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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, May 8, 2003; Noon ET

The Marines have pulled out of "American Idol" and Disney is now pimping for Firestone on "The Bachelor."

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.

Dupont, Washington, D.C.: Any word on "Boomtown's" fate? Love that show.

Lisa de Moraes: Hi. Vanessa Williams has apparently signed to star in a slew of "Boomtown" episodes if it's picked up for next season, which is a pretty good indication it will be back next season. "Slew," by the way, is a TV-industry expression meaning "enough episodes to be eligible for a Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Emmy instead of a Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series Emmy," because the announcement of winners in the guest gigs are not part of the televised Emmy ceremony. I think she's committed to 10 eps.

Washington, D.C.: OK Lisa I did it.

I watched one minute of American Idol. Then I had to change the channel -- one minute was all I could take! But they were down to the Marine and another gal. So who won?

Lisa de Moraes: If by "who won" you mean "who lost" since the point is that one contestant is booted each week, the Marine, Josh got pulled out of "American Idol" last night because president Bush decided that there were no more weapons of mass destruction on the set. And the nation is grateful.

Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Lisa. On Tuesday's episode of American Idol, Josh really pushed it up a notch by interacting with the audience. I'm glad he finally got eliminated, but he really did try! On The Bachelor -- I got the impression that Kristin felt she needed to sleep with Andrew to get a rose. Your thoughts?

Lisa de Moraes: If by "interacting with the audience" you mean "glowered menacingly at the camera while pointing menacingly at the audience and stomped around in the aisles" yes,he certainly did push it up a notch. Re: Kristin, if by "felt she needed to sleep with Andrew to get a rose" you mean "Disney is pimping for millionaire bachelor Andrew Firestone with those creepy notes in which the producers suggested that each chick forego her separate room and shack up with Andrew in the honeymoon suite" yes, I think Kristin felt she needed to "sleep" (aka have sex with) Firestone Man in order to win the competition, as did the other two chicks. It's the New Wonderful World of Disney....

Not on my couch ... : Whoo hoo! Tina (aka Cobra Hair ... what's up with that?!) is off the Bachelor. I thought she was just awful.

Lisa de Moraes: She was just awful, but can you imagine spending the rest of your life with someone who has Kirstin's voice? Yikes. And Firestone Man is sooooo high school! He was only interested in Tina F. so long as she was aloof -- would not kiss him on the mouth -- and once she kissed him and spent the night in his bed, he lost interest ...

Goober, Orange County, Calif.: Lisa, can you settle a bet? I bet my wife that there would be no fewer than a half-dozen gratuitous shots of Heidi's breasts on Survivor tonight. She says that's too low. What say you?

Lisa de Moraes: I say we have a brilliant drinking game in the making ... Every time CBS trains cameras on Heidi's breasts -- I'm betting at least a half-dozen per show -- you get to take a drink ...

Charlottesville, Va.: Hi Lisa,

When NBC airs "supersize" episodes, what impact does that have on reruns and syndication of those episodes? Are there "kiddie size" versions of them as well?

Lisa de Moraes: If you watch "supersized" episodes closely, you'll see very cut-able stuff and actually a lot of the extra time is consumed by an extra ad break -- what a surprise. It's easy to un-super-size those episodes for syndication.

Washington, D.C.: Will NBC dominate the ratings this summer with their "all-reality-all-the-time" strategy? Does it matter to the networks to have high ratings in the summer?

Lisa de Moraes: NBC has not been able to get on the reality bandwagon in the same way that ABC did with Millionaire (and now to lesser degree with Bachelor), or Fox did with American Idol or CBS did with Survivor. NBC has a strong brand as the quality scripted-series network, which is actually a good thing, unless you're the guy in charge of reality programming for NBC. Given that all the networks are going heavy -- some more so than others -- with reality programming this summer, I don't think NBC will necessarily break out of the pack ... there is so much reality planned for this summer I suspect viewers may get confused and lost ...

View of the Parking Lot: Lisa:

Do you happen to watch that reality recap show on VH1? It's my favorite show on TV; I don't actually have to subject myself to entire hours of reality dreck but I can still follow the banal water cooler gossip! It's the best!

Lisa de Moraes: Love all reality recaps, especially Web site Television Without Pity ... which does recaps of some scripted shows too, so you don't have to watch them either ...

Good old D.C.: Lisa -- how soon do you think "ER" and "The Practice" will be put out of their misery and cancelled? Also, does anyone besides me find Noah Wylie to be completely unbelievable as the 'sex object' he's become on "ER?" He's sure no George Clooney!

