Monday, February 11, 2008

"Ah, you've been all edgy and suspicious ever since I gave you those pep pills..."

The Moment of Truth Running Diary: not to be confused with the ill-fated Milli Vanilli follow-up album of the same name...or the ELO album...or the Whitney Houston song....or the Hardy Boys casefile (#109--I believe it involved smugglers), this Moment of Truth (or, as I prefer to call it: "Mr. Walberg's Fantabulous Break-Up Machine") is a FOX game show airing Wednesday nights at 9.

My buddy Sean suggested that I give it the old running diary treatment and, while I think the show does an excellent job of parodying itself--it does, after all, refer to itself, proudly (it seems), as "the simplest game show on television"--well, I kind of enjoy piling on...

Off we go:

9:00 PM: We're joined tonight by a somewhat baffled Carrie (Carrie: "I thought you hated this show?" Me: "I do!"). As the show recaps last week's episode, let's quickly go over the rules: potential contestants were asked a series of 50+ questions while taking a polygraph. Whether or not the machine deemed their answers true or false was never revealed to the candidates. Those chosen to go on air are asked 21 questions based on the answers provided earlier. Six truthful answers earns you $10,000, five more gets you to $25,000, four more to $100,000, three to $200,000, two to $350,000, and a truthfully answered 21st question gets you a cool half a mil. If any answer is deemed a lie, you lose everything, though you can walk away (and keep the money you've earned to that point) prior to hearing a question. Also, the friends and family of the contestant have access to a button that can be pressed once to swap out the asked question for a different one, though there's no guarantee that the replacement Q will be any less mortifying. In other words, it's a lot like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, if Millionaire had no soul...

9:03: ...and we're treated to a recap of George (who appeared in the 1st and 2nd episode), who, given that he confessed to (a) stuffing his shorts to impress his wife, (b) stealing from his company and blaming it on someone else, and (c) making a(n unsuccessful, no doubt) pass at his wife's friend, has to go down as the most pathetic game show contestant ever. He was knocked out last week, so he won't be back tonight. A shame...

9:05: Tonight's contestant is Christie Youssef, a former Miss Ohio and Miss California participant. Along with her, we have her mom, her younger sister, and her "friend" Cole. Host Mark L. Walberg (no relation) goes over the rules. Last week, Christy answered nine questions truthfully, leaving her two away from $25,000.

9:06: Question 10 (coming from Christie's friend Jackie, who was actually a former Miss California winner but looked positively frumpy, which appears to have the pageant cognoscenti up in arms) is "have you ever tried to sabotage another pageant contestant?" Juicy! I'm thinking something like Drop Dead Gorgeous (an underrated flick). Alas, Christie spoils everyone's fun by saying (truthfully) that she hasn't. Boring.

9:07: if she wasn't guilty of anything, I have no clue what the point of that question was, really. However, a quick Google search reveals that Christie is at the center of a heated controversy. I'll let M (who, according to her Blogger profile, is 251 years old) from Every Girl Dreams set the stage:

So, it's looks as though we may all finally get an answer to the burning question at Miss Ohio last year: Did Christie lie about her residency/full-time work status to compete in Ohio, a state she thought easier to win than California? We may just find out the answer to that next week.

Oooooo! Wait...that's super lame.

Here's a better question, Christie's talent used to be "monologuing," but, since she moved to Ohio, it's now "playing the harp." What's the deal, Christie? Gotten too cool for monologues? Explain yourself!

9:08: #11 is "have you ever been secretly attracted to one of your sister's boyfriends?" Christie hems and haws before answering yes and collecting 25k. Which...big deal, really. Even her sister is barely able to pretend to be semi-pissed. That one could've been considerably tougher ("did you ever dream about fooling around with one of your sister's boyfriends?" or something of that ilk.) Anyway, we're off to a commercial break...

