By MATT SLAGLE
DALLAS - An upcoming Fox television series that uses scantily clad men and women to test the willpower of four couples was attacked as shameless and destructive by critics who urged the network to drop the program.
"The idea that it is sport and amusement to see if one can destroy a relationship for the purpose of securing ratings and profit is just unacceptable," Rabbi Kenneth D. Roseman of the Temple Shalom in Dallas said Tuesday.
In a letter mailed to local Fox affiliate KDFW-TV on Dec. 12, Roseman called the six-week reality series an "assault on marriage" and urged the station to pull it from the air.
According to Fox's Web site, "Temptation Island" sends four unmarried couples "at a crossroads in their relationship" to a remote island for two weeks. A pool of 26 eligible singles tries to woo them on the show, which debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The network said the couples are willing to test their relationships and will be set up on dates with three singles who best reflect their ideal mate. At the end of their two-week getaway, they decide whether to stay together.
"We do respect Rabbi Roseman's right to his opinion. It would be premature, however, for anyone to form a judgment based solely on promotional footage," Fox Broadcast Corp. said in a statement. "We hope that viewers will watch `Temptation Island' and decide for themselves."
Fox executives said last year that they would try to be classier with their reality specials after taking heat for "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?" which featured the ill-fated TV marriage of Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger. The show was criticized when it was learned that a former fiancee had served Rockwell with a restraining order, and Conger quickly moved for an annulment.
The American Family Association, a conservative watchdog group based in Tupelo, Miss., urged visitors to its Web site to contact the network and ask Fox "to give America something worth watching."
L. Brent Bozell, chairman of the Parents Television Council, called "Temptation Island" typical Fox fare.
"It is not just a potentially dangerous show because of its message, but coming from Fox network it's pretty much guaranteed to be offensive," he said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
"Not even a relationship is considered to be honorable anymore," Bozell said. "It tells me that the people participating are pathetic, the network and the producers putting this together are shameless, and the public that would sit down and watch this ought to be embarrassed."
It's not the first time residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth area have protested risque programming.
In 1993, Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV decided before the show's national debut not to carry "NYPD Blue," after several conservative groups picketed the station.
The same year, WFAA refused to air an episode of "Donahue" that featured shock jock Howard Stern. The network dropped the talk show for good in 1994, in part because of an advertising boycott launched by a Fort Worth dentist, Dr. Richard Neill, who objected to the show's sometimes racy subject matter.