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Dude, where's my patch?

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Smoking tobacco may not officially qualify as one of the seven deadly sins, but light up in a public place and you'll sympathize with the social challenges of lepers. Ask my friend's grandma, a devout Catholic and pious smoker since World War I, and she'll assure you that her cigarette smoke acts as incense, speeding her prayers to heaven.

Bizarrely, many smokers' addictions run parallel with a desire to quit, which is where PAX's "Cold Turkey" (Sundays, 10 p.m.) comes in. The show's producers duped 10 chain-smokers by promising each a chance at their dream reality show. And each dream was different, from a 23-year-old retail worker who believed he would be designing a men's underwear line to the 60-year-old nurse who hoped she would find love on a seniors' dating show. Oddly, the show lured one contestant with the promise of having to eat gross things. But the premiere show Oct. 3 revealed the contestants' real challenge: They must quit smoking using only willpower.

The drama potential of chain-smokers going through withdrawal at the same time in the same house is on par with a sorority house full of "sisters" all experiencing simultaneous PMS. Contestants burst into stressed-out tears, snap bitchily at each other and fight about roommate crap like who left their underwear on the floor.

To help ease the pressure of quitting, "Cold Turkey" attempts to build self-esteem with personal challenges -- like parasailing. Of course, the cash prizes never hurt anyone's self-worth, either, and eventually someone will win $10,000 for being the best quitter.

The show's intentions may seem philanthropic, but the contestants also face mean-spirited, made-for-TV challenges, like the bikini-clad temptress who moves in after the housemates have finished their last cigarettes. She enjoys an endless supply of cigarettes and blows smoke into the contestants' faces. After all, if there weren't some demeaning challenges, it wouldn't be reality TV.

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