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Relationships as Contest in ‘Temptation Island’

“The safest, easiest formula is that nothing succeeds like success,” wrote cultural critic Todd Gitlin in Inside Prime Time.

The premiere of “Temptation Island” Jan. 10 offers evidence Fox television is employing that formula.
“Following the success of ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Real World’ comes a provocative new series,” read the show’s Web site.
The “flavor of the month” in television has become reality programming. Yet that “flavor” in television programming will change, as it does in everything else.
“At a certain point these gatekeepers [network executives] will recognize that the market for a given formula has been stretched too far,” wrote Gitlin. “It becomes oversaturated for cop shows, ‘jiggle,’ ‘fantasy,’ and the formula collapses.”
But until this current flavor deadens our taste buds, we’re doomed to gaze at our reflection in the mirror of “reality shows,” which are anything but reality.
What, exactly, is bothersome about “Temptation Island”? Is it really the sex? Surely not. If it were, soap operas would be under the same attack for their routine displays of less-than-admirable sexual behavior and values.
Is it the “reality” of the images? I hardly believe what audiences will see is “real.” When big money and television cameras unite, the result is nearly as “real” as stage magic.
Look at “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” If that’s our version of reality, we have bigger problems than a show called “Temptation Island.”
“Temptation Island” troubles us because it represents far from the best in television. In this case, the formula for generating “entertaining” television has yielded nothing more meaningful than “relationships” in terms of a contest.
Relationships as contest–that’s about as far from reality as it gets.
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s project coordinator.