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Tale of Two Walbergs, Episode 2: The Prophet of Doom June 19, 2008

Posted by Ted in : Antiques Roadshow, Moment of Truth, PBS, Reality TV, Reviews , trackback




The primetime game show Moment of Truth on the Fox network takes its viewers on a thrill ride through the private lives of its contestants, who answer awkward personal questions in front of family and friends in exchange for cash prizes. Before the show starts, each participant is required to take a polygraph test to verify the truthfulness of their answers to each question. If the answer they give to a question on the show is false according to their polygraph, they go home with no money. Contestants cheerfully come clean about their darkest secrets, often to the horror of their supposed loved ones. Some of us instinctively know we shouldn’t be watching this kind of show, but morbid curiosity takes hold and forces us to watch.

Perhaps the best thing that could be said about Moment of Truth is that it gives interesting insights into human behavior, although those insights are rarely comforting. Contestant Ellen replies with confidence, “absolutely” when she is asked, “If you knew you would never get caught, would you rob a bank to pay off your debts”. Brandon, who is a waiter, confides in front of a national audience that he has changed the amount on a customer’s credit card receipt to receive a bigger tip. It turns out we weren’t just being paranoid. Our fears are confirmed. Our faith in humanity is routinely crushed on Moment of Truth. Contestant Paul admits to his baffled girlfriend and parents that he keeps a spreadsheet of all the women he has slept with, numbering over a hundred.

One memorable episode featured hair salon assistant Lauren, who seemed determined to destroy whatever reputation she may have had before her appearance on the show. As her family and husband looked on, she answered “yes” to the questions:

Would you give food to a stray dog before you would give it to a homeless person?

Have you ever derived pleasure when one of your siblings got into trouble?

Have you ever been fired from a job for stealing money?

Have you ever taken off your wedding ring to appear single?

Have you ever cheated on your husband?

A strangely satisfying moment came at the end of this episode, when the cold blooded contestant was reduced to tears, not by remorse over her past misdeeds, but by giving a false answer and losing all her prize money. Ironically, the question that sank her, which she replied yes to, was “Do you believe you are a good person?”

Riding grimly on this apocalyptic beast of a game show is host Mark L. Walberg. He defended the show’s infamous reputation in a recent TV guide interview: “Quite honestly, the ‘wrecking-your-family,’ evildoing rap we get, I think it’s crap.” The first time I watched the show Walberg’s face seemed immediately familiar. Then a stunned realization hit me. This man was also the host of Antiques Roadshow on PBS, a show as different from Moment of Truth as could be imagined. (See my previous post for more on Antiques Roadshow).

So what has happened to Mr. Walberg? We had assumed that as a host of a PBS program he was a force for good in the world. He seems to have entered into a simultaneous incarnation as a force for all that is wrong with television. It also appears that Moment of Truth is not his first foray into the world of sleazy reality TV. A look at his Antiques Roadshow bio page reveals that he was also the host of Temptation Island. Still, we know there is a side of the conflicted MC that longs for respectability. The same bio also states that the happily married Walberg is the coach of his two children’s little league teams.

The two versions of our host have apparently become locked in a death struggle to determine the future of television and possibly the solar system as we know it. What will determine the outcome? If he is replaced with a different host on Roadshow, and remains on Truth, he will be lost to the dark side. If he remains as a fixture on PBS, and can leave behind the temptations of big-money reality TV, he may once again become a force for good in the world. The odds may seem insurmountable, as in Luke Skywalker’s one man attack on the Deathstar, but each one of us can us influence the outcome with the force of our remotes, and turn off stupid trash like Moment of Truth.

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1. Joe GoldsteinNo Gravatar - June 19, 2008

I love Antiques Roadshow. I wouldn’t even spend one minute watching Moment of Truth. Yes, it is odd that he would host them both. He must need the money if he is hosting two shows at a time. Maybe he is worried that if he doesn’t work two jobs he will foreclose on his home just like Ed McMahon did. Hopefully, he still has time to spend with his family.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...