A few years ago I used to opine that those faux-daredevil shows like “Fear Factor” were only interesting to see the gross (but undangerous) things people would do for small amounts of cash – and I joked that they’d only really be good when the people were actually in danger. Sure, it’s sickly fun to watch a cute 19 year old girl in a cutoff t-shirt struggle to eat a dozen plump, fresh bull testicles – but hardly is there any real risk involved. Those shows need real stakes, I thought.
However, having been exposed to FOX’s “Moment of Truth” show tonight, I see that we’re there, and in a much more tragic way than I had imagined.
“This is the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on television,” said host Mark Walberg, introducing the show. “Quite honestly, if I’d had my vote, it would not have aired. But since the decision was made to broadcast it, I want to warn you, what you’re about to see is very difficult to watch.”
As her parents, siblings, and husband of two years looked on, contestant Lauren Cleary first answered some mildly embarrassing questions. Then things got worse. She reluctantly admitted to “keeping secrets about her father from her mother” and then to believing she “might have been in love with a former boyfriend on her wedding day.”
Then, for $100,000 – they surprised her by bringing her ex-boyfriend onto the stage to ask “if I wanted to get back together with you, would you leave your husband?” and “do you believe I’m the man you should be married to?” (to which she tearfully answered “yes”). Through all this, husband was doing OK, considering – until, in a subsequent question, she admitted to cheating on him – and his head fell into his hands.
This poor girl – admittedly on her own volition – sat before her family and answered questions that, in the host’s words, were “way over my line” (yet he bravely soldiered on.)
At one point, Walberg, trying to build drama and as if he felt he needed to remind viewers they were sponsoring a train wreck, told Cleary that “this is bigger than the game … you [might] leave here with $100,000 and go home with your husband and figure out where you two are.”
But the way the game works is in all-or-nothing levels. Once you accept another question, you can’t bail out. You can only bail out and take your money home before the next question is given. If you accept a question (in an effort to get to the next prize level), and your “honest” answer doesn’t jive with their polygraph results (which are highly flawed, as most people know) you lose whatever money you’ve accumulated thus far.
On her way to $200,000, Lauren answered “yes” to the question “do you think you are a good person?” Their faux-polygraph said that was false, and thus, the game was over. So, young Lauren didn’t leave with $100,000. She left with nothing – less than nothing, actually. She was summarily scolded by Walberg for “inside herself” not believing she was a good person – and then sent on her way. Not just with no money, but likely no marriage and a dozen or so big rusty new wrenches having been freshly thrust into her family relationships.
Walberg closed by saying that he hoped Lauren and her family could “make peace” with what happened and that he “wished them all the best.”
Now that’s some sick, heartbreaking shit. Real stakes, indeed. I never thought I’d miss those bull testicles.