MEDIA FOOD: Media Watch - 'Temptation Island' gives a lurid dose of 'reality'

There are two schools of thought in PR and marketing: those who savor quality of coverage and prize their reputations and those who feel that any news is good news, just as long as people are talking about you. Fox Broadcasting appeared to be categorized among the latter, as it ran steamy ads promoting its new show, Temptation Island. Media reports readily acknowledged that the de facto intent of the show is to have 26 attractive singles break up the unmarried but committed couples that arrive on the island.

There are two schools of thought in PR and marketing: those who savor quality of coverage and prize their reputations and those who feel that any news is good news, just as long as people are talking about you. Fox Broadcasting appeared to be categorized among the latter, as it ran steamy ads promoting its new show, Temptation Island. Media reports readily acknowledged that the de facto intent of the show is to have 26 attractive singles break up the unmarried but committed couples that arrive on the island.

There are two schools of thought in PR and marketing: those who savor quality of coverage and prize their reputations and those who feel that any news is good news, just as long as people are talking about you. Fox Broadcasting appeared to be categorized among the latter, as it ran steamy ads promoting its new show, Temptation Island. Media reports readily acknowledged that the de facto intent of the show is to have 26 attractive singles break up the unmarried but committed couples that arrive on the island.

Fox's transparent protests that the show was about 'exploring relationships and finding yourself' received far less coverage. And one gets the impression that's how Fox wanted it.

To say that columnists everywhere were disenchanted with the show would be an understatement. Most newspapers, including USA Today (January 17), Rocky Mountain News (January 16), the Austin American-Statesman (January 15), and The Washington Post (January 12) lambasted the show as a new low-point in US TV. CNN (January 10) joined in the act, when host Bill Price of Cross-fire introduced the launch of the show as part of 'TV's never-ending search for the bottom of the barrel.'

The show was given a PR boost when news of cheating by one of the couples broke just a few days before the show's debut on January 10. The couple, who lied that they didn't have children, was removed from the island midway through the taping of the show, but the revelation prompted even further criticism. CNNfn (January 10), observed, 'On one hand you're saying it's perfectly acceptable for people to be paid to home wreck and that sort of thing, but on the other hand, it's not acceptable for them to have a child.'

In observing that the couples were paid about dollars 5,000 for their two-week stay on the island while the 'seducing singles' were paid about dollars 1,500 each, the Tampa Tribune (January 11) commented that the arrangement was 'encouraging prostitution.'

From Fox's perspective, the show's one saving grace was that it is drawing huge crowds. And, of course, ratings decide what gets broadcast. The New York Times (January 12) reported that the first episode attracted a larger audience than the debut of last summer's Survivor, which was credited with taking 'reality shows' to a new level of popularity.

Coverage of Temptation Island included discussions that the term 'reality show' is a misnomer and that 'managed reality' or 'unscripted programming' may be more accurate terms. The Boston Globe (January 10) argued that rather than being a spontaneous recording of events in people's everyday lives, Temptation Island is 'a carefully constructed pastiche of naked navels, six-pack abs, blindingly white teeth, and psychological hot buttons that is calculated to become a ratings hit (thus) aiming to reprove the trusty adage adage: Sex sells.'

Temptation Island has created quite a debate while pushing the envelope about what's acceptable for network TV programming. While it is criticized for the lack of morals and ethics it conveys, the ratings prove there is a market for this type of material. With plans already underway for a variety of 'reality shows' that will need to be ever more outrageous to capture viewers, one has to wonder how far the trend will go before the market turns away from it.

Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.



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