Like it or not, we love to eat up tasteless TV

By Tyler Vincent

President-elect George W. Bush has promised to use his new administration to cut through the traditional partisan lines dividing the political parties in Washington and to unite both liberals and conservatives to work together and get along.

This is a lofty promise. So lofty that thus far, only the Rupert Murdock-owned Fox Television Network has delivered. Last year, the British media mogul’s network cut through partisan rancor with its infamous “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” a program that managed to simultaneously anger both Patricia Ireland, National Organization for Women president, and conservative American Spectator editor in chief R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

If Bush can heed the lessons of Murdock, an unprecedented era of cooperation and party harmony will begin on Capitol Hill.

This year, Fox offers us “Temptation Island,” the latest in a string of reality-based TV shows. And by the looks of its sensual-exploitative ad campaign and the content of the first episode, this will bring more unification between liberal and conservative social critics than anyone thought possible.

The show involves four couples sent to a remote island off the coast of Belize to be separated from each other and “tempted” by 25 male and female singles with diverse jobs as a former Miss Georgia, a lawyer, a real estate agent and one man who claimed he was a “starving artist” (read: unemployed) over the course of 12 days.

The couples’ reasons for engaging in the project range from the standard “I want to test my partner,” as one contestant said, to the downright ambiguous — “This is like a kick in the butt for a higher commitment.”

Fox has been hyping the show with a guilty-pleasure ad campaign that combines racy scenes of “tempting” and campy statements of catharsis, such as “I thought I was in heaven, but now I’m in hell,” “They had no idea how far it would go,” and, my favorite, “This could rip two people apart.”

Indeed. We hope so.

“Temptation Island” sheds light on two aspects of our culture — the first being how accurately the couples serve as metaphors for the despicable aspects of modern dating and the second being the seismic difference between the kinds of television content we in America complain about and what we actually sit down to watch.

The couples on the show are a combination of the worst aspects of love in these times: apathy and obsessive selfishness. For example, one of the couples has dated for more than five years and, by all appearances, such as repeatedly using the statement, “Oh well, we’ll see what happens,” and even agreeing to be on the show in the first place, appear to be a rudderless ship. There is an interesting dynamic between Americans and the entertainment they choose, and “Temptation Island” reveals it. A majority of Americans saw the advertisements for the show and ruled the contents to be shameless, immoral and exploitative. They were outraged that Fox decided to make a show celebrating the timeless human activity of screwing over the ones you love.

And 16 million people watched the premiere episode, according to a Fox commercial. Call it the “car wreck” syndrome. The same instincts that lead us to appease our curiosity by slowing down on the freeway and looking for injured people at the scene of an accident compels us to watch the ruination of people on “Temptation Island” and the ultimate shotgun wedding of “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire.”

We in America heed the teachings of Dr. Laura, nod our heads in agreement at the political theories of Rush Limbaugh, shake our fists at the media powers-that-be for putting godless crap on the airwaves and then will watch this week to see whose love life gets tossed down the drain for lust.

Thank you, Fox