But even CBS entertainment president Nancy Tellem is willing to forgive Fox. ''I don't think viewers care whether Joe Millionaire makes $19,000, $25,000, or $50,000. The integrity of the show is so less important. The bigger question is over viewers' standards in this post-9/11 world. They look at this entertainment as a frivolous escape.''
Of course, CBS' ''Survivor,'' the granddaddy of the current reality TV boom, isn't immune from temporary amnesia. The net failed to identify ''Survivor: Thailand'' winner Brian Heidik as a former soft-core porn star and is similarly cryptic about one contestant on this spring's ''Survivor: The Amazon.'' Turns out Los Angeles triathlete-trainer Alex Bell is a doorman at the same L.A. bar that's owned and operated by Mike ''Boogie'' Malin, a contestant from CBS' ''Big Brother 2'' (and the spot where Gabe Cade from ''Survivor: Marquesas'' also worked as a barkeep). A CBS spokeswoman claims the net learned of Heidik's acting career, under the name Dave Roth, only after production had begun and that a casting crew ''stumbled'' upon Bell during an unofficial visit to Malin's bar. Seems they didn't need the nationwide casting net on that day.
Just don't expect any mea culpas from the folks who make sorta-reality shows like ''Reunion.'' ''It has people from other classes? What a huge scandal!'' mocks exec producer Mike Fleiss, who's also responsible for ABC's ''Bachelor'' franchise (which has produced two on-camera love matches but no weddings to date). ''Our nerd is a nerd. He admitted it. Whether he was the ULTIMATE nerd I don't think really matters.''
Given the heightened competition for viewers, the little white lies may not seem so bad. Perhaps that's why Fleiss and Co. tried to woo Smith into playing ''Reunion's ex-nerd and falsely claiming that the Popular Girl was the One Who Got Away. ''She was great, but I never hung out with her,'' says Smith. ''I didn't know her!''