Networks love to get a media buzz going before a new show, any show, is unleashed for public viewing consumption. Sometimes these networks really have to work for the media to pick up on their offerings, and other times a show comes along that's just different, exciting, new, or off the wall enough to gain momentum all on its own.
The Moment of Truth, a new game show coming to FOX, is one of those shows that needs only a slight push to get attention. On the surface, there's controversy at every turn. At the very heart of the game is a lie detector, which contestants must willingly be hooked up to in order to play. Polygraph machines themselves have a colored history, and using them to win money brings up issues for those who don't believe in their accuracy or dependability.
On top of that, contestants are asked increasingly personal questions as the game progresses, potentially revealing secrets about themselves that may be best kept hidden. To add to the drama, friends and family members are seated on a sofa, watching everything unfold. The potential for a Jerry Springer moment is certainly there.
During a conference call with The Moment of Truth Executive Producer Howard Schultz and host Mark L. Wahlberg, these issues were addressed and the game was explained in much more detail.
How the Game Works
First, let's take a look at how things will work. Contestants will win money based on how many questions they answer truthfully, according to a prize ladder that awards cash for a pre-determined number of questions. The ladder looks like this:
- 6 questions - $10,000
- 5 questions - $25,000
- 4 questions - $100,000
- 3 questions - $200,000
- 2 questions - $350,000
- 1 question - $500,000
The first six questions will be relatively painless for the contestant. As they climb higher up the prize ladder, there are fewer questions to answer, but the questions themselves become much more personal and carry a higher reward.
How the Questions are Determined
Once a contestant is chosen for the show, producers spend time researching their background and talking to their friends and family members. They then assemble a list of 50-75 questions based on what they've learned about the contestant. Each set of questions is entirely customized to the contestant answering them, so if producers find a deep dark secret in a participant's past, you can bet it will be addressed.
Each contestant is then given a polygraph test, and asked all of the 50-75 questions on the list. Based on the answers given during this test, 21 questions are chosen to be those asked during the actual game. Contestants are not told the results of their polygraph tests, and they don't know which questions out of the master list will be asked on the show.
There is a line, however, that the show's staff won't cross. Any questions that could potentially cause harm to a child aren't asked. They also avoid any questions that could go beyond the restrictions of the FCC in terms of adult content.
The Friends and Family Button
While the game progresses, the friends and family of each contestant will be sitting on a couch together, watching and listening. In front of them is a button, which they can choose to press if they, as a group, decide that they don't want to hear the answer to one specific question. The button can be pressed after the question is read, and another question will be substituted for the contestant.
Howard Schultz mentioned that he thought the friends and family would use this button to save their loved one from a potentially embarrassing answer. Apparently though, it hasn't been used very often. "As it turns out, oftentimes the friends and family want to know the answer so badly, they won’t hit the button," he told us.
Contestants Control Their Own Fate
One of the things host Mark L. Wahlberg stressed is that the contestants themselves are completely in the driver's seat in this game. They've heard all of the questions before, they know the "right" answers, they can quit at any time, and they can change their answers the second time if they feel they messed up in the initial polygraph test. "So with all those mechanisms in place for their own protection, they really are driving the bus," said Wahlberg. "That doesn’t stop them from driving it off a cliff sometimes," he added.
Wahlberg admitted that there were times when he was uncomfortable asking contestants some of the questions on their lists. He told us that his role includes making sure that the participants know that they can take their money and run at any time during the game, because there are really tough questions ahead. "There are times when I’ve even said to them, 'You’ve got a lot of money. I really don’t want to have to ask this question. Please, don’t make me read it.' And they say, 'Bring it on.'"