by telling the viewers that Carmen could never win, that would cause them to vote for her all the more. Oh well, at least they finally wised up to the fact that Josh blows.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that people have finally noticed that what Josh is doing is not singing ... wasn't he a hoot up there on stage when he was sent to Bottom Third-dom and was waiting to see whether he got whacked ... I can't wait to see how he reacts when he finally gets canned.

Alexandria, Va.: Okay, I've watched EVERYTHING: Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?, even bits of Joe Millionaire and Married by America.

But I cannot bring myself to even watch 30 seconds of Mr. Personality. And I have no standards!

Lisa de Moraes: You missed a fun show. Especially when one of the guys wigged out over the astrologer. He was really angry that Cinderella would listen to what an astrologer had to say about him -- but picking a guy in a mask to be her lover is okay with him, apparently... good times.

Silver Spring, Md.: I don't watch reality TV. My question is simple -- does the so- called reality TV portray such an appealing life that the poor schnooks of America want to lose themselves in it? I don't know about anyone else, but my life is reality enough. In fact, my reality has reduced my TV viewing dramatically -- who has time?

Lisa de Moraes: I don't think it's appropriate to make any kinds of comments about all reality programming on one giant sweep. Reality TV is as diverse as comedy series. Sitcoms run the gamut from "Seinfeld" which was sophisticated and clever, to "King of Queens" which is idiotic and predictable. "Extreme Makeover," which is horrifying and denigrating, has absolutely nothing to do with, say, "American Idol" which is a good old-fashioned singing competition show.

Bethesda, Md.: Did you see the 90210 10 year reunion is May 11th? I hope Dylan and Brenda finally reconcile. Man, I feel old.

Lisa de Moraes: Honey, you are old ...

NW: Not reality TV, but has Boomtown been picked up for a second season?

Lisa de Moraes: Not yet ...

Northern Virginia: It's nice to see that Survivor is keeping the material fresh -- or attempting to -- in changing up the contestant challenges. Last night's show was fun to watch while Rob 'fessed up with Matthew, and taking Alex out of the picture. This season has been fun -- though I was a bit skeptical with the male v. female thing at the beginning. Thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: I agree that they've done a good job of refreshing the franchise. But when it gets to that point, you have a mature show and I suspect they will run out of ways to liven it up before too very long. That said,"Survivor" has already had a good long run compared to a lot of reality programming. CBS has been very smart about how they've played this franchise, unlike ABC with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

For good sitcoms ...: ... has anyone else seen Coupling on BBC America? Or even better, since this is a reality TV chat, "The Office," which is an adlibbed parody of a reality show. Slowly but surely, I'm finding myself tuned to BBCA more often.

And no, before you ask, I don't work there.

Lisa de Moraes: Ouch!... I LOVE The Office. It's the next "Seinfeld." Unfortunately, they've shot very few episodes. BBC America is a great network. I actually prefer their versions of "Trading Spaces" and "What Not to Wear" that were ripped off by TLC channel. Brit versions were the originals and they're much livelier. TLC toned them down for puritan American viewers ...

Deal, Md.: There was a big stink about daytime's first kiss between two women this week on "All My Children." Have we ever seen two gay men kiss on a network show, daytime or primetime. I'm talking CBS/NBC/ABC/Fox, not cable. By the way, the kiss wasn't all that.

Lisa de Moraes: I seem to think I've seen guy-on-guy kissing on "Will & Grace" but only little pecks, kind of like the one Julianne Moore gave Barbara Walters on ABC. For whatever reason, people seem to be more uncomfortable with guy-on-guy action. Maybe that's because the people running the networks and the ad agencies that buy time on the programs are -- guys!

Somewhere, USA: I think that Amazing Race person was a little oversensitive. Kind of like Flo.

Just shrug her off. You're a "super lady."

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks ...

Clarksburg, Md.: Lisa, over the last few weeks you've made some denigrating remarks about football, remarks I feel obligated to challenge as they burrow through the soul of my manhood.

Essentially, you've been placing reality TV on the same pedestal as football, in that whenever someone writes in to wonder why people would spend any time watching reality TV, you respond asking the same about football. I would respectfully point out that athletic competition has been accepted as a worthy endeavor since the dawn of ages. Athletic competition instills civic pride in the populous, excepting perhaps those poor schmucks in Cincinnati. Celebratory rioting notwithstanding, athletic competition adds to the fiber and backbone that becomes our great culture. I would be forever indebted if you made nicey nice with the NFL, however denigrating wrestling and NASCAR would suffice ...

Lisa de Moraes: Oh, my god, I hope you're kidding ...

Free Republic: Well, if those Hollywood liberals can give Monica Lewinsky a job, they can give Linda Tripp one too! Maybe she could be on "The Mole", no, wait, that wouldn't work ...

Lisa de Moraes: Hello -- Fox network owned by Rupert Murdoch, well known conservative. Maybe THAT's why Fox gave Monica the job ... liberal, you'll recall, generally liked Clinton ... I agree with you re: Linda Tripp. She should be hosting "Extreme Makeover."

American Idol: Did you notice the guest judge said basically the same thing about every contestant? "I thought s/he picked exactly the right song for his/her voice." and/or "I thought you sounded great."

Is she really that bad of a judge of singing or was she just being nice? (Because some of the contestants didn't sound all that great, in my opinion. Although I wouldn't have been as harsh as Simon and Randy were.)

Lisa de Moraes: Well, since her songs are dreadful, it's kind of hard to take her seriously as a judge. I think it's a mistake to have the same person judging the contestants who wrote the songs and helped each contestat pick his/her song and rehearse it ... I think that's what we learned this week. Plus that her songs suck.

Silver Spring, Md.: Can someone tell me where the Ross and Rachel's baby is? I have a 16-month-old daughter, I don't have time to go partying, hang out at my friends apartment.

I mean Ross and Rachel were hanging out at Monica and Chandler's for hours with no baby in sight ...

Has anyone thought about calling social services?

Lisa de Moraes: This baby disappeared faster than Murphy Brown's ...

San Francisco, Calif.: I saw an article this week that tossed out the idea that reality TV shows have basically become a venue to watch wars of social class -- an example being the "Olive Garden" exchange between rich Mr. Firestone and a soon-to-be-booted Bachelorette. Do you agree?

Lisa de Moraes: Joe Millionaire had one of the most upscale audiences on all of primetime television. No, I do not agree ...

Dupont, Washington, D.C.: This isn't a reality TV question, but I'd love it if you could explain something to me: I don't get sweeps.

They're supposed to be the appointed times of the year when advertising rates for time slots are set, based on viewership, yes? But how could advertisers possibly attain realistic viewership numbers when their sweeps schedules don't even remotely resemble their rest-of-year schedules? I mean, NBC probably drew huge last night with 2 Friends and 2 Will and Graces, but that's not remotely representative of who'd be watching the normal dreck of Good Morning Miami and reruns-because-they-only-make-19-episodes-a-year-anymore. Do advertisers really pay for 52 weeks of high-volume when 35 of them are just slop?

Lisa de Moraes: You are absolutely correct. Sweeps are nonsense because the schedules that the networks put on the air do not reflect what is on their lineups the other weeks of the season and yet stations expect advertisers to pony up dollars based on these bogus numbers. It's silly ...

Lisa de Moraes: I am all out of time. Thanks for joining...see you next week.


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

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company