Lisa de Moraes: Noah is as believable as male heartthrob as is David Hyde Pierce on "Frasier." Not. "The Practice" may already have been put out of its misery. "ER" has not; it will be back next season because its ratings, while down, are still pretty good compared to the rest of the stuff on the networks' schedules ...

Seat Pleasant: Do you have any information about the future of "Scrubs" for next season? Or, is this show so anathema to you that you won't even entertain a question about it?

Lisa de Moraes: Wow, the hostility -- polysyllabic hostility! I've noticed that in "Scrubs" fans a lot. Try watching the show as though it were a comedy instead of the be all to end all -- I find that helps some "Scrubs" fans to develop a sense of humor and perspective ... re: your question, "Scrubs" is expected back next season because it did a pretty good job of holding on to "Friends" lead-in. Conventional wisdom at this hour has it staying in the same timeslot next season, although NBC is still kicking around its primetime schedule in preparation of Monday's new-season announcements, so who knows -- it may end out on Tuesday at 8 ... or on Bravo.

Re: "Coupling": I'm just judging from the picture on the Post Web site, so tell me if I'm wrong, but how is it possible that another major network has unveiled another major show where the entire, large, ensemble cast is white? Where on God's green earth do these people live that makes them think the world is so stocked with skinny, attractive, expensively dressed, lily-white folks?

Lisa de Moraes: Coupling was the UK answer to Friends, which is now NBC's answer to Friends. Hence, all white cast. NBC did make one bold move, however -- they've set Coupling in Chicago instead of New York. Pretty brave of them, yes?

Washington, D.C.: There's so much speculation about what will be back next season -- when do we find out?

Lisa de Moraes: Next week the broadcast networks unveil their new primetime schedules for fall, starting Monday with NBC, running through Thursday ...

College Park, Md.: So when do we hit the bottom of the barrel? Disabled or sick people competing for treatment? Starving kids in developing countries gladiating to the death for food? How much degradation is needed to help middle America feel better about its life situation?

Lisa de Moraes: I think those are Discovery Health Channel shows ...

Atlanta, Ga.: What is going on with the "Scrubs" schedule? At least it's always on the same night, but it isn't on every week. Often it is included in the TV listings in the paper, but then it isn't on. Is their production extra slow? I thought the ratings were good, so I'm hoping this isn't a sign of its impending demise. I'm still disappointed that "Freaks and Geeks" and "Sports Night" were cancelled, so I'd hate to lose another of my favorites!

Lisa de Moraes: NBC takes Scrubs off during sweeps because it lost the February sweeps to Fox among 18-49 year old viewers. It was the first time in ages that NBC had not won the sweep in the demographic it targets and sells to advertisers. This was a big blow to NBC. They knew this May sweep was going to be very tight with Fox, so they have pulled off their schedule any show in a time period where they believe they can do better among 18-49 year olds. And for reasons I cannot explain, reruns of Friends can do great numbers following Friends on Thursday, instead of Scrubs.

Farragut: Lisa, you crack me up! I just snorted Pepsi all over my keyboard after reading:

If by "interacting with the audience" you mean "glowered menacingly at the camera while pointing menacingly at the audience and stomped around in the aisles." Yes, he certainly did push it up a notch.

Lisa de Moraes: Josh really creeped me out...

Greenbelt, Md.: Just who is this "alleged" TV star Ashton Kutcher who says in Rolling Stone that he got high with the Bush twins. What "show" is he on?

Lisa de Moraes: The "show" he is "on" is "That 70's Show" on "Fox."

Re: Coupling: My favorite show on BBCA. Shame NBC is going to ruin it. Why not just air the original?

Lisa de Moraes: Because we are a very provincial people and would not watch, in large enough numbers, a show in which all the actors spoke with "funny accents." Isn't it interesting how a British accent of any sort is considered a real plus in this country if you are news-division on-air talent, but a negative if you are entertainment program on-air talent.

Castle Shannon, Pa.: Television doesn't get any better than Sunday night's slam-bang episode of "Alias." I was so disappointed to see that it finished fourth in the timeslot, even after getting a lot of hype and promotion from ABC. Is there any hope of this excellent show attracting more viewers?

P.S. -- I'm glad to see Josh go, but I'll miss bashing him.

