Welcome to the funhouse.
Welcome to the funhouse.

This feature is going to be dedicated to shows that I totally missed when they first aired, but which I have rediscovered via the YouTubes, borrowed DVDs, etc. It’s pretty much the same idea as Ketchup/Catch Up, but these shows are no longer in production. 😦

Yesterday my boss and I started talking about the upcoming show “More to Love,” and about the complete weirdness of dating in earnest on national TV. (She said almost EXACTLY what I wrote in my SYTYCD recap, which made me happy– same wavelength!) She said, “I miss ‘Joe Schmo,'” and proceeded to outline the show to me. A scripted reality show, which is also a parody of reality TV? A soaring falcon? Smashed plates? I was intrigued, to say the least. Last night after I finished my “True Blood” novel, I went straight to the YouTubes and checked it out.

PREMISE: A group of people gather in a house to film a reality show. The catch: Everybody in the house is an actor, except for one or two marks (the Joe/Jane Schmo). Basically, the actors are all manipulating the mark(s), forcing them into comedic situations. Situation comedy! Since the show is a parody of reality TV, it’s delightfully over-the-top (see REASON TO WATCH #2).

Obviously the fake show that they’re filming has never aired before (because: fake), so the targets more or less go with the flow of it, because reality TV is crazy by nature. It’s essentially a hilarious murder mystery dinner played out over a long period of time, where one person doesn’t know that the murder mystery is staged, and just follows everybody else’s cues.

I’ve only watched a few episodes so far (and they were from season 2), but based on what I’ve seen and heard…


1) Ralph Garman as the host, Derek Newcastle. He’s basically the Will Ferrell version of James Lipton, but even more over-the-top. For example, his pet falcon swoops in and delivers the challenges.

2) The bizzare elimination ceremonies. In season one when a person is voted off the show, the host smashes a plate bearing a picture of that person’s face and says, “You’re dead to us!” In season two, the women who are invited to stay receive pearl necklaces (you know, jewelry) from the “bachelor,” and the person eliminated has to walk down the “Last Chance at Love” (that’s the fake show’s name) “Trail of Tears” as the host intones that they will be lonely FOREVER.

3) The actors’ interviews. While the targets do their talking-head interviews about the house “drama,” the actors playing the various other roles talk about their characters and what they were trying to achieve in each scene. I particularly enjoyed “Gotta-Be-Gay Gerald” (Jonathan Torrens), who claimed that in preparation for his germaphobe character, he spent six months amongst germaphobes. That’s either commitment, or a wonderfully deadpan joke, or both. Watch all the way through the clip to see lots of great Gerald moments, including his need to wear Aquasocks while stomping grapes.

“Stalker Bryce” (Kevin Kirkpatrick) was also endearing (and was also “gotta-be-gay,” in my book), particularly because we know that he’s not really a stalker. It’s nice to see character actors getting work! Some of them should have won Emmys, just for keeping a straight face during the host’s speeches. It’s really sad when the actors get “eliminated,” but apparently a lot of them end up coming back (hence the name “Stalker Bryce”).

4) The behind-the-scenes view. We get to see the actors in their daily meetings with the producers, and we also see the writers squabble as they decide what to do when target-Ingrid begins to realize that the show is a set-up. Nothing is more fun than watching TV writers get into long, circular arguments– when it’s not your show, with a deadline looming.

5) Ingrid’s crossover. Once Ingrid figures out that she’s being Truman Show’d, the producers evict her. But then they decide to  bring her back, with a storyline of her own to act out, and bring in a new (less perceptive) Jane Schmo. Nice save!

6) The fake prizes. When the contestants compete for a fabulous prize– a luxury vacation, for example– the actors have to make sure that the marks don’t win, because the show doesn’t actually want to pay to send anyone on that trip.

7) Kristen Wiig played a “Quack Marriage Counselor” on Season 1. I haven’t seen that yet, but I have a feeling it’s “aces,” as the British say.

(If you need more convincing, just read the Wikipedia entry. I need to acquire the DVDs, STAT!)

RANDOM COOL FACT: For those of you who listen to Kevin & Bean on KROQ, host Ralph Garman is the guy who “walks the showbiz beat.”

Of course, the sad side of it is that some of the manipulations are kind of mean (most of them are also purposefully awkwardly sexual, because it’s SpikeTV). My heart broke for target-Tim when he said that the surprise birthday that “Gerald threw for him” was his best birthday ever, because… sad. But maybe I’d have the best birthday too, if a bunch of people hired to be my new best friends and laugh at my jokes were throwing it for me. I have definitely had worse birthday parties than that (or no birthday party at all :().

But at the end of the series the marks get $100,000, and season one’s Joe Schmo (Matt Gould), ended up kind of famous and recorded a commentary for the DVD, so no hard feelings.

Have a good time! No falcons were remotely harmed in the writing of this post… but I did take a lot of pleasure in their pain. (Yes, I am still a bad person. Rome wasn’t remodeled in a day.)


One thought on “Aftertaste: THE JOE SCHMO SHOW

  1. I just found out that season 2 is now on DVD, so I’m pretty stoked. I remember watching this show every week when it was on, just to see what would happen next.

    My favourite part: The hyperbole of “stay tuned.” It would be things like (in a deep dramatic voice) “stay tuned for the most dramatic surprise eviction in the history of reality television.” Each week, they would top the expression to make it seem as if each week was the best eviction ceremony ever.

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