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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, May 29, 2003; Noon ET

Reality -- overrated?

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.

"Boy Meets Boy": I'm a straight man, and while I think the producers were wrong to lie to the contestants, I like the show's concept. Few of us really understand what closeted gays go through to hide their orientation. Plus, it goes against the old stereotype of gay men as lisping Christopher Lowell types.

(As an aside, I have family members who watch Lowell, and he's so over-the-top that I'm convinced it's all an act. He probably talks like Joe Pesci when he's off-camera.)

Lisa de Moraes: Hi.
This show, for those of you who missed the announcement, is coming to Bravo and involves a gay guy who thinks he's dating gay men to pick the perfect mate, but finds out half way through that some of the guys he's been seeing are straight, including some of the finalists. If the guy he picks is straight,the straight guy wins a cash prize. I am not a fan of situations in which someone is lied to and set up to feel humiliated, especially when it comes to something as personal as this. While the producer says they screened everyone carefully, we've seen too often some of the results of producers' "careful" screening on these reality shows. I really question why the lead guy wasn't told about the straight guys in the mix from the beginning. The only reason I can come up with is that they wanted that "stunning" moment -- producer's description-- when the "twist" is revealed to him. Humiliation ...

Somewhere, USA: What did you think of "Fame?"

Lisa de Moraes: Someone needs to tell Debbie Allen that aviator glasses are out, that her hair is a mess and that she should have gotten back into shape before doing this show. She needs Simon! Actually she needs to go on one of those reality makeover shows. Allen is such an important element of this show and she does not look great. Host Joey Fatone (sp?) is terrible. The kids, however, are great and the number they did with all 24 contestants was really fun. Unfortunately, then they returned to host acting goofy and incompetent and Allen up there cackling on stage and it sucked all the life out of the show.

Washington, D.C.: They say American Idol's been good for the recording industry. It's helped lift a slump. Do you think this will prompt more show clones?

Lisa de Moraes: Fame ... for starters ...

Arlington, Va.: Is NBC's upcoming For Love or Money gonna be just like Joe Millionaire? What are its chances?

Lisa de Moraes: NBC in its promos even acknowledges that For Love or Money is a total ripoff of Joe Millionaire ... I think the twist on this one is fun however -- the guy thinks the chicks are in it to snag him but the chick he chooses will get a million bucks, if she dumps him ... Bet Fox suits are kicking themselves that they didn't think of that for their next edition of "Joe."

Washington, D.C.: What's wrong with ABC these days? They're fourth in the network ratings. How can Fox beat them. What's happening?

Lisa de Moraes: Michael Eisner.

Fairfax, Va.: This week's seemed empty without Idol on. When does it come back and will Simon and all the others still be with the show?

Lisa de Moraes: "American Idol" as we know it won't be back until January, alas. This kiddie version is debuting momentarily but doesn't look nearly as fun; Fox will air a second kiddie version -- does anyone care about 8 year old performers -- in the fall. Simon was saying he might not come back, which was widely interpreted as a negotiating ploy for his next contract.

Happy TARsday!: The Amazing Race (TAR) begins today! Aren't you so excited?! This means many, many fewer questions asking "When will The Amazing Race start, Lisa?"

Everyone watch tonight, okay?

Lisa de Moraes: Hooray re no more questions as to when Amazing Race starts! I am sooooooo excited ...

Mr. Sterling: Perhaps I'm behind on news, but what's the scoop? Have they finally decided whether not to make a go of it? Thanks,

Lisa de Moraes: Gone ...

Fame: I liked the show last night. I agree that Allen is looking haggard, and Joey Fatone is just an idiot. They need to nix him, and just let a shaped-up Allen lead. The judges are a bit off too. What's with the radio disk jockey? He's not qualified to judge that competition ... plus, he seemed like a blubbering idiot. But the talent is there ... it's gonna be great to see how this plays out in AI's shadow ...

Lisa de Moraes: It won't really play out in AI shadow because AI is not on the air. People who, like me, are starved for more AI may watch this even though it will be like AI-Lite because we're just that pathetic ... Fame did an okay number and grew each half hour except the last, which is a pretty good sign. it won every half hour in 18-49 which is a very good sign ... I think it maxed out with about 11.5 million viewers. Radio Man is an idiot. But I like that.

New Drinking Game: Every time someone on Fame says "triple threat" you gotta drink.

