Nothing But the Truth
Branwen Christie (Series 1)
Nina Kissaun (Series 2)
Ruggie Media for Sky One, 10 November 2007 to 26 March 2008 (16 episodes in 2 series)
Originating in Colombia (because that’s where all good gameshow formats come from right?) Jerry Springer hosts as contestants try to answer 21 questions truthfully to win the jackpot of £50,000.
That however is easier said that done. Questions are deliberately difficult and/or embarrassing to answer. This is made worse for the contestants by not just having to answer these questions on national TV, but also by having some of their family and close friends there to watch.
Before the programme, each contestant is asked a series of 100 questions while connected to a polygraph (so-called "lie detector"). From these 100 questions, 21 will be selected which will subsequently be asked again during the programme. The readings from the polygraph while answering these questions will later be used to determine whether the contestant has answered truthfully or not.
When the programme begins, the contestant sits in a chair in the centre of the set. Opposite them to the left of the set are seated four or five of their family or close friends, with the somewhat small audience behind. After a brief introduction, a question appears on the video wall behind the contestant. There then follows usually several minutes of conversation between the contestant, the host, and the contestant’s friends and family. Eventually the contestant must decide on an answer. Once the contestant has confirmed their response, a rather ominous voice booms: ‘That answer is... (interminable delay) ...true/false.’
If they answer untruthfully, the set turns a vivid shade of red, and a brief post-mortem is carried out (usually a rather uncomfortable two-sided discussion about the true accuracy of the lie detector, see below). Should this happen, no matter what money they had, they lose it all. There are no fallbacks, or consolation prizes. If their answer was correct the contestant can play on for another question worth more money.
At certain points in the game, there are safe points at which the contestant can leave the game, taking with them whatever money that particular safe point is worth. The safe points and their values are –
Question 6 - £1,000 Question 11 - £5,000 Question 15 - £10,000 Question 18 - £20,000 Question 20 - £35,000 Question 21 - £50,000
Should the contestant choose to play on after reaching a safe point, they must answer all the questions required to reach the next safe point truthfully, or else they lose everything and leave the game.
As the show progresses, not only do the questions get increasingly more personal, they also become much more vague. This piles the pressure on the contestant as they must not only worry about the fall-out of the answer they give, but also about how to make sure they truthfully answer a question that may not have a simple yes/no answer.
Springer's Final Thoughts
It wouldn’t be right to say that this show doesn’t have potential. It does. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have a few problems. The biggest one is that nature of what is viewed as a truthful or untruthful answer. In some cases, contestants have given what in their heart of hearts they believe to be the truthful answer. However because something buried deep within their subconscious triggers the lie detector, they leave with nothing. The looks of total shock and disbelief on the faces of contestants when this happens cannot simply be derived from the disappointment of losing sometimes quite substantial sums of money.
Another problem stemming from this is that the viewer can spend more than half of each hour long programme following a single contestant, only to see them go home with nothing. This leaves the viewer feeling rather short-changed. A simple fix would be to introduce some fallbacks in the prize allocations. Given the top prize is £50,000, a fallback of a few thousand pounds would not de-value the jackpot at all.
Another issue is that as the show progresses and the questions grow more vague, some of the questions become so ambiguous as to leave the viewer questioning how they would even answer such a question. As such it does give rise to a feeling of unfairness towards the contestant.
Nothing But The Truth is worth a look, and despite the problems mentioned above, it remains an interesting format.
In 2009, the Greek version of this show was taken off air by the national regulator for encouraging contestants to "humiliate themselves for a reward", with "no regard for the players' decency or the effects on the social lives of their families".