David Manning Trivial Liars of the Month for May 2004
Admittedly, chastising the purveyors of "reality TV' for promoting fraud and dishonesty is obviously akin to trying to sweep back the tides. After all, about 90% of the programs in the lucrative genre depend on inflicting various forms of emotional distress on participants for the entertainment of an audience that is "in the know." But Ethics Scoreboard is obligated to point out each newly excavated depth to which their ethical standards fall, and so it must bestow trivial liar status on the WB for its new "Superstar U.S.A."
As if the world needs more William Hungs (see link), this show will cull hopeful auditioners in order to find the worst singer, all the while deluding the recording star hopefuls that the competition is based on talent. That's bad enough: the show in effect will expose unsuspecting innocents to nationwide ridicule for their delusions of competence, and, as with the pathetic Mr. Hung, hold to the dubious notion that their victim's acquisition of notoriety and cash washes out any ethical stain. But "Superstar U.S.A." had to make sure that its studio audience also believed in the legitimacy of the competition, so the producers told them lies…and proudly, too! "The fact that we are able to perpetrate a Hoax of this magnitude with thousands of people for more than a month is absolutely incredible," the show's creator, Mike Fleiss, was quoted as saying. (Actually, he may have been quoting Enron executives, word for word.) The crème de la crème of inexcusable trivial lying, however, was achieved when, according to the Los Angeles Times, one audience was informed that "the contestants were all terminally ill beneficiaries of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation."
By falsely invoking the good will of a wonderful non-profit organization in order to make an audience unwitting accessories in the enterprise of humiliating bad performers with national exposure, all while deceiving talented performers into participating in rigged auditions that they believed were legitimate, the WB and its new show richly earn the Trivial Liar of the Month Status.
Now let's give them the ratings bomb such conduct so richly deserves.