9:10: ..and let me go on the record that, while I like Abigail Breslin and Ryan Reynolds, it's unconscionable that they're appearing in a film called "Definitely, Maybe." Whoever greenlit that title should be punched in the face.

(Writer: [snapping fingers] "I have an idea: let's name this crappy romcom after one of the most distinguished and influential albums of the past twenty years!"
Executive: "Well, I was thinking something like "The Story of Us" or "Once Upon a Romance", but yours is much more sacrilegous! Let's do it!")

9:14: the tease for Q12 makes it seem like it has something to do with Christie's dad (who is a doctor and suscpiciously not present tonight), and it's: "do you believe your father has used money to control you?" Meh. Again, that's kind of weak. Christie thinks about for roughly two seconds before answering yes. She's right. Walberg reveals that Christie's parents are divorced.

9:16: Q13: "do you blame your father for tearing your family apart?" Another yes, another right answer. Walberg keeps making it seem like they'll get tougher, but I'm not seeing it.

9:17: Q14: "are you still in love with your ex-fiancee?" This was considerably funnier when I thought that the guy in the family lounge was Christie's boyfriend. Alas, he is not, which explains why he's nowhere near as devestated as I thought he'd be when she answers yes. She's one right answer from $100,000.

9:19: Christie's friend, who has entered the lounge, opines that Christie is one truthful statement away from being able to pay for med school. Riiiiight. Maybe in Guatemala...

9:20: Q15 is "Have you ever forced yourself to throw up before competing to avoid gaining weight?" Ouch. That's a little sensitive. But before Christie can answer, her sister hits the pass button. Whaaaat? I mean, yeah, that answer could potentially be embarrassing, but (a) skipping the question serves as a de facto admission, so you haven't really deflected the issue, and (b) the next question could be way more uncomfortable. (By the way, I'm rooting for: "do you think your sister is a huge slut?")

9:21: Instead, the new Q15 is the unbelievably tame "have you ever taken a nude picture of yourself?" That's wayyyy too easy for 100k. (By the way, I'm betting $5,000 of my own money--that I don't have--that the answer is yes.) Commercial break.

9:24: well, I'm wrong and Christie's right (and $100,000 richer). Christie's mom is insistent that she walk away...and, having gotten off virtually scot free thus far, Christie agrees and packs it in.

9:27: Q16 (in what I'm convinced is not a coincidence) would've been: "have you ever felt trapped by your mother trying to control your life?" Everyone laughs uproariously. But then--foolishly--Christie, though under no obligation to do so, actually answers this ("No") and is found to be lying. Why in the world would she do that? No matter--smiles all around.

9:28: next up in Brandon Korea (cool name), a 30-year-old waiter at a comedy club (and former marine) from California. With him is his mom, his girlfriend, two sisters, and two friends.

9:31: Misha's friend (and my arch-nemesis just kidding, buddy!) Jeff told us that on the Colombian version of the show, a woman was asked if she ever put a hit out on her husband, and she answered yes (and was promptly arrested...after collecting $50,000 Colombian dollars--approximate real value: $2.35). I, of course, assumed this was total bullshit, but it turns out that it's true. (BuzzerBlog mentions that the Colombian version "The Columbian version has also asked about drug smuggling, homosexual prostitution, and more"--now that's what I'm talking about!). No word on whether or not she was arrested, but they did cancel the show immediately after the episode aired. Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is--she didn't actually go through with it... (Oh, the hitman tipped off the husband and he ran away? I see. That's pretty damning...)

9:37: After coasting through the first three questions--"have you ever taken another server's tip and claimed it for yourself?"; "did you join the Marines just to impress your father?"; "do you use the lack of money as an excuse to keep from proposing to your girlfriend?" (Yes, No, Yes)-- #4 ("In the last six months have you driven a car while intoxicated?") proves to be somewhat cringe-inducing. Brandon truthfully answers yes and everyone--with the noted exception of Brandon's mother--applauds this revelation, which isn't funny so much as...uncomfortable. Many forum-dwellers have noted that, for the integrity of all involved, if audience members feel like booing, they should do be allowed to do so. Flashing that applause sign is only going to get them in trouble. Walberg goes to great lengths to point out that the crowd is applauding the truthful answer and not the action. Surrrre.

