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My mommy, the lab rat
by Paul Sperry

© 2001 WorldNetDaily.com
WorldNetDaily.com

As the reporter who "undermined" Fox TV's "Temptation Island" by giving away its dud ending, you might think I'm offended by the show's premise, which has all the elements of prostitution except for the payments.

Fox producers, acting as pimps, provided rooms and cocktails for 26 nubile prostitutes and eight johns and janes. They even had their clients tested for sexually transmitted diseases. I wouldn't be surprised if they also supplied condoms.

Actually, I'm not offended.

I don't care what consenting adults do -- or in this case, didn't do -- under the sheets. And it doesn't really bother me that producers, warped as they are, encouraged these couples to cheat. The couples knew what they were getting into.

But not the child.

His parents made the choice to involve him in Prostitution Island for him. And Fox producers let them.

Yes, the couple lied and said they didn't have a kid to meet the rules of the show. Fox, defending itself in the wake of WorldNetDaily's scoop, says they even fooled PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which was hired to help conduct background checks on contestants.

And yes, Fox says its producer, Rocket Science Laboratories, caught the couple midway through the show and bounced them from the island. (In fact, that's not exactly how it happened, according to my sources who worked on the show. They tell me that the mother showed a photo of her child privately to another cast member and word spread back to producers. If not for the mother's slip, producers would have had a much bigger embarrassment on their hands.) Fox also points out that they offered the couple therapy.

But it will be the child who needs therapy.

He's just a toddler now, but when he grows up, he'll be known as the kid whose parents sailed off to a steamy Caribbean island for two weeks -- leaving him behind with who knows whom -- to "date" other people and possibly cheat on each other (call me old-fashioned, but I thought dating other people was cheating). And if he doesn't believe it, he can watch the same TV footage of his swinging parents that the whole world got to see.

It didn't have to be that way. After Fox found out the couple lied, it could have stopped the show and started production over to protect the child.

But the parents made it through five of the 12 days of shooting, which translated into three episodes. My sources tell me producers felt it would have been too costly to reshoot -- even though reality series are dirt cheap to produce compared with sitcoms and movie series.

Producers can still cancel the coming two episodes. But they won't, because they already have advertisers lined up around them.

My problem with reality TV starts here.

Producers have turned into mad scientists, toying with real people and real lives -- even children's -- and they don't care. And people, with the exception of infants, are acting like willing lab rats -- all for a spin on the TV treadmill of fame.

Next, Fox will strand a bunch of crack addicts on a desert island and let us watch to see who convulses first. Then at the last minute, they'll helicopter in a bunch of pushers. Whoever survives gets a suite for life at the Betty Ford Clinic.

This isn't healthy, folks. It's pernicious.

But perhaps more disturbing is that the viewing public doesn't much care, either. More people watched Prostitution Island's debut than the first episode of CBS' "Survivor." (So much for me "undermining," as the news wires said, the story line.)

Don't get me wrong: It's easy to get sucked into these reality programs. The people are so real that you put yourself into their shoes, and it's hard to divorce yourself from their situations. Their world becomes your world.

But at the rate we're going, one day we'll wake up and discover we're all either voyeurs watching TV or exhibitionists on TV, and no one will actually produce a damn thing anymore. Think about it ... during commercials.

Paul Sperry is Washington bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.

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