The Joe Schmo Show (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The Joe Schmo Show is a reality television hoax show created by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. The series is broadcast in the U.S. on the cable network Spike. The show's premise is that a target person or persons are led to believe that they are contestants on a reality television show; in reality, all of the other participants in the purported show – including the host – are actors, and their actions and the outcome of the purported show are all scripted in an attempt to elicit comedic reactions from the targets. The show's first season, The Joe Schmo Show, aired in 2003, and its second season, Joe Schmo 2, aired in 2004. The first season's hoax was conducted as a typical reality competition show while the second hoax was a Bachelor-like dating series.
On December 10, 2012, Spike announced it was bringing The Joe Schmo Show back for a third season, which is scheduled to premiere on January 8, 2013.
The only constant presence in all three Joe Schmo seasons has been voice actor Ralph Garman, who has served as the "emcee" for all three editions (playing a smarmier caricature of himself in the first, a pompous British man in the second, and a bounty hunter in the third).
The Joe Schmo Show (Season One)
The target of season one was Matt Kennedy Gould. The other "contestants" are archetypes of common reality TV show participants.
Two actors made brief appearances in supporting roles: Ryan Raddatz played Molly's boyfriend, William (who feigned shock at seeing her in a bikini), and Steve Ireland played David Decker, a "network executive" who negotiated with Gould to finish the "Meal Not Quite Fit for a King" challenge.
For the hoax, the producers named the faux-reality show Lap of Luxury, with a $100,000 top prize "awarded" to the "winner." Perhaps in an attempt to keep things as close to actual reality shows as possible, at the end of every episode an eviction ceremony was conducted where each contestant voted to evict someone, and the person with the most votes was eliminated. After the written finish was executed, the actor in question would take a plate with their face painted on it and give it to Garman, who would then state a rhyming couplet that went "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, (name), you're dead to us" then throw the plate into the fireplace, breaking it. In the final episode the three remaining "players" (in this case Gould, "Brian", and "Hutch") faced a final vote from the evicted "houseguests" (similar to the final Tribal Council on Survivor) with the one getting the most votes "winning".
The show experienced an unexpected shift during an early episode. Earl ("the Veteran") had bonded with Gould. When Earl was "voted" off the show, Gould began to weep and question his possible monetary gain at the cost of competing against his new friends. Both the other "contestants" and the show's executives allegedly questioned the future of the show. While Gould was kept in the dark until the very end, the tone of the show was apparently altered (according to the voiceover of the early episodes). While the original premise had been to make situations funny at Gould's expense, it became clear that the audience would sympathize too strongly with his earnestness; later games and contests were rigged to ensure he would win.
Gould's sensitivity came to the forefront in a later episode featuring a sumo wrestling contest. Gould knocked down Kristen Wiig, playing "Dr. Pat", causing a real-life head injury that forced her to be taken to the hospital. Gould eventually won the contest but was disturbed by the incident. The next day, when Wiig returned to the show, still in character, Gould gave her the all-expense-paid spa vacation he had won earlier.
The producers added a twist in the series when Hutch was eliminated due to breaking the rules. After said elimination he returned and (as noted above) made the final, where he was declared the "winner" just before the hoax was revealed.
In the show's finale, which aired to over 3.4 million viewers (the all-time record for a non-wrestling show on TNN/Spike up to that time), Gould learned the truth and received the $100,000 prize for which he was "competing," along with the two vacations and a new plasma TV. He later recorded commentary that was included in Mo' Joe Schmo, a rebroadcast of the series. The Joe Schmo Show was released on DVD with additional and uncensored footage in 2004.
Gould's plaintive cry, "What is going ON?!?", delivered upon his discovery that the show was a fraud, became a popular catchphrase. Spike TV has since used the phrase at the end of the network's other original productions, some of them involving Gould himself.
Some cast members have gone on to bigger success, including Kristen Wiig, who landed a regular spot on Saturday Night Live in 2005, and also went on to co-write and star in the hit 2011 movie Bridesmaids; Lance Krall, creator, writer, and lead of VH1's Free Radio; Ralph Garman, a voice actor on Family Guy and co-host of "Hollywood Babble-On"; and David Hornsby, who is a writer, supervising producer, and performer on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Creator/producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick went on to a number of projects, including the hit movie Zombieland.
Joe Schmo 2 (Season Two)
In 2004, Spike TV aired a second season of The Joe Schmo Show, called Joe Schmo 2 and tagged, "The Schmo must go on." Rather than duplicate the premise of the first season, producers satirized reality dating shows such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette with a fake show called Last Chance for Love. Producers also set out to fool not one, but two people: one man (Tim Walsh) and one woman (originally Ingrid Wiese). The series premiered on June 15, 2004.
Ralph Garman returned to host the second season, dying his hair blond and wearing a fake beard, glasses, blue contact lenses and false teeth so he would not be recognized by the new contestants.
The original "Joe Schmo," Matt Kennedy Gould, taped a cameo appearance during an episode of Joe Schmo 2 as a pizza delivery man, but the segment was cut when the network decided to shorten the episode; it did appear on the DVD.
