Temptation Island Fails to Survive the TV Wars

The Germans have a word, “”Schadenfreude,”” which has been adopted into the English language. It means “”pleasure from someone else’s pain,”” and it describes the only reason I can think of that someone would want to watch the new FOX show “”Temptation Island.””

The plot of the show is this: Four couples, each of whom have been together for several years, go to Ambergris Caye, an island in Belize, for two weeks. Once there, the couples meet up with 13 single men and women. The men in relationships choose a single man to vote off in “”Survivor””-like fashion, and likewise the involved women choose a single woman to give the boot.

Next, each contestant chooses a single member of the same sex and blocks their partner from formally dating this person. Of course, this heightens the attraction between the pair of blocked people.

After this, the couples separate for two weeks straight, only communicating through occasional video messages delivered the next morning. The men stay in Captain Morgan’s Retreat, and the women stay on the other side of the island, across a jungle, in a hotel aptly named “”Mata Chica,”” Spanish for “”girl kills.””

While apart, the couples can do whatever they please. Prearranged dates with singles are common, visiting places like the Maruba Jungle Spa for “”intimate mud massages,”” or going to secluded beaches for picnic lunches, speed boating or scuba diving with sharks.

This, at least, is what the show’s producers tell you on the Web site and in the promos. They make it sound like a nice place, like somewhere I wouldn’t mind going with my boyfriend. But when the single women start betting odds for who can “”hook it up”” with a coupled guy, and when the host smiles that much, you know there’s something wrong.

The dates the couples go on are recorded on camera, and the night after each date, one person from each couple gets to choose whether he or she wants to see their partner’s dates. The catch is, if they choose to watch, their partner is forced to watch theirs. And if they choose not to watch, their partner cannot watch theirs. This “”highlight”” video of each date is chosen by the producers and is usually the raciest part. The partners use this arrangement to spy on, hide from, or get revenge upon their mates.

The dates themselves seem arranged to generate risque, or “”Belize-style”” shots as the producers put it. Upon entering the Maruba Jungle Spa, one pair is told, “”This is disposable underwear. This is what you’re going to wear. This and only this.”” As the girl of the pair put it, “”It was hard to relax completely knowing that we’re basically wearing close to nothing.””

This is not my idea of a first date. I’m not sure I’d want to know the kind of person who’d want to be next to naked with someone they’d barely met before.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think of first dates as dinner some place — McDonald’s, even — followed by a movie or play, the girl and guy talking most of the rest of the time about who they are, trying to figure out if the other is the kind of person they wouldn’t mind getting naked in front of.

The people involved in this whole mess ooze hypocrisy. One of the couples lied on their application papers, claiming that they had no children together when they had one, placing the child’s life in turmoil.

The show’s host admits this, yet claims extensive background checks were done. On the first day after dating, the girls “”feel worried about the states of their relationships with their partners.”” To help cheer themselves up, they have a “”boisterous Jacuzzi party and a romp in the ocean”” with the single guys, helping the destruction of their relationships further along.

After one girl, Mandy, sees her boyfriend’s first date, she cries, upset at seeing someone else showing affection for him, despite her reason for going on the show: “”She believes she needs to see other girls wanting Billy because it will strengthen her devotion to him.””

After being so hurt, her next date — perhaps coincidentally, perhaps arranged by the producers — is at the Maruba Jungle Spa with a singer and poet who ends the date by rubbing his bare nipple with watermelon chunks and licking rum off Mandy’s stomach. Again, not my idea of a reasonable first date. Billy, who encouraged Mandy with his video communication to have a good time, cannot finish watching the highlight video of Mandy’s date and turns away in anguish.

OK, I know you’re saying, “”These people chose to come to this island. It’s their own fault.”” You’re right on the first count, but I seriously doubted any of them saw the call for cast members and thought, “”Hey, that sounds like fun! I’m looking forward to humiliating myself and causing terrible pain to a person I love dearly!””

Accused of causing the demise of American morals on an Internet chat, the show’s host Mark Walberg said, “”I would much rather know if I am with the one I am supposed to be with before I get married than after.””

Asked if he would participate in something like the show, Walberg said, “”No way.”” When prompted for an explanation, he said, “”For me, personally, that is not the way I would want to find out the answers about my relationship.””

I’ll agree that the show doesn’t diminish American morality. The show wouldn’t be as popular if the public thought it was immoral. The producers are simply caught up in the “”Survivor/Big Brother/Truman Show”” ideas, mixing it with a bit of Jerry Springer and soap opera for attraction value. They’re riding the wave of “”reality television,”” creating a show where there are no real winners, no prize for staying together or breaking up.

Yeah, just like reality, only there are six black people, one or two Asians and around 32 rich people out of 34 total. Walberg blows off the fact that they all have to be attractive by saying, “”After all, it is Temptation Island!””

I’ll believe it’s reality TV when they bring a few homosexuals, more ethnic groups, some old people, some children, and some average-looking people to a public place like a park, and tape what happens. That is reality. That is what we live.

Only when we admit that, we can start improving interpersonal relationships and dealing with our prejudices and preconceptions in mature way.

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