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The TV Column
TV Week
Lisa's 'Survivor' Discussions
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Reality TV
With Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post TV Columnist

Thursday, Feb. 6, 2003; Noon ET

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a front row seat -- a winning formula for Fox's "American Idol," now in the thick of its second season and already breaking primetime ratings records. A new crop of contestants, ripe for the barbs of bitchy Brit Simon Cowell, have viewers tuning in two nights a week for the spectacle. But, if young singles (including a former bondage-movie star) competing for the affections of a construction worker built like a rock (with matching IQ) are more your speed, Fox also offers "Joe Millionaire."

Join Washington Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes every Thursday at Noon ET to discuss the latest gripping developments on "American Idol" and "Joe Millionaire."

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.

Washington, D.C>: This is a bit off-topic, but I enjoyed your column about Joe Garagiola today. I'll miss his presence as a representative of all of us "enthusiastic but not overly knowledgable" dog lovers. I'd point out, though, that it's not quite accurate to refer to him as a baseball "great." He was an ordinary player who parlayed his personality and his lifelong friendship with Yogi Berra into a broadcasting career.

washingtonpost.com: The TV Column, (Post, Feb. 6)

Lisa de Moraes: Hi ... nice to be back. Re: your question/statement/correx/whatever: I know nothing about baseball; I relied on the kindness of strangers for that comment. I'll just take your word for it. But he was a fab host for Westminster ...

Washington, D.C.: What's the word on Alex McLeod? She's supposed to be the host of Joe Millionaire but she's never shown. Any behind the scenes scoop?

Lisa de Moraes: Is that astranges "hosting" gig or what? She's this year's Dunkelman (SP?) ... bye bye Alex ....

Chantilly, Va.: Hi Lisa: to the people who say that shows like Joe Millionaire are nothing but mindless trash, my response is that those of us who use our brains during the day enjoy watching mindless trash at night.

Lisa de Moraes: Oh ... yeah ... that's exactly how it is for me. It's because I'm such a mensa girl at work that I need the refueling provided by American Idol and Joe Millionaire at night to keep me strong and smart ...

Boston, Mass.: Ok, I have to admit that I am male and married and hooked on the Bachelorette. I have forgone the West Wing until it concludes. I can't quite figure it out, but this is a lot more entertaining than the original bachelor. This is much better than Joe M and quite frankly giving Survivor a good run for its money -- although looking for your thoughts on the men vs. women edition of Survivor.

Lisa de Moraes: Survivor -- so over ... Hooray for men who admit to watching Bachelorette. West Wing -- also so over, boo hoo (I'm sorry but they were discussing poetry on WW last night and if that's not a Jump the Shark episode I don't know what is.)

London, England: OK, so it's not Idol or Millionaire, but for reality TV at it's most frightening check out the Jacko special tonight. Had the misfortune of catching it here in the UK on Monday night, and let me tell you: hoo boy! Everything you heard is true, and worse.

Lisa de Moraes: I can't wait personally. But let me quickly remind our participants here that the Wacko Jacko show tonight is very very serious programming that's being brought to us by the very very serious folks at ABC News ...

Raleigh, N.C.: I was discussing with a friend this morning how editing affects reality programming, more specifically how Fox's editing of American Idol showing Kimberly Calwell to be a callous witch to a seemingly innocenet put-upon Julia Demato. It could have cost Kimberly a direct line into the top ten, although I believe she'll be a wild card.

Lisa de Moraes: Yeah, that Kimberly -- she was robbed. Paleeze. Kimberly was tone deaf, but hot, and a total schemer and not in a good way. And I was already sick of that "I did great -- everybody loves me" thing she had going half way through Tuesday's episode. She got old real fast; I did not want to have to put up with her into the May sweeps. But I will miss her mom ....

About that Joe Millionaire show: Why an Australian butler?
If they are in France, why not a French butler.

And how come the ladies never ask him about his wealth, his upbringing, or anything else that might associate him with being a millionaire?

Lisa de Moraes: Um ... because none of us would understand him?