The series took an unexpected twist within minutes of its beginning when Wiese became suspicious of some of her fellow contestants (especially when one, who had only been hired for the first episode and was not aware of the nature of the program, told Wiese that her agent had arranged for her to appear on the show). Things reached a head when the character of "Cammy", who was supposed to be telling Ingrid a secret, paused her story in order to allow the cameraman to change batteries. Wiese began openly questioning the contest, eventually stating during an interview segment that she didn't believe it was real. At this point, the series alternated between the hoax and a debate among the producers and writers about how to handle Wiese, particularly since Walsh had, up to that point, not yet begun to question the hoax. Ultimately, the producers decided to reveal the truth to Wiese (during an activity in which Walsh was not present) and gave her the choice either to leave the show or to stay and become one of its characters, with a promised $100,000 payout at the end if she were successful in helping fool Walsh. Wiese chose to join the cast. In order to preserve the original intent to fool both a male and a female star, the producers brought in another woman, Amanda Naughton, who had thought she was an unsuccessful applicant, to serve as the second "Schmo."
As with the first season, the cast members (including Wiese, once she was let on to the hoax) portrayed characters based on archetypes common to many dating game and reality shows.
Two other actors (Timothy Brennan and Robin McDonald) had supporting roles in two separate episodes. In one episode, Brennan played Piper's over-protective father, Frank, while McDonald played Piper's loving mother, Betty. The next episode featured Brennan as Austin's fun-loving father, Dallas, and McDonald as Austin's strict mother, Lois. Each "Schmo" met the pair in only one of their two sets of roles.
After revealing the hoax to her and inviting her to join the other actors, producers also gave Wiese storylines of her own including one in which her character was accused of faking a death in the family (a reference to a notorious incident on the then-recent Survivor: Pearl Islands) in a bid to win Austin's affections. At one point she was eliminated from the show, but was later allowed to return; Tim Walsh was also evicted at one point, but this was part of the ongoing storyline, and he also rejoined the contest soon after.
The show's major ongoing plot involved the character of Bryce, who began stalking Piper, the Bachelorette, even after he was evicted twice from the show.
The series ultimately resolved itself at a "promise ceremony", attended by all the previous contestants on the show, where Piper and Austin, whom it was revealed were in fact an estranged couple, were given the choice of either promising themselves to Amanda and Tim (the last two contestants), or marrying each other. Realizing their love had not died after all, Piper and Austin agreed to marry, but the ceremony was interrupted by the manic Bryce, who proclaimed his love for Piper, and then revealed the true nature of the program. After a tense moment (the producers were prepared for the usually easy-going but sometimes irritable Tim to react badly to the revelation), Tim broke the tension by exclaiming, "Jackpot!"
All three "Schmos" (Walsh, Naughton, and Wiese) received the same amount ($100,000) that Gould earned in season one, plus vacation packages they won playing contests during the show. It was also stated that a Third World child would be adopted in Walsh's name (the first episode had "Ernie" adopting a Third World child on behalf of Piper).
During the finale, Naughton recognized Natasha Leggero, one of the actresses who had been eliminated prior to Naughton's arrival, because she had seen her perform as a stand-up comic. The discovery did not derail the illusion because Naughton did not know the false identity that Leggero had created for the show.
Much of the final episode detailed the immediate aftermath of the revelation to Amanda and Tim. Valerie Azlynn, who had portrayed "Bachelorette" Piper, tearfully expressed remorse at the hoax. Both Amanda and Tim took the revelation of the hoax in relatively good (if somewhat stunned) spirit.
The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty (Season Three)
In January 2012, Spike TV announced it had picked up a new ten-episode series titled Full Bounty, described as "a reality competition series featuring 12 aspiring bounty hunters who risk life and limb to chase down actual fugitives".
In August 2012, it was revealed that this announcement was in fact cover for a new season of The Joe Schmo Show titled The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty, filmed in July 2012 and slated to air beginning on January 8, 2013. Ordered for ten episodes, the new program will see the return of the show's original host, Ralph Garman. J. Holland Moore, a writer on the previous seasons, takes over as head writer and executive producer. The format will feature a single contestant who believes he's in a competition to become a bounty hunter, with $100,000 at stake. As with previous versions of the program, the other 11 contestants will be actors, including for the first time, a big name, Lorenzo Lamas. A preview for the show's return recently posted to the web digitally blurs out the new "Schmo's" face and alters his voice, so as not to reveal his identity until the new series begins on-air promotion on Spike. The name of the Schmo was later revealed to be Chase Rogan, a 28-year-old native of Pennsylvania, who is a sports fanatic, operates his own business, and lives with his wife. For the third time out of three seasons of the program, the chosen Joe Schmo hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The series premieres at 10 P.M. eastern time with two episodes. Spike TV has made the first ten minutes of the premiere episode available through its website.
The cast once again features numerous reality show archetypes:
"The Over Achieving Asian"
Karlee & Stan
"The Deaf Girl & The Interpreter"
Jo Newman and Fred Cross
"The Black Guy"
Lorenzo Lamas (Himself)
Jake Montrose & Wanda (Hosts)
"The Bounty Hunter & The Trophy Wife"
Ralph Garman and Amanda Landry
The Joe Schmo Show was produced for TV2 in New Zealand by Touchdown Television as Living The Dream in 2004. The same year, France released Gloire et Fortune : La grande imposture. In 2006, the show arrived in Spain with the name of El Show de Cándido on the Spanish TV channel La Sexta by Globomedia (Promofilm).