The Moment of Truth



9-10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23

You want the truth? Here it is: Fox can't handle the truth! That's the truth as I see it.

But then, it's simply not possible for a television show to be less about the truth than is "The Moment of Truth," a purported reality-based game show that features in its credits -- drum roll, please -- a script supervisor! How is it possible for an unscripted series to have someone supervising its, uh, lack of a script? There also is a casting department of 15. Perhaps someone should have administered the ballyhooed polygraph test to the network itself.

The title, then, apparently is meant to convey the idea that there is but a "moment" of truth in every hour, however difficult to uncover. The one in Wednesday's premiere surrounded the fact that the contestants trying to win a half-million bucks were in truth delusional for believing that going on a program like this might be a positive thing in their lives. To that way of thinking, so might be leprosy.

For those fortunate enough to have missed Wednesday's kickoff, all you really need to know is that the object of the "game" is to put catastrophic distance between the player and his or her friends and loved ones by having them answer a series of increasingly racy and embarrassing questions in the presence of spouses, significant others and close associates. They've been attached to a lie detector to answer 50 questions previously posed. For the show, 21 of those are chosen, their answers compared to the past responses and assessed by a disembodied voice that decides if the answer is "true" or "false." There is, however, no polygraph present during the show, which is hosted by the chronically cloying Mark L. Walberg (the one who doesn't make movies).

You might have heard that when a version of "Truth" ran in Colombia, a female contestant last year was asked if she had ever hired a hitman to try to take out her husband. Astonishingly, she answered "Yes," won the pot of gold and forced the show's cancellation. The show, alas, continues to be produced in about 23 other countries, which seems to prove that there is no ethnic barrier to the human desire to sell one's morality to the highest bidder on national television.

In Fox's version, if you answer 21 questions truthfully, you win $500,000. It's the only game I can think of, however, where one can win cash and lose all of their close relationships in one fell swoop -- or walk away having successfully ditched everything, familial and financial. It plays as faux dramatic as it is reprehensible, making "Temptation Island" and "Joe Millionaire" look like the essence of integrity by comparison. It isn't the end of the world, but it's possible to see it from here.

In Wednesday's premiere, a one-time pro football player-turned-personal trainer named Ty Keck, outwardly boasting the synapse activity of plant life, lands on the hot seat as the questions get fired while his wife and two friends look on with the purposeful engagement of head trauma victims. "Have you hit someone else's car and failed to leave a note?" (Yes, he answers. A misdemeanor.) "Have you ever suspected one of your friends of making a play for your wife?" (Yes.) "Have you delayed having children because you aren't sure your wife will be your lifelong partner?" (Yes, Ty answers. The wife says, "Hmmmm ... interesting" rather than the seemingly mandated, "I'll see you in hell!") He's sent packing without a cent, whereupon Walberg, summoning all the sincerity of a foreclosure agent, actually utters, "I wish you and your beautiful wife the best." Oh, and divorce papers will be handed to you both as you exit. Ya'll come back now.

The second contestant is, if possible, even more dim than the first guy. He features a bad rug atop his head and admits readily that not only does he have a gambling addiction, but he's also prone to stuffing things down his pants to appear better endowed. Mind you, the answers often require 25 seconds-30 seconds of suspense-building -- this despite his already having been asked the queries previously. We can only imagine what the final question might be. Probably something like, "Do you believe your wife is ugly, your children are thieves, your boss is an al-Qaida operative and that Adolf Hitler was at the end of the day simply misunderstood?"

Any reward in "Truth" is hardly worth the expense. But this seemingly matters little to Fox, for which helping people to dynamite their lives is a small price to pay for the supreme honor of broadcasting the spectacle. And that's the truth.

Lighthearted Entertainment
Executive producer, Howard Schultz
Co-executive producers, Michael Maddocks, Laura Gelles
Segment producers: Cindi Dameshek, James Glover, Sharon Houston, Holly Heitz, Duan Perrin, Jeff Rosenthal
Coordinating producer: Jeff Spangler
Polygraph story producers: Steve Berkowitz, Billy Simmons
Associate producers: Sharon Alonso, Corey D'Markus, Quantae Love, Alex Martinez, Aireka Muse, Seon Park
Production designer: John Gilles
Lighting designer: Kieran Healy
Art director: Lindsey Moran
Script supervisor: Bryan Bingham
Lead editors: Jen Gillaspy, Chris Smith
Casting director: Sheila Conlin
Host: Mark L. Walberg