Reinvent Thyself

Jump up here on yer ol' uncle's knee and lemme tell you a story. Not that knee. Once upon a time, back before you—hell, even I—was born, they made TV sets with screens the size of 50-cent pieces, and you had to walk over to 'em to change channels, and those teeny tiny pictures were in black and white. They call this time the Golden Age of Television. Don't make no sense to me, neither. One time-filler that producers came up with in those simpler days was a game show called To Tell the Truth. It was hosted by Bud Collyer, then Garry Moore and Bill Cullen in the '70s. Three contestants would claim to be the same person, and it was up to a panel of four celebrities to ask questions and find out who the real person was.

In other words, two people were LIARS! Sound familiar?

On Made and Faking It, people go to great lengths to pass themselves off as people they are not—or at least were not until undergoing radical changes. Besides having evolutionary links to a long-past game show, MTV's Made and BBC's Faking Itfeature moody music, reality-TV tears, unintentional comedy, clashes between mentors and mentorees (that inevitably end with screams of "You're not giving me 100 percent!") and sappy made-for-TV endings.

On a recent Made, plump, whiny high school senior Jordan wants to be, uh, made into a triathlete in two months. This is going to be one hard Madeto make, the narrator informs us, because "the only thing Jordan likes more than eating is complaining." Sure enough, Jordan won't shut his yapper nor stop filling it with junk food long enough to let friends, family and—at dramatically crucial moments—trainers help him make his goal. Even Jordan has to admit, "I'm such a bitch."

Something's got to get to Jordan—and that something proves to be his dead mom. His guardian tells Jordan that ma's watching over him. Cue the sad song by Nelly, the one where the corresponding video in heavy MTV rotation shows a tear running down his Band-Aid.

After 64 days, the shedding of 22 pounds and at least three commercial breaks filled with ads for the same junk foods Jordan shoves into his piehole, race day arrives. Will he make it to the finish line by the all-important group-hug closing shot?

First, this commercial for Skittles!

Faking It is similar, but with a disturbing twist that makes it more like To Tell the Truth. At least with Made, people genuinely want to change for the better. On Faking It, for reasons never made clear, a participant only wants to fool total strangers.

On the most recent Faking It, we got Lisa, a "Yorkshire lass" who wants to mix with "London's most snobbish set." A vocal coach, etiquette expert and high-society magazine editor give the pharmacy cashier a month's worth of the Eliza Doolittle treatment so she can pass as a blue blood at a posh dinner party. "She'll be swapping lager and pork scratchings for Champagne and canaps," intones the narrator. But as usual with these things, Lisa realizes "this lifestyle is not what it's cracked up to be. It's quite pissing me off. Money is the issue with these people. It's not me."

And when they watch the fateful dinner as it's captured on hidden cameras, Lisa's handlers have to admit she would have been better off being her Yorkshire-lass self than a stiff, anxious, self-conscious "It Girl."

Made. MTV. New episodes Sat., noon. Faking It. BBC America. Thurs., Aug. 21, 10 p.m.; Fri., 1 & 5 a.m.


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