Fox’s recent attempt to join the “reality” show craze is sure to succeed. It has what viewers want: scantily clad, beautiful, sexy (heterosexual) people who are sure to cry and fight. Sad but painfully true, people love to watch other people go through some sort of hell. Temptation Island is designed to deliver the emotional drama that viewers have come to love, as proven by Survivor and The Real World. If you have doubts, simply watch the promotional trailers for this six-episode series: you’re not going to see Ytossie relating a heartwarming tale about her boyfriend Taheed. Nope. Temptation Island will instead show you Ytossie on a beautiful moonlit beach, crying about his infidelity.
The show is supposed to test the commitment and faithfulness of four selected couples. The group is divided at opposite ends of a balmy island for two weeks—boys at one end, girls at the other. Once at their respective ends, they are subjected to the sexy wiles of 13 attractive singles. The show offers only one twist to the tempting process. Within their respective groups, the coupled men and women are allowed to vote off the one single man and woman, respectively, whom they find most threatening to their relationships. In addition, each contestant can block his/her mate from dating one of the remaining singles by placing a band around that man/woman’s wrist. With that accomplished, everyone else is fair game, the type of game that doesn’t even put up a fight. The show is set up like one of the those hunting ranches where all the animals you want to kill are enclosed and in front of you—just point and shoot. The participants are then instructed to “date” the handpicked, STD free, and oh yes, paid participants. Hmmmm. Doesn’t this sound exactly like an escort service? Mike Darnell, Fox’s executive vice president, did say that the 26 “sexy singles” were paid a “nominal” fee to “date” the participants. So to simplify their function, these men and women have been paid to go on dates, just like escorts. I’m not making any judgements on escort services (right now), but I never would have expected a major network to become one. Then again, I can be naive.
The buzz surrounding this show is in full force, since the premiere episode just aired this week. Commentaries (much like the one you’re reading now) are everywhere. And I found it striking that while driving home last night WPGC, a D.C.-based hip-hop/R&B radio station, held a call-in forum regarding the show. The question: would you go on Temptation Island and if so, who would you want to tempt you? Of the callers I heard, all would accept the challenge and would request the likes of Halle Berry and LL Cool J—well, no one actually said LL Cool J (sorry LL), but you get the point. In these responses, everyone would cheat, the relationship would fail the test, and it would take only two short weeks and some hot ass to make these people fall to their knees. I am appalled. I know that humans are sexual beings—some very sexual—and that in some ways monogamy is a culturally constructed and ridiculous notion. However, I would hope that people could make it through two weeks to win a prize. I also find it sad that the eight people on the show have been so easily manipulated for ratings: they’ve been sent to paradise to have their love lives tested and ruined for our amusement. But I don’t doubt that I’ll watch this emotional slaughter each and every week—after all, I did ask to write this review and weekly updates—so what does that say about me?
Essentially Fox has created the best possible reality-based show ever—one that focuses entirely on sex. Bravo. Twenty-six attractive people have eagerly allowed themselves to be purchased and objectified on national tv. Do they realize that no one will remember their names by the end of the year? I wonder how it felt to stand by that pool and feel the eyes of millions stare and rate your physical attributes. But I don’t think I’d ever wonder enough to want to do it.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/temptation-island1/