Last night, after a passably entertaining episode of American Idol, came the series premiere of Fox's sleazy new game show The Moment of Truth, on which average, ordinary people are connected to a polygraph machine and exposed as the philandering, tax-dodging, latently racist, elderly-hating, gambling-addicted lovers of Internet pornography that they truly are — all for the chance to win $500,000! Commercials for Truth have set expectations high (especially in our apartment), promising that each contestant will be asked 21 hilarious questions like "Have you ever thought that your boyfriend, Jeff, might be gay?," "Have you ever been paid for sex?," and "Have you ever had sexual relations with my sister?"
So, how was last night's episode? A huge bust, for a few reasons. First, it turns out the lie-detector tests actually take place before the show is taped, so what we see is people re-answering uncomfortable questions they've already been asked. Even so, this doesn't stop producers from inserting long, unnecessary dramatic pauses between their answers and the reaction from Truth's omnipotent female robot voice, who confirms or denies their honesty. Also, we're not told how far in advance the polygraphs happen, so one assumes that contestants have already come clean about their tests to their wives or husbands, who watch in mock surprise from a side stage in the hope that their spouse will own up to infidelity, just so they can win the cash prize.
The bigger problem, though, is the contestants themselves. If American Idol has taught us anything — and surely it hasn't — it's that regular people are really boring. Last night, we met Tigh, a married personal trainer who came clean about looking at other men's privates in the locker-room shower but lied about having "touched clients more than was necessary," costing him (and his wife, who didn't seem all that upset) $100,000. Next up was George, a divorced marketing manager who admitted to a gambling addiction and wearing a toupee. Zzzzzzzz. Being weaned on awesome reality shows like Joe Millionaire and Temptation Island (both also featuring classy Truth host Mark L. Walberg, coincidentally), we're really not interested unless someone confesses to cheating, cross-dressing, or murder. And even then, it had better be first-degree murder.
Fortunately, we've got an idea. The way to fix The Moment of Truth is with famous people. Never before in the history of reality television has a show begged for a celebrity edition more than Truth does. Ordinary people are dull; the one thing that could help this show reach its full potential (with its current, flawed template, anyway) is debauched, down-on-their-luck celebrities with outrageous things to confess. Corey Feldman would probably agree to appear, and he's been to Michael Jackson's house — we bet some interesting things have happened there. Stephen Baldwin's career is in free fall, and he's probably got a few funny stories about Alec. And, oh, the yes-or-no questions we'd love to ask Wilmer Valderrama. Make it happen, Fox!