In Depth

Viewers Discount Critics’ Carping

‘Truth’ Leads List Among Reviled Reality Series

Asked about “The Moment of Truth” after its highly rated premiere in January, Mike Darnell, Fox’s president of alternative entertainment, said he was relieved to know that television critics hated it so much.

“They thought [‘Moment’] was everything from boring to vile, to boring and vile,” he told TelevisionWeek in January. “But generally speaking, if you have a critically acclaimed reality show, it’s not a big hit.”

Six months later, critics still hate “Moment of Truth.” The Fox reality show claimed the title of worst show overall in TVWeek’s summer 2008 Critics Poll.

“The fear. The shame. The desperation. The only thing separating ‘Moment of Truth’ from spring break at Senor Frog’s is the Jell-O shots and the wet T-shirt contests,” Christopher Lawrence of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote.

“But I hear Mike Darnell is working on adding those for the fall,” he added.

Mike Hughes of the Gannett News Service described the lie detector-based game simply as “a despicable show in every way.”

Placing a surprisingly close second was Fox’s “The Return of Jezebel James,” which received critics’ scorn even though the show aired only three times.

‘We all knew this waste of talent wasn’t going to last more than two episodes; why didn’t Fox?,” wrote Robert Philpot of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

NBC fiasco “Quarterlife” managed to air only once on the channel, but still earned a tie for the third spot with E!’s reality series “Living Lohan.”

Originally a MySpace-exclusive series and hailed as the marriage of online video and television, “Quarterlife” was called in during the writers strike and aired once in late February. Drawing dreadful ratings, the show was quickly shuffled out to pasture on NBC cable sibling Bravo.

“Even one episode of this hopelessly pretentious and full-of-itself misfire from the Internet was too much for NBC. Even more annoying than its content was the attitude of its makers that ‘traditional’ TV critics were too old-school to appreciate its charms. We all watch YouTube. We don’t necessarily think it’s ready for prime time,” TV Guide’s Matt Roush wrote.

Continuing down the list, CBS’ “Big Brother” and ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia” tied for fifth.

Commenting on both “Mafia” and the unranked NBC show “Lipstick Jungle,” the Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan wrote, “One word: uuuuugh.”

While the early cancellation of CBS’ “Secret Talents of the Stars” robbed viewers of seeing former Nixon staffer Ben Stein doing the jitterbug, critics couldn’t help but acknowledge the show, voting it into a tie for seventh worst with The CW’s “Green Acres”-meets-“The Bachelor” show, “Farmer Wants a Wife.”

“It’s an awful show, but not awful enough to be good awful,” Rick Kushman of the Sacramento Bee wrote of “Farmer.” “It alternated badly between kitsch and taking itself seriously. They should have stayed with kitsch.”

Rounding out the list was a tie for ninth between two veteran shows, Fox’s “American Idol,” which premiered in 2002, and ABC’s “According to Jim,” which premiered in 2001.

“American Idol” received standard reality jeers, but also cheers, as it cracked the Top 20 on the “best” list as well and came in at No. 1 among the critics’ favorite reality shows.

Tom Jicha of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel described “Jim” as “the ‘Mr. Belvedere’ of this generation—ignored but impossible to kill.”