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'Island' Hopping: debating the merits of 'Temptation Island'

He said, she said: Kristen Baldwin and Josh Wolk get hot and bothered just talking about Fox’s shamelessly entertaining flesh-fest

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She Said

Stupid people are funny. Stupid people bringing misery upon themselves — now, that’s hilarious. Humanity has always gotten a thrill watching other folks suffer — so much so we’ve even got a fancy-pants word for it: schadenfreude. And Temptation Island, my friends, is the schadenfreud-iest show on earth.

Sourpuss critics charge that Temptation is abhorrent because it demeans the concept of commitment. Well, heads up, folks: Men and women have long been adept at trivializing relationships all on their own (see Roseanne, Darva Conger, Bill Clinton). Fox is merely helping the inevitable romantic sabotage along with its salacious, silly, and oh-so-entertaining Survivor rip-off.

Speaking of that phenom Down Under, explain this to me: When Survivor tortures near-starving contestants by making them force down cow brains, people hail it as amazing, revolutionary TV. But when Temptation producers let eight fame-o-sexuals eagerly ditch loved ones (and clothing) in exchange for national primetime exposure, that’s immoral?

Remember, the TI contestants are folks like Taheed and Ytossie, two people who treat each other with a level of hostility usually reserved for DMV waiting rooms. (Yes, they have a child, but based on this pair’s ice-cold interactions, if they break up, Fox probably did that kid a favor.) Then there’s Billy and his girlfriend Mandy, a woman who licked sugar off a stranger’s nipple and then proclaimed, ”If Billy can’t love me for … being who I am” — um, what would that be — a big hussy? — ”then we’re not supposed to be together anyway.” Must we really weep for the sanctity of this relationship? Hell, no. Just pull up a chair, bust open a bag of Chee-tos, and watch the idiocy unfold.

Okay, so maybe it’s not my finest hour when I’m cackling at the TI couples’ misery. But what’s so wrong about feeling superior for 60 minutes each week? Most TV highlights the many ways we don’t measure up — we could be richer, smarter, happier, thinner — but Temptation Island is far more kind: ”Hey, Mr. & Mrs. America, at least you’re not as emotionally and intellectually handicapped as these chowderheads.” Take poor deluded Kaya, a guy so adrift in the sea of personal identity that he’s turning to this sleazed-up Dating Game for enlightenment: ”I was waiting for an opportunity like this to … find out who I am,” he proclaimed. (I don’t know about you, but I have a suspicion Kaya is not quite ready for that discovery.)

What the naysayers need to remember is that Temptation Island is, at its core, an educational program. By tuning in, I’ve learned several lessons: (1) The reality of your boyfriend whooping it up with scantily clad hoochies on a tropical island can be nullified by adopting a sophisticated ”What I don’t see on videotape isn’t actually happening” strategy (thanks, Shannon!); (2) with enough chemical coaxing, human hair can achieve the color of a prison jumpsuit. (thanks, Mandy!); (3) it’s really not a first date unless you’re wearing disposable undies (as Mandy, Johnny, Valerie, and Matt did during their mud massages).