Lisa de Moraes: ABC has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every step of the way on Alias. Like giving it the coveted post-Super Bowl timeslot, but then delaying the start of the Alias post-Superbowl episode so it could run a bunch of junk, so that Alias didn't start until 11 p.m. that night -- more than an hour, I think, after the game ended. Which resulted in that Alias episode not getting the huge sampling that a post-Super Bowl broadcast traditionally gets. It was still Alias's biggest audience in ages, only because it started at 11 p.m. it wasn't technically part of primetime and so didn't go into that week's primetime tally. ABC has squandered so many opportunities for this show, it's shameful.

That 70's Show: Since we are on the subject ... isn't the sister getting a little long in the tooth to be playing a 20-year-old tramp? I noticed this last night.

Lisa de Moraes: They're all getting a little long in the tooth to be playing their parts. Like Dawsons ...

Falls Church, Va.: Ashton Kutcher also has a show on MTV ... Punk'd.

Lisa de Moraes: Ah "yes," that "too"...

Somewhere, USA: "Ashton" also "did" the big screen "Dude Where's My Car".

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, more Ashton "credits."

Timonium, Md.: What did you think of "Alias's" season finale? I thought it was amazing! Any thoughts as to where/how ABC could position the show to improve ratings beyond the critic and cult following it already has?

Lisa de Moraes: Maybe they should put it in a time period where it has a decent lead-in ... oh wait. ABC doesn't have any time periods that have decent lead-ins except Wednesday after "The Bachelor" and if they put "Alias" there where could they possibly put the Emmy and Peabody winning reality show "Extreme Makeover."

Harrisburg, Pa.: Let me get this straight: a planned reality show based on people pretending to be presidential candidates has been cancelled because it would cost too much. Why don't they take the current case of nine actual presidential candidates, film them, and call it a reality show? Maybe then the public will watch something we used to call the news? Just an idea.

Lisa de Moraes: I think probably because none of the actual candidates are hunks under the age of 49, which presumably Fox was hoping to find for its faux presidential candidate show. Plus there's that pesky equal-time rule ...

Washington, D.C.: Lisa -- you media diva --

I whooped with joy as Tina "fabulous" 'ack' was not selected last night. Not that Mr. No Charisma is really a prize ... but she was a little much to stomach with her whole "I'm so not attainable". I have hardly watched the show this go-round, even though it has been a favorite of mine in the past, but last night -- good show, eh?

Lisa de Moraes: Last night was brilliant in a totally skeevy way ... skeevy, by the way, is a TV industry expression for "sure to appeal to teenage chicks."

The Bachelor: I could not BELIEVE Andrew didn't give a rose to Tina Fabulous. She was the best one out of the group. He seemed to have no chemistry with Jen, and Kirsten is looking more manipulative than ever. Kirsten is giving women a bad name. What does Andrew see in her? Think the producers will throw another surprise at us at the end and Andrew will choose Jen?

Lisa de Moraes: Isn't it amazing how he has winnowed the list down to the two most boring women in the bunch. And they look like they could be cousins ... zzzzzzz

Wine fight!: Mr. Personality is now so so boring. I want the hypnosis guy to win just because at least he's interesting in a "plotting evil" way. Maybe he can hypnotize Hayley Valentine Arp into having a personality of her own!

Lisa de Moraes: Mr. Personality was fab for one brief shining moment when Monica Lewinsky took Arp into the screening room to show her incriminating tapes of two of the guys that had been recorded without their knowledge. Fab in that Monica did not seem at all aware of the irony in having her show these tapes ... the show has flamed out since ... Arp is a total bore and all teeth ...

Arlington, Va.: Since "Ed" on NBC made the jump the shark move of letting Ed and Carole hook up, can we assume the series is dead? Is it coming back next year. Have to admit I love it all the same ...

Lisa de Moraes: I think it will be back next season and die a slow, painful, jump the shark death ...

Maryland: Do you think "The Practice" is coming back next year?

Lisa de Moraes: Don't hold your breath. Ratings way down and costs continue to climb. Not a good mix ...

Washington, D.C.: So what about the West Wing last night? Is Zoe's French boyfriend a plant by the French government to cause national security havoc?

Lisa de Moraes: Zoey's French boyfriend is a plant by the Bush administration to make the show so boring no one will watch ...

Aahhh, withdrawal symptoms ... : I missed the Bachelor! What happened?

Lisa de Moraes: Tina Fab -- bye bye. Of course, Firestone Man only booted her after she shacked up with him for a night. "When I'm with you, there is no other place I'd rather be." ... That's Andrew's only pickup line, as far as I can tell.

