28 FEBRUARY 2001
After everything, the final episode of Temptation Island actually surprised me. Ashamed as I am to admit this, I really thought these six individuals would fail, Fox would succeed, and I would be left wondering how only 14 days on an island paradise could destroy years of commitment. I have been preparing to write this version of the wrap-up piece since last week’s episode, and now I am forced to think differently.
Jean Michel Michenaud, Chris Cowan
Regular airtime: Wednesday, 9pm EST
So what do I think? Truthfully, I am heartened by what I just saw, pleased that in the end, these six people realized that they do love each other and that they want to stay together.
Mark Walberg, our capable host throughout the series, kept telling the contestants, “The journey is over,” reminding them that now (cue big music), they must decide the fate of their relationships. I think it’s a little melodramatic to call this experience a “journey.” I mean, where exactly did they journey? Onto an island populated by attractive individuals hired to entice them, an island where cameramen are everywhere and people live in well-lit bungalows. Still, the moment may have called for some melodrama. The six particpants were quite emotional at the final bonfire and perhaps, for them, it had been an emotional journey, deep into their arrested-in-adolescence minds and seething emotions. Or maybe there was really something important at stake here, for them.
Beyond the immediate fates of these three relationships, there were other issues in the air, not least being the fact that lots of people were watching. And the show delivered to its audience some sort of moral boost, a new faith in relationships, if I may be so bold. Had the relationships dissolved, as I anticipated they would, viewers would have been left with a rather empty feeling. So, that didn’t happen: this may be reality television, but it is television. The series ended by showing relationships resolidify and, in a sense, love succeeding some test, no matter how preposterous.
Originally, the public was furious and appalled at the idea of Temptation Island. Religious folks spoke out against Fox, local stations refused to air the show, and mothers everywhere covered their children’s eyes. But then…. nothing happened! It’s hard not to believe that Fox wasn’t well aware at every moment that there was a grand sort of public happiness at stake here. That the producers figured that viewers just couldn’t handle the relationships failing, splat, all over their tv screens.
All that remains, I suppose, is the question of whether or not Fox will ever conceive another relationship-testing reality show. Would anyone watch it again, anticipating such an ending? And if so, would the excitement and anxiety levels be the same? I imagine that the reception would be similar and the ending equally similar. The only difference would be the particular packages of flesh. Personally, I wouldn’t watch again, as I have discovered a wide array of better things to do with my time than watch a fish bowl.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.