January 26, 2001

Surviving Temptation Island

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Watching Survivor was like watching a train wreck. Sick, yet somewhat impossible to take your eyes off. Hence, 50 million Americans tuned in and advertising executives salivated out of the sides of their mouths. Chalk it up to morbid curiosity.

Temptation Island, on the other hand, is like watching Sally Struthers talking about “save the children” or Elizabeth Taylor presenting a Golden Globe. It makes you feel sick just to watch and you can’t help but turn it off.

Temptation Island fails in two ways. First, it televises canned prostitution. With the “singles” being paid actors, their relationships to the “couples” amount to nothing more than expensive call girls. With money and cameras involved there can’t be any other feeling than forced relationships.

I need to take a shower after watching Temptation Island. It makes me feel dirty all over to see a bunch of amoral couples pretend that they’re forming some sort of mutual attraction with people who amount to nothing more than hookers.

The second problem with Temptation Island is that it’s boring. Myself and talented Senior Editor Dave Kaplan were watching last night’s episode of Temptation Island as research for this Rant. In other words, we had to watch. But, about half way through the show, we both were wondering what was happening on TheWest Wing.

As you watch the show, the insipid activities the participants enjoy just don’t translate to good television. Watching stupid people drive a boat or get a massage is in no way interesting.

This is not Reality TV. It’s an inaccurate fascimile of an art invented by MTV and perfected by CBS. But, that’s Fox’s specialty, isn’t it? Millionaire transformed to the tasteless and mostly forgettable Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? Greed was another, sleazier version of Millionaire. And now Temptation Island can be added to the list.

It’s like Fox executives sit around and decide which shows are most popular on other networks. Then they add blatant sexuality mixed with copycat music, camera angles and host personalities. To steal from Emeril: Bam, instant stupidity!

The copycat system gets even worse. Temptation’s Tom, the “Ivy League Graduate” on Temptation Island, is a ridiculous copy of Greg, Survivor’s “Ivy League Graduate.” Only problem: Greg went to Brown, but Tom didn’t actually attend an Ivy League. Fox gets it wrong again.

The “Bonfire Ritual” of Temptation is another shameless copy of the contrived “Tribal Council” of Survivor. Except the only flames being extinguished are those in the loins of the Temptation guest getting kicked off the island.

As newspaper editors, we’re trained to notice details. Temptation Island copies Survivor in ways you might not even notice. For instance, the fonts the shows use for marking time and place are almost identical.

At first, watching the show made me weep for humanity. Viewers wanting to see infidelity and heartache made my stomach turn. I thought it was a true trade of immorality for money.

But, it turns out the show was a tradeoff of dignity for stupidity.

Archived article by Jason Weinstein