Kingstowne, Va.: Why do I watch Joe Millionaire? Because it's Train Wreck TV: Like a technological disaster, it's so bad you can't possibly look away. But I wonder: How has Fox managed to keep a lid on the ruse, even as the news of Sarah's bondage film career has oozed out?

Lisa de Moraes: I presume that they've told participants that if they squeal, they will be sued and that Fox has killed all of the crewmembers who shot the finale ...

College Park, Md.: I was deeply disappointed to see Melissa go. I've been sure that she was an ideal companion for our dim-witted Evan ever since she earnestly misspoke (although perhaps it was a Freudian slip?) and claimed to have a "mercenary personality" last week. Alas, I'll have to root for Sarah now, and I suppose that in the last episode she equaled Melissa for shallow cattiness. Who do you think will prove to be the match for Evan?

Lisa de Moraes: Dear, sweet mercenary Melissa. Evan is way too nice -- dumb, but nice -- for Melissa... I was thrilled to see her go. She lacked subtlety ...subtlty?... subteltie? .... she was too obvious.

Baltimore, Md.: Since Joe Millionaire has been a surprise ratings hit, does that mean that Fox is gonna do it again? If so, where will they find another guy as dumb as Evan?

Lisa de Moraes: Alas, this is a one-shot ... we mourn..

Washington, D.C. 20005: "Jump the shark?" Please explain!

(And that Alex McLeod does appear on Joe Millionaire to announce to the "girls" what the bauble of the evening is and how many of them won't get one. She is horrendously awkward so the less she's on, the better: "Now, I'll just go get Evan...")

Lisa de Moraes: Jump the shark refers to an episode of a show that when you saw it, you knew that show was over. On sitcoms, it's usually the very special episode on date rape ...

Los Angeles, Calif.: I have been watching both "Joe Millionaire" and "American Idol."

I find the goal of "Joe Millionaire" -- to see if it really is love, or rather money, that these ladies are after, will not be answered. Instead, it should be titled "Lies and their effect on people." For me, the show fails because it doesn't do what it set out to do.

I really enjoy "American Idol" because it really shows some trade secrets of what producers and scouting agents are looking for. Sometimes, it does get a little silly (or the judges don't explain why they voted the way they did) but overall it is a very interesting show. As for Simon -- well, we do need the comic relief. I have to admit he can be hysterically funny (so glad I am not on the receiving end).

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, American Idol should be a presentation of ABC News. Like the Whacko Jacko Show ... both are extremely educational. Actually, I agree with you re AI. If you actually listen to what Simon has to say, you learn a thing or two about how pop stars are packaged -- depressing things...

Washington, D.C.: Hi Lisa: In the upcoming Survivor "The Amazon" the teams are paired off men vs. women. Do you think this is a good idea and will it improve or be an impediment to the show? In your opinion will the women have a chance in the more physical contests, which doesn't always have anything to do with the final outcome as we've seen in previous "Survivor" editions?

Also Lisa, I've always wanted to ask you: are you related to the great Brazilian composer Vinicius De Moraes?

Lisa de Moraes: Aren't you sweet for asking about Vinicius de Moraes. I believe that my family may have been in some way distantly related to his though I am not absolutely certain. I certainly hope so! The de Moraes clan is fairly large in Brazil ... Re: Survivor I think it might be fun, but they'll have to be careful it doesn't get too schticky -- is that a word. And of course we'll all be on the lookout for members from opposite tribes having late night rendevous, like the one Evan and Bondage Girl had on their date.. With subtitles

Chantilly, Va.: Lisa, please look into your crystal ball.

Are we witnessing the slow death of the half-hour non-animated sitcom?

I no longer watch ANY of these shows -- they either blow or jumped the shark -- and I even choose American Dreams over the Simpsons, because I know I'll be able to watch the Simpsons until the day I die.

Lisa de Moraes: As I said in my column, yes, we are all mourning the loss of penis jokes this season. Sitcoms have sucked for so long -- gosh, can I say that on washpost.com? -- that I think it's a good time for sitcom writers and network suits to rethink what they've been doing to comedy. I welcome the breather ...

