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Opinion

‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ How about where’s your shame, Fox TV?

Kathleen O'Brien Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger

That scraping you hear is the actual bottom of the barrel. Otherwise, we can’t imagine what the Fox television network will do for an encore. “Bowling for a Donor Organ”?

Its “Who’s Your Daddy?” reality show, in which an emotionally needy adopted daughter tried to identify her birth father, was yet another entry in the Waterproof Mascara genre of reality TV. If she guessed correctly, she got the $100,000 prize. If she didn’t, the impostor she picked from eight potential dads would get the money instead.

When the show was announced, adoption advocates screamed in protest, calling it despicable that Fox had turned the emotional issue of adoption into a “money-grubbing game show.”

The producers were wounded by such comments. “I find it curious that people are calling it that without having seen an episode,” said one. “You might get the impression from the title that it is somehow salacious or exploitive. But nothing could be further from the truth.”

In other words, see it first, and then decide. Fair enough.

Well, we’ve seen it, and we’d love to be able to stop at calling it exploitive. Hideous and downright cruel come to mind as well. True, it was not salacious – but salacious would’ve been an improvement.

Over 90 long minutes, an attractive, 30-ish woman met and got to know eight men, each claiming to be her father. Through process of elimination she had to narrow down the field first to four, then to two contestants, then to one.

Throughout it all, she displayed an emotional neediness that was truly sad. It’s sad enough when someone needs $100,000 so badly they’ll eat bugs or betray relatives. It’s beyond sad when they need something so much – a father – that they don’t even know their neediness is being exploited.

The camera feeds on emotion, the stronger the better. Tears, grimaces, trembling lips – it was all there, courtesy of heartless producers who strung the poor woman along while seven men told her lies.

Was every lapse in taste forgiven simply because she correctly picked her father and the two had a teary reunion? Not exactly. Several disturbing undercurrents remained: Dad’s three daughters, looking uncomfortable as they met their sobbing half-sister; Dad’s wife, nowhere to be seen (unwanted by the producers? unhappy?); the adoptive parents who raised her as their own, also nowhere to be seen (again, unwanted? unhappy?).

The actress who served as the master of ceremonies? She should be ashamed of herself.

The seven guys who agreed to pretend to be her father in hopes of winning $100,000? They should be ashamed of themselves.

The bad news? Fox has five more episodes of this hideous show in the can.

The good news? Ratings for the first one were horrible.

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