TV Article

Cheating Time

How ''Colonial House'' mates are cheating the past -- Producers of the PBS show admit they gave toothbrushes, bug spray, and flashlights to the cast -- even though such items didn't exist in Colonial times

Reality shows hardly bite for contestants these days. Consider ''Survivor'''s regular influx of creature comforts, from Herbal Essences shampoo to those oh-so-handy tools from the Home Depot. So on May 17, when PBS debuted ''Colonial House,'' a new series that challenges 26 modern-day ''colonists'' to make like John Smith and build a successful 17th-century community on the coast of Maine, we had to ask the producers if any un-1628 goods made the trip back in time.

SAY CHEESE After one week of scraping their teeth with era-appropriate licorice sticks, the cast begged, via semiprivate ''diary cams,'' for one modern luxury: toothbrushes. In lieu of paying exorbitant dental bills for era-appropriate rotting teeth, producers gave in.

GETTING AXED When Giacomo Voorhees, 11, put a hatchet through his hand, an on-set EMT whisked him away to a local ER for treatment.

TMI DEPT. Chowing regularly on whole oats and peas made the colonists' digestive systems a bit, shall we say, troubled. So to cut the fiber diet, doctors supplied the cast with rice -- a commodity unavailable in 1628 Maine.

TAKE THAT, 'SURVIVOR'! To decrease the risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, the settlers received an endless supply of bug spray.

FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY! RIIIGHT...In addition to a radio, every colonial house was given a flashlight, to be used only in times of desperate need -- which apparently included midnight bathroom breaks.

Originally posted May 28, 2004 Published in issue #767 May 28, 2004 Order article reprints
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