Silver Spring, Md.: I think Zora is on to Joe's ruse after he admitted to having been driving a bulldozer a few weeks before their Paris trip. And she caught him eyeing the construction site on Monday. Nonetheless, her quietude intrigues him. I think he'll pick her and when presented with the "truth," she'll say, "Well duh! of course he's not a millionaire!"

Lisa de Moraes: Besides, Zora is psychic ... remember?

That Joe Mllionair show: "Um ... because none of us would understand him?"

Did you mean the butler or the "millionaire" guy?

Yes French accents are hard to understand, so are vapid individuals who speak in a tone deaf manner while utilizing a small vocabulary.

Lisa de Moraes: I'll have to disagree with you there. When Evan says "it's eating my brains out!" I know exactly what he means ... I of course meant a butler speaking French ...

Vienna, Va.: Do you have any info on the new show "What Not To Where?" I hear they are recruiting victims in the Washington area.

Lisa de Moraes: It is fabulous ... I know nothing about looking for victims in D.C. but if you can stand being humiliated on national TV, sign yourself up. You'll get a $5,000 budget to go shopping ... you can do some serious damage with $5,000.

BROOMES ISLAND: Hi Lisa: Missed you since your last series of chats re: Survivor II. Glad to see you back!

When I see the level of TV these days, I am glad PBS exists. Reality is turning slimy with all these shows like "Millionaire." They just, in my opinion, showcase our greed and our sadness.

I have absolutely stopped watching networks. I'm all for a little reality shows, but this level of pandering and exploitation is positively sickening. And the sad part it, the counter programming is no better.

What we get is "Soprano" imitations with all the violence and none of the wit and a "Dragnet" reprise that brings back a famous name with more violence and none of the wit.

And you wonder why everyone loves "American Idol". At least you get some entertainment with your farce.


Lisa de Moraes: Yes, when I get totally bummed about the greed on reality programming, I like to turn to PBS to watch Suze Orman tell us how to get rich quick, and a good episode of The Wrinkle Cure really cheers me up and reminds me what quality programming really is. Where would we be without PBS? P.S. PBS has one of the more wonderful reality series coming up, "Manor House" in which a family got to live in a big house in U.K. and abuse an entire staff of servants ... The mum of the manor is priceless. Watch it ...

Joe Millionaire: C'mon, aren't you waiting for the end when Evan says to Sarah ... I have a confession to make ... and she says, me, too ... now, worship my feet. Hee!

Lisa de Moraes: My dream final episode! How did you know?

She Already Called Me Pookie!: Hey, welcome back!

Who's this guy from D.C. that's going to be on "Survivor" which starts next week? His name is Matthew von Ertfelda, People Magazine listed him as on of the 50 most eligible bachelors in the country last year, and no one I've spoken to in D.C. has ever heard of him -- and I've been asking across the social spectrum, from Cafe Milano types to the marathoning set.

Does he actually exist? I smell a rat.

Lisa de Moraes: His CBS bio really is suspicious: "Von Ertfelda enjoys screenwriting, foreign language study, cooking, rock and ice climbing, weight lifting and hardcore adventure. Is CBS running a dating service on the side?

San Francisco, Calif.: Reality television succeeds both for what it does right and what series television does wrong. A tremendous amount of thought and hard work resulted in two promising new TV series: "Dragnet" and "Kingpin." Then studio executives did their best to make sure that their series would fail by scheduling the two crime shows against each other. They already saw that this failed when two hospital shows, "Presidio Med" and "MDs" were scheduled against each other. Why don't network executives realize that when they do this they are cheating their audience, their networks, their stars and their producers because their potential audience will be have to choose between two shows of the same genre that are being shown at the same time?

