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'Unan1mous' is unequivocally awful

From the bottom of my heart: Oy. ''Unan1mous" is grotesque. Fox's new reality show seems to exist solely to make the tacky ''Big Brother" look like a class act. About nine strangers picked to live in an underground bunker and stop being polite, it's a mess of contrived conflict and greed. It's the new bottom of the barrel.

The idea is that the group must unanimously decide which one of them will receive $1.5 million. The longer it takes them to decide, the more the prize amount drops. The clock is ticking! Can a democracy be truly selfless?

Not surprisingly, passionate hatred quickly ensues, and before the end of the first half-hour, tonight at 9:30 on Channel 25, a gay man and a minister are at each other's throats. She tells him, ''God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, honey," as if she made up the cliché. And he promises he'll never vote for her.

What is a minister doing in this televised Sartrean hell? Who knows, and who cares. But it's clear why Fox cast her. ''Unan1mous" is ''The Jerry Springer Show" in a bottle, and all of the players have been chosen with an eye to their ability to cause explosions. Without any scenery, the fighting is essential, of course. There are no distractions, just a tedious, windowless apartment that looks like it was built to survive an apocalypse. It bears a passing resemblance to CTU on ''24." Every so often, a voice fills the futuristic rooms like an officious Martian with a loudspeaker, calling the roommates into ''the inner circle" for a meeting.

Why is Fox using its valuable post-''American Idol" slot to promote this numbing slop? Why does the show have an irritating numeral among its letters, like NBC's ''Numb3rs"? It's hard to think of any good reasons. There's just not a lot of logic or good sense in the air here.

''We are lab rats," exclaims contestant Vanessa as the rules of the game sink in. That's a generous view.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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