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When the host is lackluster, what's left?

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2003


Forget about the 20 guys in metallic-looking masks, all looking like extras from the last Friday the 13th movie.

Forget about the flood of commercial breaks that came so often the whole thing felt like one long trailer for Fox's next Michael Jackson special.

How did Monica do?

That's the real question likely on the minds of most who tuned in Monday night to the debut of Fox's five-week reality romance travesty, Mr. Personality.

Hosted by one of America's most famous former interns, Monica Lewinsky, the show offered an intriguing premise: What if you held a dating show where the shallow, superficial picker -- 26-year-old Atlantan Hayley Arp -- couldn't use the most obvious tool available to a shallow, superficial person, the other person's looks?

On the surface, Lewinsky seemed the perfect host for a dud that makes Fox's previous reality flop Married By America look like Masterpiece Theater. Really.

Like so many reality show contestants, Lewinsky really, really, really wants to be famous, despite her protests. And, she has no discernible talent, other than a willingness to sacrifice her self-respect for personal gain.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of Monica's hosting mojo on Monday: "They came looking for love, but it just wasn't meant to be," she noted at the close of Monday's episode, as Hayley unmasked 10 guys cut from the competition. Boring.

And it's a problem when the most memorable person on a reality show is a forgettable host. Instead of savoring the creepy sports mascot guy who goes ballistic after getting rejected, you wind up waiting for Lewinsky to make an impression. And waiting.

Let's hope Lewinsky hasn't given up her handbag-designer day job yet.

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