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No Joy
January 25

Ads for the show touted Fox's new game show The Moment of Truth as possibly the "End of Western Civilization?" among other things. I wouldn't go that far.

A single contender is asked more than 50 questions while under polygraph conditions, and the answers are recorded. Questions are invariably of a personal nature and vary in the degree of their invasiveness: the first contender admitted to waiting to have children because he didn't think his current partner would make a good wife, and also to sneaking a peek at a teammate's naughty bits while in after-football showers. He lost in the third round of the battery, so we have no idea how much more personal it could get.

The contestant enters the arena and host Mark L. Walberg begins the inquisition, asking questions from the previous polygraph results. If the contestant answers the question truthfully (according to the results, at least) he gets to continue, and at varying intervals the money rises, from $10,000 up to $500,000. A 'wrong' answer means the game is done and the contestant wins $0. The watchful family members have their very own Blackout Button if a question is deemed too prying, but it can only be used once, and the next question could be worse.

I didn't feel like I needed to take a shower after watching. I didn't know the contestant. I don't care about his relationships, his infidelity, or his insecurities. Almost of the questions are asked such that they will produce the proper incriminating answer, so I can't shout to the TV "The answer is thus-and-so! Say it!". My involvement is nil.

All good game shows have a moment of pure joy. When Monty reveals the Big Deal of the Day for a winning contestant. The audience swarms the stage after a contestant conquers the $100,000 Pyramid. When Bob or Drew crowns the newest double showcase winner. And so on. The Moment of Truth did not offer a single moment of joy in the whole hour. As contestants revealed personal tidbits about their lives, I wasn't on the edge of my seat waiting for the outcome, because I knew the answers to the questions already. When the voice-over gal finally said "That answer is...true," there wasn't any relief on my part. Nothing. I felt nothing at all.

Well, wait. That's not wholly true. I felt bad for Mark L. Walberg. He's a good guy who has been saddled with many awful formats for the past 20 years, and really hasn't had a chance to break out and show his talent other than Russian Roulette. I don't like to see him helming such a poor program when I know he'd be great elsewhere. I'd like to see the guy succeed. I really would. But I guess a job is a job, and kudos to Mark for sticking it out. At least he has the decency to put on a good front and not phone in a performance.

It's not the end of the world, but at the same time it fails to be either a good game or a good show. The only reason it pulled any numbers at all was because of the pre-premiere ads and the fact that the show follows American Idol. Without those, the show would likely burn out in 13 weeks, which is too bad, because that's exactly the fate this show deserves.

Travis Eberle is recovering from the motion sickness of Moment of Truth's set and video screen being skewed at an angle. Send get well wishes to