Bob Strauss
September 13, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

An ambitious attempt to translate daytime-talk-show sleaze to the more ethereal realm of the Internet, Other People’s Problems suffers from an intractable problem: If you can’t see the bilked transsexual lover mixing it up with her drug-addicted ex on stage before an audience of hooting yahoos, what’s to keep you from visiting alt.binaries.nude.celebrities instead?

OPP‘s solution — and it’s not a bad one — is a variant of the ”participatory democracy” Ross Perot got so excited about during the last election. The website, created by Paramount (which, as it happens, produces Montel Williams and Maury Povich), presents two sob stories per day: photos of the aggrieved parties and breathless, sloppy copy (”Ian and Chris are best friends…. For the second time in about three months, the boys find themselves hot for the same girl, who, in turn, is hot for Ian. Ian has pursued the relationship, much to the anger of Chris…”). Net surfers are invited to answer a poll — in this case the choices were (a) ”Dude, you gotta give up the girl”; (b) ”Hang in there, dude”; (c) ”Dump Chris”; (d) ”Buy Chris a brew and introduce him to the chick’s roommate.” Not surprisingly, (d) garnered 44 percent of the vote, with (b) running a close second. Who needs Jerry Springer?

Well, I do. Although it’s possible to download brief, talking-head video clips from this site, I, for one, am not sufficiently interested in other people’s problems to tie up my modem for a good 10 minutes. Talk may be cheap, but my phone service isn’t. C+

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