9:38: Q5--"have you ever had sex with someone whose name you did not know?"--is a little ticklish. Chuckles all around, but Brandon confidently answers no. He looks physically pained while awaiting the verdict (which makes no sense if he's actually telling the truth), but his answer checks out. His girlfriend is positively beaming at this stage. Hold on, Marissa.

9:40: Q6: "in the past year, have you ever sent flirtatious text messages to someone other than Marissa?" BAM! Commerical break...

9:42: People I would pay to see on MOT: President Bush, O.J., Roger Clemens (who, somewhat awesomely, has actually been invited onto the show--though there's no chance in hell that he'll appear) and Brian McNamee, Bobby Knight, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, and Pete Rose. I'm sure I could think of more, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

9:44: ...and we're back, with Brandon sheepishly answering yes. Oh, dear. Marissa looks...less than impressed (and this, I think, is probably compounded by the riotous cheers from the crowd--"yay, infidelity!").

9:45: For the moment 10k richer, Brandon pushes on. Q7--"is there anything you've done during your time in the Marine Corps that you are ashamed of?"--leads to a yes. True. This leads, inexplicably, to gasps from the crowd. (Because I'm sure that serving in Iraq is far less of an ethical minefield than working in, say, a comedy club.) This answer, without being contextualized, isn't terribly meaningful to me.

9:47: Walberg proceeds to ask Brandon's friend Joey what Brandon might've been referring to in the last question and Joey, impossibly, responds as follows: "boy, I dunno. It could be any number of things." DICK! Thanks a lot, former best friend! Why in the world would he say that instead of "well, I know it was a difficult time for Brandon, but he's probably just being hard on himself"? Is he trying to make a play for Marissa? If so: ballsy.

9:48: Q8: "have you ever changed the amount on a customer's credit card receipt in order to receive a bigger tip?" Even though the risks (both in doing it and confessing to it) seem to vastly outweigh the reward, Brandon answers yes. Brandon, Brandon, Brandon...I hope your boss doesn't have cable.

9:49: Q9 is "Have you ever made ethnic jokes about Marissa's family?" Brandon truthfully answers yes and Marissa (who, we'll find out in a minute, is half-Japanese) doesn't look surprised in the slightest--meaning, I guess, that he wasn't saying it behind her back. Partial credit?

9:50: "Do you sometimes feel like Marissa is boring?" He answers "yes" (almost enthusiastically) in, I swear, less than a second. Now...even if you do believe that your girlfriend is boring and you don't think you can beat the lie detector, it strikes me as prudent to wait a few seconds before admitting--ideally, in an anguished tone--the truth. As it stands, the only thing that could have made Brandon's answer worse was if he added "...and she's bad in bed, too!" at the end of it. Ad break.

9:51: Carrie's take? "Scandalous game...absolutely scandalous. You would only get away with this in America." When I point out that it actually originated in Britain, she's floored.

9:54: Q11--the last of the night--is "while working as an underwear model, did you ever stuff your underwear?" Again, laughs all around. (Just you wait, friends and family.) Brandon confidently answers that no, he hasn't, but, after a really long delay, the answer comes back as a lie. Brandon looks ill, exclaiming "what? No way!" In fact, everyone looks one more than Marissa (who, all things considered, has had kind of a rough night.)

This sparks a debate between Carrie and I. Carrie, believing that confessing to stuffing your underwear is far less embarrassing than driving drunk, thinks that Brandon is telling the truth and was unjustly screwed over, while I was not exactly won over by the half-hearted nature of his denial. (Walberg: "why would it say you were lying?" Brandon: [long pause, followed by blank look] "I don't know.") Put it this way: if this really isn't something you've done, wouldn't you be pretty vociferous in your denials? To quote Dave Chappelle: "that shit is infuriating."

