Fox show is rock-bottom

Television review

January 08, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

LOS ANGELES - "Who will stay together and who will be torn apart, as these four couples embark on an incredible journey here on Temptation Island?"

That's the tease at the start of the first episode of "Temptation Island," the controversial new reality series from Fox that debuts Wednesday. And, within the first half hour, viewers will see one relationship come apart bitterly and tearfully. The pain that breakup causes one woman is exploited shamelessly the rest of the hour by the producers. This is the state of prime-time entertainment today.

There is no physical coupling in the first hour, but sex is heavy in the air. Fifteen minutes into the show, the four couples meet the 26 "fantasy singles chosen specifically to entice them," in the words of the host, 13 men and 13 women all in their twenties. They meet them poolside on this fantasy island as each introduces him- or herself with such greetings as, "I'm Heather, and I'm from anywhere you want me to be from."

Heather is identified as a backup dancer for Jimmy Buffet. She is typical of the singles. The camera starts at her breasts and then goes down her body and back up again, pausing at the top of her legs.

Is it sleazy? Yes, but the worst aspect of "Temptation Island" is the emotional exploitation, as men and women are invited to watch videos of their significant others on "dates `' with the singles.

"That turns my stomach," one woman said when she found out the producers wanted her to watch her boyfriend on a date. Wouldn't it be nice if viewers reacted the same way.

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