Lisa de Moraes: I've said it before, I'll say it again and slowly this time ... it's because they are too dumb to live. ABC put "Dragnet" in the Sunday 10 p.m. slot hoping some of Dick Wolf's "Law & Order" fans would switch channels -- NBC runs "L&O: Whatever" at 9 that night. NBC hoped the "Law & Order: Whatever" fans would want to see more gore on the peacock network and, NBC no doubt thought, "Sopranos" has done well on the night ... presto, stupido ...

Re: That Joe Mllionaire show: : I should clarify myself, what if the butler was French but spoke English. Like that French guy on PBS, Jacues Pepin

Lisa de Moraes: I'm very pro French men speaking English ... I think you're thinking this show too much. They're in France, but they're really in Australia ... except when Evan is on American Idol...then he's in Hollywood ...

Washington, D.C.: I've known people who eat their hearts out, but I have yet to meet anyone who "eats his brain out." Is this just a $19,000/year laborer/model thing?

Lisa de Moraes: For sure. I hope we get to see him eat his brains out before the show is over -- oh wait, that's "Fear Factor."

Springfield, Va.: A recent simpsons episode mocked reality TV by having a reality TV channel on cable.

Do you think this one day might be a reality?

Lisa de Moraes: Game Show Network.....

Arlington, Va.: Do you think people watch "American Idol" because of the judges or the talent? Having only ever actually seen about five minutes of it, I have to say that Paula Abdul is holding up well, and that Simon guy ... well, I guess he's his own special case.

Lisa de Moraes: Both. Without the judges, Amercan Idol is just Star Search. Without the contestants, American Idol is just The McLaughlin Group ...

Alexandria, Va.: I think that the premise of Joe Millionaire is wrong. Both parties will be hurt. The woman is going to be humiliated and the guy is going to lose her because of the lie. It is a show that is kind of like a scab. You know you shouldn't pick it, doing so will leave a scar, but it feels so good!

Lisa de Moraes: Wow, and what are The Reporters Who Cover Television -- professional scab pickers? That's so cold ...

Washington, D.C.: Your column is awesome.

How do you pronounce your name?

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks re column. I pronounce my last name dee more eyes. But I answer to all variations ... de Morales, etc. My favorite misspelling of my name was a letter I got once addressed to Lisa De Moralize ....

Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Say what you will, Lisa -- the Frontline series on the State of Maine's DHS "is" TV for the people, showing us how things can go horribly, terribly wrong with segments of the population least able to defend themselves (kids AND adults).

I'll also take BritComs and even Married with Children before I'll watch network primetime. (and yes, I won't be watching the seriously mentally ill rich guy tonight either.)

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, there's something for everyone on TV ... but I'd have to argue with you re Frontline being TV for the people, given numbers on Frontline -- very good program -- versus, say American Idol..

Fairfax City, Va.: How many of us think that the Joe/Evan is really a poor laborer and isn't it funny to play a trick on these silly women thing is really Joe/Evan really "is" millionaire and the trick is on us?

Lisa de Moraes: I hope, I hope, I hope ... I wish someone would do a national poll -- Fox maybe...

Dallas, Tex.: Can't find your "regular"email address so this is off today's topic.

BUT ... thanks for the article on Westminster KC hiring of Mark McEwen and dumping Joe G.

McEwen is certainly the most unctuous, slippery and reptilian weatherman around.

Maybe they will move him up later to lizard shows.

Lisa de Moraes: That would be Animal Planet ... I will miss Joe ... some other dog show broadcast should snap him up ... maybe Fox's new dog pageant special "Miss American Bitch"

More about Joe Millionaire: I think once he tells the girl he made $19,000 last year, he should hit her in the face with banana creme pie.

Further humiliation would make great TV!

Lisa de Moraes: I'm sorry, but I really love that idea. Does that make me a bad person?

Harrisburg, Pa.: You know what would be very relaxing: a reality televison show where you can sit and just watch what most Americans do naturally: sit and watch television. Think of the excitement: what shows will the TV viewers pick to watch? How often do they nod off? Are they aware of their children sneaking out of the house? Throw in arguments over who controls the remote, and it could be on the Fox network.