A couple of other comments about this matter:

1. This is the second time in two episodes that a contestant has been asked about his stuffing proclivities, which leads me to believe that it's a stock question during the audition process, which is both (a) kind of cruel and (b) really, really creepy. That's what happens when you hire a nine-year-old to be your showrunner...

2. This seems as good a time as any to point out what everyone already knows: that lie detectors aren't totally reliable (registration--which is free--required), with false positives occuring between 10-15% of the time under the best of circumstances, which, I think it's safe to say, do not exist on the FOX backlot. Could a lawsuit be far off?

9:57: the "coming up this season" trailer that runs during the end credits hints that the show will get nastier, with juicy questions like: "have you ever been paid for sex?", "do you have a tiny penis?", "have you ever thought your wife deserves a better looking husband than you?", and "would you cheat on your wife if you knew you wouldn't get caught?" (OK...I made one of those up.)

God help me, I may have to tune in...


Jesse said...


However, your "link" on the inaccuracy of lie detectors is to a wikipedia page which sources USA Today. Couldn't you have at least Googled it for Your Readers?

Kyle Wasko said...

Agreed. Shoddy reporting on my part. That's probably why I was fired from the Baltimore Sun...

I'll fix it.

Sean said...

Your memory serves correct about Hardy Boys “case file” #109. I should note that #109 of the Hardy Boys “digest” series is the "Prime Time Crime," which, ironically enough, revolves around the search for a missing game show host. My favourite HB book is #39 from the original series, delightfully entitled "The Mystery of the Chinese Junk." On another note, nothing can rival that feeling of betrayal that every young boy experiences when he learns that ‘Franklin W. Dixon’ is merely a pseudonym.

Back to the show. I didn't see the episode under discussion, so I'll trust your notes. Why did they recap George's personal disaster from the previous week? Dunno, but this is entirely in keeping with the moral compass that guides this show.

If it is the ‘moment of truth’ that we are after, then perhaps it would have been best to ask Ms. Youssef if she actually has the academic credentials required to attend medical school or if she is just foolishly entertaining a stubborn childhood dream. “Pass.”

What I find ridiculous is that the stated premise of the show is that everybody in America is a liar these days and, god willing, that the truth can be bought providing the money is right. I have been speaking untimely truths for years, although I am none the richer for it.

Mark P said...

Re: Franklin W. Dixon. I not only knew Dixon was a pen name, but I also read a biography about the man who actually wrote the bulk of the Hardy books.

Checkmate, Sean. Checkmate.

Kyle Wasko said...

Sean: I think--though I'm not certain--that they always recap the previous episode at the start of the current ep (although my sense is they'll only do it if it's especially embarrassing. In other words: Christie's admission that she's never taken a naked photo of herself isn't likely to make the cut, but Brandon being caught in a lie about stuffing a cucumber down his trousers (channeling my inner Derek Smalls here) surely will).

Shuk: I'd forgotten that the guy that was FWD was actually Canadian. One thing I couldn't tell from the somewhat uneven wikipedia entry (his kids give conflicting accounts) about Leslie McFarlane was this: did he, ultimately, enjoy being associated with the Hardy Boys franchise or did he come to view it as the bane of his existence?

Also, how much scratch are we talking about? 10s of thousands? Hundreds?

Rachel said...

Hi, I absolutely love your recap. I was laughing the whole time, but I think we might of seen a different show maybe.. i don't know because on the last question of Brandon's where they ask if he stuffed his pants, he answered no on the show that I watched. So i'm just a little confused. :) But I love the rest of your blog. It's hilarious. Have a great day!

Kyle Wasko said...

Rachel, you're totally right: he did say no to that question. I have no idea why I put in yes. I'm changing it right now.