Lisa de Moraes: Oh yes, I forgot to mention, re: question what I thought of "Fame" that if I heard Allen say "triple threat" one more time I was gonna puke ... but I like your drinking game idea so maybe it'll be okay ...

Gaithersburg, Md.: FAME! I must VENT! I tuned into that NBC show hosted by Debbie Allen and Joey Fatone for two reasons. One, there wasn't much else on and TWO, they promoted themselves as looking for a "triple threat". Now, stop me if I'm wrong here, but the two decades I spent doing theatre taught me that triple threat was singing, acting and dancing. They've completely co-opted the term! When did it become singing, dancing and PERSONALITY? I had tuned in expecting something along the lines of "Who wants to be a Broadway star" and ended up with a cheap AI knockoff with a dance number at the end! I call it shenanigans! Lemme go get my broom ...

Lisa de Moraes: Like I said, some us are so pathetic we will even watch "AI-Lite" And yes, they co-opted the term. But a new drinking game has been born, so some good has come out of it ... Another drinking game: every time one of the contestants sings that song from "Chicago."

Mr. Personality: Have you heard ANYTHING about what happened with Hayley and Will after she picked him?

Lisa de Moraes: Um ... she made him put his mask back on? I'm more interested in finding out what happened to Mind Bender Boy's career. Not getting picked on that skanky show had to have been a career buster ...

New Yawk: I watched Fame last night and was bored overall. Two hours was too long. And I found myself just wanting to watch the people dance.

My question is, why have a show like this and pick only one star at the end? Isn't the real "triple threat" usually on Broadway singing and dancing in an ensemble show with lots of other triple threats? I would hate to see one of these people with a recording contract singing (with a so-so voice) and dancing (really great) alone on a stage.

Lisa de Moraes: Agree, agree and agree. Two hours was WAY too long. They should have split it up. And having one winner is lame. They should pick a whole cast and PUT ON A SHOW! One in which every number is a different interpretation of the song "All That Jazz."

Washington, D.C.: Lisa -

Your review of NBC's fall line-up said nothing about "Crossing Jordan." What's its status?

Lisa de Moraes: It's going to be a mid season show ...

"Starved for more AI"?!: Do ANY of you have a LIFE?!

Lisa de Moraes: Hello -- no.

Boy meets Boy?: Whoa -- that's despicable. I'm sure some will try to justify it by saying that it's just the same as telling contestants that someone's a millionaire when they aren't. No way -- this is humiliating someone solely on their sexual orientation, and that's ugly.

Straight female here, if that matters.

Lisa de Moraes: I agree that it's risky to deceive someone when it comes to a subject like sexual orientation. I appreciate the producer's interest in wanting to get the largest audience possible, but question the method. I think it would have worked as a show had the guy known upfront -- less sensational, of course, which I guess is the point.

Stunning Twist: Wasn't that the goal of the Joe Millionaire show?

Lisa de Moraes: No, the goal of "Joe Millionaire" was to snag a millionaire -- only he wasn't. But Fox went all wimpy on us and handed the couple a million dollar check at the end, which presumably they split since they were never actually a couple even for one date ...

Washington, D.C.: I know this is old news, but what about The Bachelor: After the Final Rose? I thought that montage of Kirsten and Jen complaining about/insulting each other was classic! Any word on what's up with Jen and Andrew now? I think I read something indicating that Andrew has been flirting with other women!

Lisa de Moraes: Andrew was at the White House Correspondents dinner getting cozy with Jennifer Love Hewitt, although, in fairness, she seemed to be driving ... And honestly, do you really expect any of these couples to stay together -- except, of course, Trista and that poor Ryan?

Humiliation?: Gay or not, the man is GOING ON A REALITY DATING SHOW. He obviously has no shame to begin with!

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, I know, anyone who would go on these show is several sandwiches short of a picnic ...

Chicago, Ill.: What about the situation in For Love or Money when the guy thinks that the girls are competing over him, when it is actually money. Plus the choice of getting him or the money is very funny. Sounds like great traffic accident TV.

Lisa de Moraes: I guess we'll be tuning in ...

12th Floor Metro Center: Bob Hope turned 100 today. If he was still healthy enough to air his yearly specials, would there be an audience for him today?

P.S. -- A coworker's son is one of the finalists on "Fame," and I'm glad to say, he was one of the best.

