A Fox television series debuting Jan. 10 has attracted critics for tempting “committed couples” to stray from their romantic partners by surrounding them with other attractive and available singles.
“Critics have already begun blasting ‘Temptation Island’ based solely on its premise and titillating promotions, which feature scantily clad men and women and a voice-over describing the program as the ‘most daring reality show ever,'” wrote Paul Farhi in the Washington Post.
“Temptation Island” works to create drama by providing moral dilemmas for the committed couples, said executive producer Chris Cowhan in an interview posted on the Entertainment Weekly Web site. None of the couples are married. All of the couples have been together in committed relationships for one to five years, said Cowhan.
Though the cast members are not married, the show has been called exploitative and emotionally victimizing of participating couples. Fox officials deny the validity of the criticism, according to reports from a Jan. 7 press conference.
The show “is not about sex,” said chairman of Fox Entertainment Sandy Grushow during the press conference, cited by the New York Times.
Critical reaction is due to promotions of the show “which have depicted members of the couples in the midst of emotional trauma as a result of seeing their boyfriend or girlfriend dallying with one of the invited tempters,” wrote Bill Carter in the New York Times.
But Fox officials contend the show is intended to provide answers to couples about their potential for long-term fidelity.
“It’s entirely possible we’re not breaking up committed relationships,” said Cowhan. “Maybe we’re reconfirming committed relationships. I just think that everybody’s assuming that these people are victims, and it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. All of the choices are their own.”
The couples are not coming to the island to have sex with strangers but instead are coming to the island to “date” strangers, said Fox executive vice-president Mike Darnell, in the Washington Post.
But cast members were tested for sexually transmitted diseases before programming started, wrote Lisa de Moraes in the Washington Post. And Fox programmers “didn’t object to any consenting adults making that choice,” said Cowhan.
The tempters of the couples include a former Miss Georgia, a bartender, a mental health counselor, a former Playboy model turned physician, a massage therapist, a real estate agent, a social worker, an artist, and a woman claiming to have been in Madonna’s latest video.
“Nobody was encouraged to seduce anybody,” said Cowhan. “The only reward is actually getting the answers to the questions you had [about your relationship] when you came to the island.”
So-called reality programming is becoming popular among television networks because it is cheap to produce and often contains provocative content, wrote Carter. Actors and script writers are not needed for reality programming, which cuts production costs.
“Fox apparently could not resist the temptation of attention-getting, provocative reality programming, a genre that, in the wake of the enormous success last summer of CBS’s ‘Survivor,’ has increasingly become crucial to network programmers,” wrote Carter.
Critics of the program from the religious community include the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association.
But there have been “no boycotts” and “few negative e-mails,” said programming director Amanda Brewer for Fox 43 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Other Fox affiliate spokespersons were unavailable for comment about reaction from religious communities in Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn.
“Every human being is faced with moral choices,” said Rabbi Kenneth Roseman in the Washington Post. “But we’re not faced with people who deliberately set out to undermine or distort our morals, particularly for ratings and profit. This is really offensive.”
Sarah Griffith is BCE’s communications coordinator.