Lisa de Moraes: I think there was some TV station that did a show like that once, only it was a fish tank ... Same thing ...

Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: Good morning! My question is simple -- why is this stuff even on TV? I understand that networks want ratings going through the roof, but shouldn't we, as a society, demand more quality? The key word nowadays in entertainment is FLUFF. Anything mass-produced, utterly tasteless, humiliating and done by someone devoid of any talent will undoubtedly win big kudos from the brainless American audience.

Lisa de Moraes: Gee. I think you're in the wrong chat ... This is the Reality Show Lovefest Hour ... You want Reality Stinks at 1 p.m. ... It's sponsored by the Federation of Unemployed Sitom Writers. And how dare you sugges that Sarah does not have talent. It takes real flair to pull off being hogtied in a cheerleader outfit. Not everyone could carry that off ...

Cartoon Network Forever!: I guess I'm quite the minority here-- I absolutely can't even STAND the commercials for the Joe/Survior/Who wants to be ... programming.

There are quite enough train wrecks in real life without seeing drawn-out staged ones on TV.

Seriously, what IS the attraction?? I use my brain all day as well, but can't deal with this type of tranquilization. But I've never been a soap opera fan either ...

Lisa de Moraes: I'm sorry -- Cartoon Network Forever!? I think that says it all....

Lisa de Moralize: HA HA HA!!! You rock!

Lisa de Moraes: thanks -- I think?

Washington, D.C.: Do you see the appeal of these shows increasing, or are we at it's peak now? I have watched parts of a few of them, and they seem to be about how much you can humiliate a person. The best moment was when Heidi on Joe Millionaire fancied herself fluent in French and then as the camera recorded the moment, subtitles were inserted to let everyone know she knew about as much French as Pepe LePeu.

Lisa de Moraes: Yes, they should bring Heidi back as the butler ... And re: peaking, I'm hoping this is the start of a good long run for this genre. I like it when something comes along to really rattle the cage ...

Mount Airy, Md. I'm not a regular watcher of Joe Millionaire, but I must confess I will watch the last episode, to see him confess his poverty.

This may be my only opportunity to see a prostitute cheated out of her fee!

Lisa de Moraes: See, there you go -- another reason to watch. These shows offer so muc ...

To the chatter from Logan Circle: What's wrong with a little mindless entertainment every once in a while? We're all so rushed, hurried, pressed, compressed, squeezed. At the end of a long exhausting day, most of us, I think, would like to relax, laugh and unwind, even if it is at the expense of strangers who went on TV to disgrace their families. There's enough to worry about in the world and we don't need to hear about the serious stuff 24/7. Lighten up!

Lisa de Moraes: Okay, you can be the spokesperson ...

Bethesda, Md.: If any of you have realized the point of Joe Millionare "will love triumph money?" meaning the girls like Evan for who he is, is COMPLETELY redundant because Evan himself keeps making stupid comments about their breasts and their bodies. Even admitting he can't concentrate on what the girls are saying because he was busy looking at their cleavage!
Both Evan and the girls, (well maybe just Sarah) deserve each other, they are after the look, not the person.

Lisa de Moraes: Evan says what everyone is thinking. Personally, I really wanted to know whether Zora got her breast in Paris ...

Some women find hunky, pleasant, dumb, hunky, hunky hunky men attractive. Not unlike all those aged CEOs who find themselves attracted to dumbleggy blondes who remind them of their granddaughters...Just because he's dumb as a stick doesn't mean he isn't attractive... except to Sarah ,who can barely contain her contempt and keeps talking about changing him. Don't Ever Change Evan!!!

Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?: Greatest train wreck of all time with Darva Conger as the conductor.

That was such great TV!

Lisa de Moraes: Unfortunately, Fox said the other it still has no plans to rerun that show. We'll have to wait for the reunion show in 10 years....

Lisa de Moraes: Thanks for joining me. I'm very sorry to all those people who did not get their questions answered. I had to really think hard to answer the ones I did. I'll have to go watch Whacko Jacko tonight and refuel my mensa brain ... Good bye.

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