Lisa de Moraes: NBC stopped airing its Bob Hope specials because they skewed old and NBC targets 18-49-year-olds. But the shows had become pretty sad, with Hope only sitting in the audience while Tony Danza danced and sang on stage ...

Here's a reality show: I just read the article on "Trading Spaces", and I've never watched it, but if there's a chance that one woman neighbor is suddenly gonna wrestle another to the ground, I'm there!

Lisa de Moraes: There was actually one episode recently in which a woman shoved her neighbor because she was so angry over what the woman had done to the room in her house. It was great.

Gay Man's View on Boy Meets Boy: I think the concept is fine. I hear that the main character was a bit ticked when he found out some of the guys were straight, but he dealt with it. I'll be tuning in, and you can be sure that every gay bar in this city will be tuning in as well.

Lisa de Moraes: I don't think he should have had to have "dealt with it." I think it would have been better had he been told at the outset ... But all the publicity this show has received is sure to drive viewers to the program, which is a good thing for Bravo ...

Models are funny: I know America's Top Model or whatever it's called was a loser last week, but did anyone but me watch it? It's RIVETING. I laughed my a_ _ off.

Lisa de Moraes: I'm surprised it isn't getting more viewers, but that probably has more to do with the fact that its on UPN which has no circulation these days. Surprisingly, the second broadcast had an audience that was almost totally female. Where are the guys?

For Love or Money: That show seems a little ridiculous to me. How many people would pick that guy they've known for a few weeks over a million dollars??

Lisa de Moraes: Yup, I think it's a foregone conclusion that the chick will pick the cash ...

Arlington, Va.: Do you know if anyone -- the press, TV hosts, etc. -- has ever pointed out to Ryan Sutton in so many words that Trista is an absolute psycho? Hasn't anyone shaken him by the shoulders yet and told him to wake up?

Lisa de Moraes: Apparently Trista didn't let him read the coverage of their affair, because several reporters tried to wake him up in print -- myself included ...

Rhode Island: Have to agree that the guy on the dating show has no shame. He would also have to be stupid to not know he's being set up. It's like being invited by your wife to appear on the Springer Show and NOT expecting her to reveal her affair with your best friend. Sheesh.

Lisa de Moraes: Okay, I concede the point ... he deserves everything he got. They should have dressed up some chicks as guys too ...

Trading Spaces Whining: No sympathy here for the contestants that get upset that they don't like the room. They've seen the show -- they should know what kind of crap the decorators put up! Hello, if you want it decorated just as you would do it, go hire a decorator instead!

Lisa de Moraes: Oh right, so you can PAY a decorator to ignore what you want and do what they want instead ...

Debbie Allen's Gut: I didn't know they made maternity leather pants. Just sayin'.

Lisa de Moraes: Ick (great).

Embassy Row, Washington, D.C.: Lisa: First, I just had to note that The West Wing finally got back on track in the last few episodes of the season, with excellence in directing, writing and suspense ... John Goodman's character seems to be the perfect foil for the actors and makes me want to watch again next season. I hope Aaron Sorkin's departure doesn't lessen the potential of the current storyline.

Second, after your tour in NYC of the presentations by the networks on their fall schedules to TRWCT, is there ANYTHING to look forward to? All the new shows sound like retreads or focus-group creations.

Thanks for your chats ... love reading your sassy column.

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks, re: column. John Goodman was sensational on West Wing. I have no confidence that this show will survive the loss of Sorkin. I suspect they will turn it into a soap, like "ER," and will stay away from politics as much as possible. Too bad the whole situation with Sorkin fell apart just when he seemed to have finally figured out how to write the show up out of the hole it had fallen into ...

For Love or Love: No way is the chick going to pick the cash! This is going to air on national TV, and so far everyone in these dating shows has, in the end, tried to show how great a person he/she is. Even in Joe Millionaire, he picked the nice girl despite the fact that he really wanted the other one.

The cash will be tempting, but the press involved with picking the guy will push the woman on to "greater things". $1 million is chump change.

Lisa de Moraes: There is no "greater thing" for winners of these shows than one million dollars. Most of them are not heard of again after the obligatory 15 minutes ... and, given the success rate of the made-for-TV coupling on these dating shows, she'd look like an idiot if she chose him over the money ...I say take the money and run. It won't preclude her from doing KFC ads if she took the money ...

Trading Spaces: I am a huge fan of the show. The problem is that the majority of the rooms that are redone are awful to begin with and even the worst redecorating makes the room look better than it was before. Yes, there are only one or two very good decorators on the show. It's pure entertainment and very funny to watch, especially when the homeowners get dramatic and cry, push each other, scream, etc.