K Street: Will Matthew Perry be on West Wing again or was it just a two episode stint?

Lisa de Moraes: Not sure how many, but since next week is season finale it's probably not more than one more.

1993 Toyota Celica, Calif.: Lisa, it appears the tribe has spoken on "The American Candidate?" Why'd they pull the plug?

Lisa de Moraes: ... Because after seeing the numbers on the presidential campaign storyline of "The West Wing" they realized that nobody cares?

Baltimore, Md.: Our long national nightmare is over! Josh finally got his long overdue walking papers. What was up with the thing he was doing with his hand btw? Either he can use it to goose the crowd or he does that pointing thing on the power ballads. Yet another creepy thing not to like about G.I. Josh. Semper fi you fool!

Lisa de Moraes: Another Clay fan heard from ...

Arlington, Va.: Where does ABC get off keeping the Bachelor on til 10:05? I recorded the show and the VCR clicked off as the Bach reached for the second rose! ARGHH

Lisa de Moraes: Anyone who records any successful (ratings-wise) show on primetime TV should set their timer to begin recording about 5 minutes early and to stop recording about 7 minutes late because all of the networks are "supersizing" their successful shows in order to get in one more ad break at that show's high ad rates. I wish I had a buck for every time I've heard from an angry fan who had this exact same thing happen to them ...

Which is sillier: West Wing's made up countries, like Kundu, or 24's vague "3 Arab nations"?

Lisa de Moraes: Definitely West Wing. "24" is such an absurd show to start with that making up stuff seems somehow okay on that show. On West Wing it sticks out and not in a good way ...

Washington, D.C.: OK, call it, Lisa: Clay or Ruben wins?

Lisa de Moraes: Given that this show is heavily watched by young chicks and that, if that phone ad they keep running on the show is any indication, the people voting are mostly young chicks (I assume the phone company knows who is voting and tailored that ad featuring only young chicks explaining how to text votes, accordingly) I would bet on Clay, who seems to have young girls in raptures ...

Chevy Chase, Md.: Lisa, I'm pitching an idea to Fox about a reality show set in the Post newsroom. I have you slated to bunk with Kornheiser and Wilbon. You in?

Lisa de Moraes: You mean a three-way?

Gambrills, Md.: Will "Smallville" be back next year?

Lisa de Moraes: Good grief yes. That show is a super hit for WB.

Bachelor: Okay -- please don't make fun of me because I did not faithfully watch the whole episode. Did those girls really "sleep" with Firestone guy?

Lisa de Moraes: Well, of course, because it is the Disney-owned network, they were discreet and did not actually show the act, but they strongly implied that there was "sleeping" going on. Clearly it was what Firestone Man had in mind ... he laughed nervously when Tina Fab said she would stay in the room with him and he could sleep on the couch. Turns out, she was only kidding; then he laughed again, only hornily ...

Washington, D.C.: Why haven't Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne at ABC been fired yet? All their dramas were cancelled this year, and their comedy lineup is very thin. No shows consistently finish in the top 20, except, perhaps, the Bachelor.

Lisa de Moraes: ... Um, because Disney Big Cheese Bog Iger needs to have in reserve a bunch of people he can sack when the finger gets pointed at him? ...

Kensington, Md.: Is that "American Candidate" that was cancelled?

Lisa de Moraes: Yes ...

Quick, I know it's late, but ... : Please settle a debate. Was Josh sincere last night? I say it was an act; coworkers say no. What's your take?

Lisa de Moraes: You mean when he gave that speech at the end after getting booted? I like to think he was capable of being gracious in defeat. It was a nice speech.

Bottom of the Barrell?: I believe we hit that in the mid-60's, with Queen for a Day? Remember that one? Three or 4 women would come out and give their sob story, and the most pathetic would become "Queen for a Day". Whoda thunk it they were light years ahead of their time.

Dreck, I tell ya. It's all dreck. Bring back the Celebrity olympics shows they used to have. Harry Hamlin racing against Joel Grey.

Reality TV. Isn't it a sign of the Apocalypse?

Lisa de Moraes: You know, these chats wouldn't be the same without at least one apocalypse question, and here it is.

Gotta run. Thanks for joining me. FYI, I will be in New York next week, attending some network or another's upfront presentation Thursday at noon, and so will not be doing this chat next week. Bye ...


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

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company