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February 27, 2008

The Moment of Truth

Filed under: Entertainment,TV — CPav @ 10:56 pm
Tags: , ,

Fox’s new television show The Moment of Truth has been a mixed bag to date, but the episode that aired this past Monday was an amazing bit of television, a veritable trainwreck, but an intriguing one.

For those who haven’t been following it, Moment takes a contestant and asks them more than 50 questions of varying intensity and intrusiveness while they’re hooked up to a polygraph machine. The producers then cull the questions and ask the contestant 21 of them in front of a studio audience, and their friends and family members. If the contestant tells the truth in front of the live audience (based on the results of the polygraph session), they continue on, winning increasing amounts of money as they reach certain numbers of correct answers, with an ultimate prize of $500,000 for 21 correct answers.

The program implicitly asks how much a person is willing to humiliate himself on national television, and where is the line, when saving oneself from the humiliation outweighs the potential winnings.  Of course, other shows have asked similar questions, although not in quite so intimate a way; an additional element that Moment adds is the fact that the contestant doesn’t know what the results of the polygraph test were, so they could answer a question in the game the same way they answered it in the screening, and still be out the money, if the polygraph said they were lying. It’s an interesting show, and while some of the contestants and/or questions have been fairly dull (“Have you ever called in sick when you really weren’t?”), some of them have been more interesting (“Have you ever checked out another guy in the locker room”, asked to a former pro football player).

But all of that paled before this past Monday night, in an episode which I’m surprised they didn’t save for their season finale. (The full episode can be viewed on Fox On Demand.) The host, Mark Walberg (not to be confused with Mark Wahlberg) came on a couple of times to warn the viewers that the episode crossed certain lines, and that had he been allowed to make the decision, they would not be airing it. But air it they did.

The contestant was Lauren Cleri, an attractive blonde who took the stage with her parents, siblings, and husband Frank looking on. The questions started painting a less than attractive portrait of Cleri almost right from the beginning, when she admitted to having been fired from a job for stealing, that she’d rather give food to a dog than a homeless person, and that she’d kept secrets about her father from her mother. And then things got bad.

Evidently, Mrs. Cleri has feigned sleep or sickness to avoid sex with her husband. Okay, that seems to be fairly common. Less common, however, but still not unheard of, is taking off her wedding ring during a night out with friends, or marital infidelity. And then things got really bad.

Lauren admitted to being in love with a former boyfriend on her wedding day. Evidently that boyfriend was a guy named Frank (yes, he and the husband had the same name), because he came out to ask the next question: if Frank (the boyfriend) would take her back, would she leave Frank (the husband) for him? At that point, Lauren’s sister pressed a sort of panic button on the stage, which can be used only once by a family member or friend who doesn’t want the contestant to answer a question. The question (per the rules) was replaced by another question which the contestant must answer, which in this case sounded suspiciously similar to the unanswered one: Did Lauren think that Frank (the boyfriend) is the man she really should be married to.

Through all of this, Lauren’s answers were incredibly, searingly honest. Sex outside of marriage? Yep. Secrets about Dad that Mom doesn’t know? Sure. In love with a boyfriend on your wedding day, and still thinkin’ he’s the guy for you? You betcha.

Lauren Cleri left the show with no money, and, presumably, no husband as well (the New York Post reports that Lauren and Frank Cleri are now separated). The question that caught her up?

“Do you think you’re a good person?”

Lauren said yes. The polygraph said no. And I’m thinking the viewing audience largely agreed.

Note: I relied on this article to refresh my memory on some details of the episode, and got the New York Post reference from it.

The 300 Project: 18/41



  1. NY Times article for some follow-up:

    She and the hubby had discussed most of the questions beforehand and she went on to try to win the cash:

    Adds an extra element to public humiliation.

    Comment by Old Roomie — February 28, 2008 @ 12:59 am | Reply

  2. Sorry – correction – New York Post – two vastly different papers.

    Comment by Old Roomie — February 28, 2008 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  3. Lauren is a hero. She spoke her mind. She wasn’t happy. She is a young woman who probably married on the rebound. Her husband Frank looks like a dork. A dork is a dork, even if he is a NYPD cop. She made mistakes…she said things about their relationship that was hard for her…but do I blame her. NO!!!!! She is a victim of the new generation…get what you can, when you can, and don’t look back. That’s what we’ve told our kids, and that’s how she grew up. I praise Lauren Cleri for now speaking her mind. I’m a married man, 50+, who has done worse than Lauren…give her a break.

    Comment by russ — February 29, 2008 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

  4. Wow, Russ. I don’t know if I’d go so far as praising her, or calling her a hero. A hero is someone who pulls a kid out of a burning building, or teaches kids to read and write.

    While I certainly wouldn’t condemn someone who comes clean with the things they need to say to their significant other and/or family, I think there’s a better venue for it than Fox TV at 7:00 on a Monday night.

    Comment by CPav — February 29, 2008 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

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