Induction #258 - Truth or Consequences:
The Unsold FOX Pilot
Where's My Liquor? I need it after this one.
Unsold FOX Pilot: (2003/2004?)
Text by Cyndi Seidelman
FOX always had a knack for pushing the envelope in
the early-mid 2000s. It seemed like almost every week there would be a truly
despicable reality show or game show or special on the schedule. Shows such as
The Chamber, Mr. Personality, Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage, Bachelorettes in
Alaska, Boot Camp, The Glutton Bowl, My Big Fat Obnoxious Whatever, Unaminous,
Who's Your Daddy, among others just made us question our existance of a higher
being than us. If the following shows were truly awful, the question that
inevitably comes to mind is what in the world was rejected for this network?
Well, the answer to that question was unearthed by Wink Martindale's crew on his
YouTube channel. Amidst all the rarities and gems on his channel, there is this
unholy pilot. So, let's talk about the 2003/4 Truth or Consequences Pilot.
Let's do a brief history about Truth or Consequences. Starting off as a radio program hosted by Ralph Edwards in the 40s, it would find its way onto TV in the 50s with Ralph hosting on CBS. It would move to NBC with Jack Bailey as host and in 1957, he would leave the show and Bob Barker would take over the mantle as host until the show left the air in 1975. The setup for the show is as follows, the contestant would be asked a ridiculous question and Beulah the Buzzer would sound. Afterwards, they'd perform some wacky stunt to win a prize. Simplistic in nature, it created lots of laughs for everyone.
One of my favorite setups was with this Dunk Tank consequence from 1973. One unsuspecting soul was put into a dunk tank and two others in the group would try to hit a target to put him in. The twist is that one of the two throwers was a professional pitcher for the California Angels. So as suspected, the poor man went into the dunk tank and everyone laughed. To make it even better when the second man was in the tank, the woman who the producers didn't think would hit the target actually did hit the target. That's just funny stuff and made a funny moment even better. It's stuff like that is harmless fun and is enjoyable for all. Ralph Edwards said that naturally about the show that the contestants "were good sports in nature" and it worked that way. The show was rebooted a couple times after 1975, but never caught on due to a mix of Bob not hosting it or the times having passed the show by or it just was up against a slew of other competition for timeslots. The 1987 version with Larry Anderson would be the biggest victim as the 1987-1988 syndication season had it going up against returning shows in Wheel, Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, The $100,000 Pyramid and newcomers in Win, Lose or Draw and a reboot of High Rollers as it would be gone really quick.
Before I talk too much about the unsold FOX pilot, I want to preface this induction with a whole bunch of warnings. The pilot features scenes and moments that made me feel uncomfortable as all hell. There are moments of spousal abuse, animal cruelty, lack of safety precautions for various stunts, and everything else that makes me thankful that stuff like that isn't on any shows currently airing. It pushes every envelope and will make you very uncomfortable, even by 2003-2004 standards. I'm going to try my best to limit photos that would trigger people but I will go into detail on why these stunts were offensive and bad.
You have been warned.
The host of the pilot was Chris Rose. During this time, he was working for Fox Sports, mainly on Best Damn Sports Show Period. He was likeable there and despite all of the ugliness around him, he did a good job here. At the very least, he went in full steam ahead with some of the stunts and all of that. There is an occasion where he comes off as skeezy, but it was part of the bit and at least he gave it his all. He didn't half-ass it or go over the top with it. He did his job and did it well. Sadly, that is one of only two bits of good that I will give for this show. Remember the trigger warnings that I gave in the 4th paragraph? Well, here's where they come in. It's not pretty.
The intro of the show is an immediate turnoff by showing the three teams drowning one partner for as long as they can. The team that lasts the shortest amount of time is eliminated. That's a great way to start a show: open with a stunt where a contestant must hold their loved one down for an extended period of time and potentially suffer life-changing damage to their lungs and brain all for the chance at $50,000. It's just gross and we're not even 1 minute into this show.
After the opening, we immediately cut to Chris Rose bringing a person wearing lots of padding down to the stage area. There isn't really a stage as this show's set is essentially a dark underground warehouse looking set. I think it's the same staging area that had that awful Face Your Fears special with Jerry Springer from the same time period. The question becomes why is he wearing all of this padding and what is his stunt that he has to do?
