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Jewish World Review Jan. 15, 2000/ 20 Teves 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
I WASN'T TEMPTED. I was ethically bound by my new year's resolution to watch the premiere of Temptation Island.

That's right, my new year's resolution is to watch more television. Except for news programs, mostly CNN (now the Wolf 'n Greta! Show), I've watched little television in recent years. I missed Survivor; I missed Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?; I even missed Seinfeld and Friends. And West Wing, except for the first episode of the new season last October, which I was forced to watch because I was in Washington, D.C., where West Wing is apparently required viewing.

I was sitting in a hotel bar when the clock struck 9 p.m., and suddenly everyone in the room gasped in unison: "Ohmigod, West Wing, West Wing, quick someone, where's the remote?" I was a little disturbed by the sound of muffled weeping from the guy a few stools down. This is what therapists call "over-identification." Then and there, I decided: I must watch more TV.

And so I watched the first in the six-part series of Temptation Island, wherein, everyone breathing knows, four "committed" couples go to an exotic island and spend two weeks with carefully selected man-and-lady slayers (a Playboy model, a Los Angeles Lakers' dancer, a Miss Georgia 2000, a masseuse) whose goal is to tempt the committed to un-commit.

Of course, I had done my preliminary homework, boning up on the philosophical discussions of so-called reality TV. I had read the scholars, critics, pundits. I had watched Greta! and assorted guests trying to get their minds around the cultural ramifications. Is it voyeurism? Is it bad TV? Will our children be emotionally scarred if they watch this dreck, which can only dredge up other traumatic exposures to inappropriate adult material, such as during the recent presidential impeachment?

As I tuned in, pad and pen ready, I couldn't help recalling the old apology: "I read Playboy for the articles!" I imagined committed couples all across America gathering around the tube to make intellectual discoveries about the emotional intricacies of Serious Relationships. Uh-huh, and Baywatch was an exercise in psycho-cybernetics whereby watching people swim improves one's breast stroke through subliminal manipulation.

All I know is that when I asked my husband which of the hired man-killers he liked best, the physician or the lawyer, he said: "Which one was in the red bikini?"

Uh, honey, weren't you reading the text next to the pictures?

"What text?"

For those who missed the first episode, a quick recap: We meet the couples and learn just enough to care whether they're attacked by sharks (maybe) but not enough to care whether their relationships survive. And we meet all the mateless provocateurs around the pool. Suffice it to say, they're all young and gym-friendly.

Next, the committed ladies go to one end of the island with the unattached guys, and vice versa, where the erstwhile couples will try to figure out whether their significant other is really all that significant. First scene: Men are babe-festing amid gales of guy guffaws while their girlfriends down the beach are circling the wagons around one of their sisters, who is, guess what, already in tears.

But stay tuned: There's more to come next week and the week after. Will they succumb? Will they break up? Will we watch?

Of course we will. For my part, I'll continue to think deep thoughts about the underlying meaning of Temptation Island and give serious consideration to the moral decay this new entertainment medium portends.

Meanwhile, let me assure all of you who find this type of programming disgusting, shameless, morally bankrupt, voyeuristic trash, you're absolutely right. I wouldn't watch it if I were you, but, alas, I am a slave to duty.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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