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Question: The television show “Moment of Truth” seems like the lowest point of human civilization. As a purportedly unethical person, can you explain the merit in this public explosion of feces?


As a human being with a heart and a brain, I see your point. As a lover of all things degraded, all things JuicyCampus, all things post-lapsarian Britney Spears, all music videos made by Heidi Montag and of all mowers-down of good (Lizzie Grubman — well, maybe not Lizzie Grubman), I must salute this show.

In my mind, “Moment of Truth” is simply an enabler, a peer pressure-er, a drug dealer for the masses who are hooked on opportunities to shame themselves publicly. This show does what YouTube did for all of those tweenage girls who were just waiting for a chance to film themselves doing the handshake from “The Parent Trap” in their suburban living rooms. When Mark L. Walberg (not to be confused with Mark Wahlberg of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch) asks if you want to answer a question so sordid and embarrassing that it will ruin your life, while putting another hundred grand or so in your pocket, you should say no, or stoically deal with your spouse weeping and your mother fanning herself with her hanky while the crowd cheers.

Perhaps I should backtrack and explain exactly what this game show entails. Aired by the FOX network (obviously), the contestants are hooked up to a polygraph before the show even begins and are asked a series of questions. Oblivious to the results, the contestants then go on the show and answer twenty-one of the highly personal questions again, this time in front of their family and friends (as well as a raucous live audience, last seen in the movie “Gladiator,” thirsting for blood). A booming voice either proclaims “true” or “false” to the contestants’ responses, determining whether they will win more prize money.

The most hilarious aspect of this show is that it is almost definitely rigged. No one ever gets to the sixth tier of questions (with the $500,000 prize, which FOX is saving to spend on its acquisition of the Middle East or something). But no one has yet questioned the validity of the polygraph test. According to a statement by Mike Darnell, the president of alternative entertainment at FOX (this show is like, so indie), the majority of contestants don’t claim that the machine is wrong, but rather explain, “Hmm, I was a little worried when I answered that question.” It is perhaps important to add that the contestants are required to sign an agreement stating that they will accept all results provided by the polygraph examiner.

Let me describe to you one of the greatest moments of television history, equaled only by the pie-puking scene in the “Gossip Girl” episode “Blair Waldorf Must Pie.” Lauren Cleri, a contestant on the show, who knew all of the questions that she might be asked, because she had already answered them in the polygraph room, ruined her marriage and her life and we all got to watch.

Cleri’s ex-boyfriend, a surprise guest on the show, asks her, “If I wanted to get back together with you, would you leave your husband?” The crowd howls like a troop of baboons in mating season. And yes, we learn, she would. Her husband frowns. “Do you believe I am the man you should be married to?” asks Mr. Ex. Yes again. Mr. Walberg says the questions are getting way over his “line.” Then he asks whether she has ever committed adultery. Oops. She has. And now for the punch line: Question number 17 is, “Do you think you are a good person?” Cleri’s father murmurs, “It’s true, it’s true.” Cleri says that she thinks she’s a good person, and… it’s a lie.

Then again, there are people like Ray Hernandez, a shining beacon of hope for mankind. He loves his wife, would let a family stay in his house if theirs was destroyed in a natural disaster, wouldn’t cheat on his wife even if he knew that he wouldn’t get caught, would donate an organ to save his mother’s life and thinks that his wife deserves a better looking man. Less entertaining, right? You know you love Cleri. You know that you buy “Us Weekly.” You know you felt glee when Jamie Lynn got pregnant. If I could, I would hook you up to a polygraph, and the “truth” would come out.

Summary: Just remember this is a remake of the Colombian game show “Nothing But the Truth.” We didn’t start the fire. It was already burning.

Emma Allen: a true connoisseur of unethical media.