He has to enter this makeshift boxing ring with a kangaroo in it. He has 60 seconds to grab 5 flags that are on the kangaroo's collar. While this is happening, the kangaroo does what we expect kangaroos to do: punch him and go into complete defensive mode. This is supposed to be entertainment? At best it's animal cruelty. At worst, it's intentionally putting someone in harms way, in which they could seriously get hurt. Not even Fear Factor had stunts like this. Those stunts did have a fear element, but they had loads and loads of stunt coordinators and people with decades of experience to make sure those events were done safely. Remember the Vegas episode and sliding down the glass pyramid? That had loads of safety precautions baked into it. A kangaroo with a knockout punch at the ready doesn't.
Next up is a guessing game between the two couples who thought drowning their partners for two minutes was a good idea. A bunch of bugs are dumped on top of their heads and they have to ask yes or no questions to deduce which bug was dumped on their loved ones head. The team that does this the fastest wins the opportunity to go for $50,000. Out of all that we've seen so far, it's average. At the very least it's not offensive like the rest of the stunts were, so that's something.
I refuse to do a picture for the next item on the show as it involves Chris Rose asking old ladies if they'd be willing to flash "unsuspecting people" for money. It's just gross and unneeded and almost borders on elder abuse. What also doesn't help this part out is the obviously staged "unsuspecting people" otherwise known as staffers getting a terrible reaction shot out of it.
Immediately afterwards, we see 5 people lined up to take on a sumo wrestler. Here, the people must last 30 seconds with him in the ring and completing it without being knocked down or pushed out of the ring wins a prize. Tame, but once again safety concerns are thrown out the window. First thing I want people to notice in this picture is that the stage is concrete. Also, the ring looks to be very thin. So when someone can get pushed down it's conceivable that they can go splat and that's not a pretty sight. My fears are realized when someone lands awkwardly during the parade and you see a really obvious jump-cut. That tells me something went sideways and he got knocked for a loop and they had to brush him off and make sure that he was coherent.
Another thing before we move on is that everything has been going on in a break-neck pace in that nothing is allowed to breathe or settle in. It's showing off moment after moment after moment with little to no setup explained whatsoever. They could have cut that granny flashing thing or the kangaroo thing to better explain everything else. It's the game show version of the Crash TV philosophy. You just show one thing after the other to the point where people can't take their eyes off of it. While it's fine in small doses, it wore out its welcome really sharpish. Most notably during Vince Russo's tenures running WWF and WCW creative. After the Monday Night Wars ended between WCW and WWF. That style was immediately ended and things were allowed to breathe again.
Next up we have 3 people: two females and one male being asked by Chris to strip naked on TV. They would be getting undressed behind closed doors in something akin to a shower stall like you'd see in a park or public pool and throw the clothes in or near a hamper a few feet away. Once they have completely disrobed and gotten out of the stalls, they would get $1,000. Unlike previous stunts, this one had some planning to it. Here, two stagehands would take the place of the two women and they would throw clothes identical to the ones the women were wearing. So when the big reveal came, everyone was clothed safe for the unsuspecting guy. Out of every little bit of disgustingness and haphazardness this show had so far, this one was the closest you would get to the spirit of the original show. This was a harmless prank that ended with people laughing and a payout at the end. I point out this about the original and this stunt: The stunts weren't meant to harm anybody, including animals. This is the only stunt that managed that. But now we have to throw this all away for one of the most disgusting things I've seen in a game show pilot.
The winning couple from earlier has one final challenge in front of them. While the wife is hanging around on the beam, the husband has to climb a cable ladder to a manual elevator. There he must pull himself up to the beam and get on without falling. When he is on the beam, it's the wives job to stand up on the beam and meet in the middle. Lastly, the wife hands the husband 3 envelopes containing an action. He must pick one and do said action without telling his wife what action he must perform. Once the action is performed, they win $50,000. All of this sounds fine. It sounds like an ok Fear Factor stunt. But when the action gets revealed...
it becomes too much. Just what America would have wanted to see: Domestic Violence or something similar to it. Not only that, with this couple, you could add some really nasty racial overtones to this. Look at the couple again. A big black man doing that to an average white woman. To compound this, you could clearly hear when the husband got close and tried to push her the first time, she said "Don't Push Me." That should have immediately stopped the game right then and there and another out should have been provided. There are so many layers of wrong to this that it'll take a college thesis to get to the bottom of it. It was that moment that I realized that this is the absolute worst thing that I watched for review purposes or for fun or for Game Show Garbage/Gumbo. There's Something About Miriam may have been offensive, but that show was offensive on one front. This show has many layers of offensiveness that I immediately hit the bottle after watching it a second time. That's something that I haven't done to any game show.
I urge everyone, don't seek out this pilot. Let it linger and just watch other good things like Cat videos or what I've been doing, watching the Street Smarts YouTube channel. Do that instead. You'll thank me later.
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