It’s no mystery why Temptation Island — the ”reality” show about four couples earmarked for hootchie cootchie by a bevy of sculpted singles — attracts more viewers in the advertising world’s coveted 18 to 49 age group than its chief time period competition, ”The West Wing.” Although ”TWW” is ”TI”’s superior in every respect except in the areas of bikini waxes and tattoos, ”Island” appeals to two audiences: (1) viewers who, like the couples themselves, are young adults who accept the show at face value, watching to see whether these surrogates for themselves will suffer guilt or party hearty; and (2) viewers who look at these hookup artists in fascinated disbelief and wonder, ”What will these horny morons do next?”
You can see where the ”West Wing” audience might blend over into my theoretical audience No. 2. I, for one, am glad I knew how to program my VCR so that I didn’t miss Martin Sheen approving ambassadorships, but I also didn’t miss the tempted guy named Andy say, ”My strategy… has been, screw the looks — pick the chick that you think you’re gonna have the best time with.”
”Island” has surefire middle American appeal: It’s as close as you can get to televising the breaking of one of the Ten Commandments. Though not married, the couples are said to be in ”committed relationships,” and the ”uncommitted” men and women used by the producers to entice the couples are, as David Letterman has pointed out, virtually prostitutes — people encouraged to initiate sex with people they don’t know. The fact that the producers have suggested that no one, over the series’ six week run, will actually engage in intercourse doesn’t matter: Sex is never shown on network television anyway; luring someone away from his or her mate is the TV version of sex in countless sitcoms and dramas. This show could go up against CBS’ ”48 Hours” and be called ”26 Ho’s.”
Given the number of people involved, ”Island” does an excellent job of distinguishing one self absorbed airhead from another. Everyone I know has marveled at the couple Ytossie and Taheed. Given what a hostile, selfish creep Ytossie is in every single scene, it seems a miracle Taheed has stayed with her for the advertised five and a half years — especially since Taheed, Mr. ”I Can Be Faithful, But if a Woman Throws It at You, It’s Very, Very Difficult,” is no prize himself, and this pair has a child about whose existence they lied to get on the show.
Aaron ”West Wing” Sorkin himself couldn’t write two more vibrant villains; it’s almost a shame the show’s laughable rules obliged them to kick the duo off the island. No matter — skull shaven, slit eyed Billy, steamed because his gal Mandy let one guy get too close (”I licked on her stomach,” says the offending genius), is a worthy successor in raging bull stupidity.