Lisa de Moraes: They should run something at start of show that says "do not try this at home" because most of the decorating jobs are hideous at the end. Okay, ALL of the decorating jobs are hideous at the end. The miracle is that anyone who sees this show actually wants one of these decorators to come do a room in their house. My all time fave was the bedroom made to look like a box from Tiffany by having the total jock husband next door spray paint white "ribbons" all over the turquoise walls. That decorator should have lost her license ...

Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.: I liked your Michael Eisner answer. You're right. He's killing/killed this network. I know Disney owns ABC, but isn't there a board or something that can fire his a--? Er you want to call it --during the audition tapes. I just thought that by the time they got on stage, I thought most fell flat -- except for the big group number where they introduced themselves.

Lisa, I'm with you on Joey F -- he's AWFUL. And I could care less about how Debbie A looks -- I still think she's a talented woman with more of a clue than the AI folks. Just my 2 cents!

Lisa de Moraes: That group number was fun. But Allen looks out of date, which is exactly what this show does not need. Joey F is awful ...

Trista's Wedding: I read that Trista is flogging her 15 minutes even further by having her wedding televised, and it will be aired sometime in August. In the article the Bachelorette host said "she doesn't want it to be a spectacle ... more like a documentary." Maybe Ryan will stand her up at the altar and she can become the next Billie Jean ...

Lisa de Moraes: We can always hope ...

Somewhere, USA: Statements by chatters last week that they'd spent three hours or more continually trying to dial in to vote for "American Idol" worried me a bit. Do these people not have lives? Do they make this much effort to vote in elections, including local elections? Can you imagine this level of interest in things that actually affect our lives, such as Middle East politics, tax policies or the environment? Oh, well.

Lisa de Moraes: I know. They should pass a law against having fun. It's shameful.

Washington, D.C.: Any word about your co-worker Tony Kornheiser's pilot? Maybe you can get on there!

Lisa de Moraes: I hear that they couldn't cast the Tony role. Which is not surprising. There is only one Tony Kornheiser.

Changing Rooms on BBCA ... : is SO much better than Trading Spaces! They did an episode where two of the designers had rooms in their own houses redecorated by each other ... and they HATED them! Lawrence finally got his comeuppance. It was great.

Lisa de Moraes: BBC version, Changing Rooms is really much better, yes. So is BBC version of What Not to Wear because the two Brit hosts are great and fearless and also well-dressed. I have never understood the guy stylist on the TLC version who always wears rugby shirts and kletter (clutter, ckleutter?) boots. He looks a mess, though he is very funny ...

Old Town, Alexandria, Va.: What do you think about ABC choosing Bob as the next bachelor? I think he seems like a very nice, very funny guy, but -- at the risk of sounding totally shallow -- not really the classically handsome guys they've picked in the past. My question is: Do you think they'll pick a similar class of girls? Or will Bob have his pick of leggy, skinny, pre-pubescent babes like all the other bachelors?

Lisa de Moraes: He's so unappealing I'm not sure how this show will play but won't it be fun to watch if none of the chicks is really attracted to him but pursues him nonetheless ...

Arlington, Va.: Trading Spaces -- I saw the Tiffany Box episode. I think it was somewhere here in Arlington. Hilarious!

Lisa de Moraes: It was too funny ...

Voting Booth: For the skeptical one --

I spent three hours trying to vote for AI (got through a few times, too), and I can honestly say that I have, indeed, spent as much time voting for real, live things. I had to wait in line for over two hours just to vote in the last presidential election, and I vote in all of the smaller elections, too.

Some people are so cynical.

Lisa de Moraes: Hooray!

Philadelphia, Pa.: Lisa, love your column! My question is why did Fox can shows like Andy Richter and Family Guy? Surely they are useful as summer replacements! Why aren't networks more bold in going with "round the year" scheduling instead of just in the Sept-May season?

Lisa de Moraes: Can't speak for Fox not running episodes in the summer. Several networks are burning things off in the summer, like CBS's airing of Baby Bob episodes and the Nathan Lane comedy that the network picked up and then cooled on ...

Trading Spaces: I agree that most of the "Afters" suck, but you can't say that about Vern! I would kill to have him re-do my house. But God forbid I saw Kia or Hildi walking toward me instead. RUN!

