The Moment of Truth makes you want to dramatically shake your fist up at the sky and demand an end to the writers’ strike. The idea is interesting enough: contestants are asked difficult and telling personal questions while hooked up to a polygraph machine. They have to answer these questions on national television to win money. 21 questions, sliding scale of winnings (up to $500,000), if you answer a question wrong (i.e. lie) you leave with no money, and you can quit at any time. OK, sounds good in theory, in a ‘there’s nothing else on TV these days and I like watching people squirm’ kind of way.
Each contestant has a stable of friends and family in attendance to bare witness to the embarrassing facts/atrocities they are forced to admit to. It’s kind of like The Jerry Springer Show, except without the fighting and yelling and revelations that make that show enjoyable. Because, you see, the contestants don’t admit to anything, they don’t really reveal personal secrets – it is only revealed where they may or may not have a secret.
The Moment of Truth has a couple of major fundamental flaws that keep the series from being a relevant social experiment or an enjoyable TV show.
Flaw #1 – The Questions are Asked Beforehand
Prior to taping in front of the live audience, the contestants are given a polygraph test of 50 personal questions, 21 of which will be selected for use during live taping. This is dumb. First, if a deeply personal and too-revealing question is asked initially, the contestant is now prepared for it and can quit the game early. At least he’ll expect the question. Second, the producers are basically given a cheat code here. If a contestant lies on a question during the initial polygraph test, the producers will certainly choose that question for the live taping, because that contestant may not have realized he was lying.
You see, there’s no incentive for a contestant to lie on the show. If he lies, the polygraph results are revealed and he goes home with no money. So, the only real way a reasonable person is going to get one of their questions wrong is if they truly believe in their own lie – or if the question is purposely vague. In the first episode a man named Ty Keck, a personal trainer, was asked if he had ever touched a woman he was training more than necessary. He said he hadn’t. The polygraph said he had. Ty went home with no money. After this result, Ty correctly argued that who’s to say how much touching is too much. There’s a difference between the least amount of touching necessary and excess touching. Ty got screwed. If the very first contestant on the very first episode makes me question the validity of the show’s premise, that is not a good sign.
Flaw #2 – Nobody Wins
Sure, if someone answers 21 questions truthfully, they win $500,000. But, in terms of viewers and their rooting interests, no one wins. At least on Jerry Springer type shows, people will often be vindicated by test results or a surprise reunion. On The Moment of Truth, someone either reveals an embarrassing or character-damaging secret, or they don’t. You’re not going to celebrate if your husband admits to having paid for sex in the past. You’re also not going to celebrate if he admits that he’s never paid for sex. “You’ve never killed anybody! Hooray!”
The Moment of Truth is like driving past a horrific car accident. There’s one part of you that wants to see bloody wreckage, ambulances, chaos, whatever. But, realistically, you don’t want to see these things. You want everyone to be OK, because you don’t want to be a person who enjoys other people’s pain – even if those people are winning money for it.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)