Lisa de Moraes: Vern's stuff is sometimes not hideous but that's the best I can say ...

K Street: How do you think a Sorkin-less West Wing will do next season?

Lisa de Moraes: Best thing to happen to West Wing is that Bachelor seemed to have cooled slightly at the end of this season ...

Somewhere, USA: Why do you say that "poor" Ryan?

Lisa de Moraes: Trista.

Voting Booth ... : Yeah, but local and national elections actually MATTER, so you spend three hours doing your civic duty. Three hours voting for Clay or Rubin is just rank idiocy ....

Lisa de Moraes: You mean idiocy like three hours of football idiocy? Wow -- that's bad!

For Philly: I just read that Family Guy is coming out on DVD.

Lisa de Moraes: Correct. And it's on cartoon network still, I believe ...

Bethesda, Md.: Lisa, don't hold back on your thoughts about what you think of Debbie Allen. Please, let us know what you really think! LOL

Lisa de Moraes: Hey, they asked ...

New York, N.Y.: I can't believe no one's mentioned "The Search for America's Next Model." This is CLASSIC reality TV with model wannabes who passive-aggressively sing, force Bible readings and prayer on their fellow contestants and the best Linda-Blair-like venting ever seen in a confessional. Great stuff!

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, too bad more people aren't watching ...

Clarksburg, Md.: How far apart on the reality continuum are AmIdol/Joe M/Guy meets Guy, etc. ... from Jerry Springer or Ricki Lake? Do they share the same general viewership?

Lisa de Moraes: Guy Meets Guy, aka Boy Meets Boy, has not aired yet. But Joe Millionaire and American Idol were, believe it or not, very upscale shows, which Springer's show and Ricki Lake's are most definitely not ...

Since you brought up West Wing ... : Any idea why they didn't just appoint a VP (from their party) and THEN invoke the 25th? Seems dumb to let the opposing party take over, but I guess that's where the show is going.

Lisa de Moraes: Now you're just getting picky ... (yes, you're right)

Family Guy : is on Cartoon Network every weeknight at 11:30.

Lisa de Moraes: There you go ...

Boy meets Boy meets Jail?: Didn't soemthing like this (setting a straight guy up with a homosexual admirer) get someone from the skanky Jenny Jones Show killed? Of course, since the straight guys know, and the homosexual is apparently expected by the producers to be less aggressive in his disappointment, are they being insulting by assuming that the ploy is a safe one?

Lisa de Moraes: ... no comment ...

Tony Kornheiser Casting: James Gandolfini?

Lisa de Moraes: Brilliant, but Gandolfini already has a gig ...

Dressed up chicks: And how do you know they 'didn't' have a few chicks thrown in there? I'll be looking out for the adam's apple.

Lisa de Moraes: ... you're right. I don't.

Baltimore, Md.: Word on the What Not To Wear boards is that Wayne Scott Lukas will not be back for season two. He posted as much during the chat for the season finale. I actually liked him even if his own fashion choices tended towards the pedestrian. He did get the hair cut also (had only kept it long because he modeled for romance book covers a la Fabio).

Lisa de Moraes: I heard he'd been dumped. ...

Washington, D.C.: Is Extreme Makeover coming back with more original shows? (Last night's was a rerun.)

Lisa de Moraes: Leave it to ABC to not get the memo that reality series don't rerun ... Yes, it's going to be a regular series on ABC's fall schedule. Airing Thursday nights, I think. I'm still in a fog from the upfront presentations ...

Arlington, Va.: I just had to vent. Why is it that all the women on this new For Love or Money show are so young? This guy is 33 and they put 21-year-olds on the show? Most seem to be around 24 -- and maybe they're all young and stupid so they'll actually consider the guy, but really ... they need to put a bunch of desperate women who feel like their biological clocks are ticking away and let THEM compete for this guy and have to pick between him and the money. THAT might be a lot more fun.

Lisa de Moraes: That would be much more interesting. But there's no reason they couldn't get pregnant on the show and dump him for the million dollars anyway. Just a thought...

Somewhere, USA: I'm the "skeptical" one. It's not a matter of having fun. It's a matter of taking a show such as AI so seriously. If it's all fun, great. If one gets more upset at AI voting than a real election, then it's worrying.

Lisa de Moraes: We all promise that we will get VERY upset over the next election, so we won't appear to be airheads ... That's all I have time for now. Thanks for participating.


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

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company