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"The Joe Schmo Show" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 09/09/2003

I was wondering when the real life Truman Show was going to show up.  That 1998 film was about a man whose whole life was actually a TV show.  The target of Spike TV’s “The Joe Schmo Show” may not have lived his whole life in a fictional TV show, but for a while, he is the centerpiece of one of the funniest shows on television.


Matt Kennedy Gould is the title character of the show.  He is the only person on this “Big Brother”/“Survivor”-like show, titled “Lap of Luxury,” that thinks it is real.  The rest of the contestants are all actors.  They play some of the clichéd reality show characters that seem to always pop up on these shows.  There is Steven “The Hutch” Hutchinson, a.k.a. “The A**hole” (played by David Hornsby.)  “The Real World’s” Puck might be the template for this character.  Hornsby says in an off-show comment that he is actually a nice guy.  Gina Price, a.k.a. “The Reality Expert” (played by Nikki Davis), ironically becomes the first one to be “evicted.”  Carlos “Kip” Calderos, a.k.a. “The Gay Guy” (played by Lance Krall), is, in Matt’s words, like a “gay Tony Montana” (from the 1983 movie Scarface), because he is flamboyant with a thick Latino accent.  In an off-show comment we find out that Krall is not only not gay, but he doesn’t have that accent either.  Earl Bradford, a.k.a. “The Grizzled Veteran” (played by Franklin Dennis Jones), is the oldest member of the cast whose template might be Rudy Boesch from the first season of “Survivor.”  Patricia “Dr. Pat” Lane, a.k.a. “The Insufferable Licensed Therapist” (played by Kristen Wiig), is a character I’ve never seen before on a reality show, but she is modeled after Dr. Phil.  Ashleigh Rivera, a.k.a. “The Rich B***h” (played by Melissa Yvonne Lewis), doesn’t seem too mean right now, but that is probably part of her character, and the attitude will roll out gradually.  Brian Keith Etheridge, a.k.a. “The Buddy” (playing himself), is also a writer on the show, and I think he is the most generic character on purpose.  Molly Crabtree, a.k.a. “The Virgin” (played by Angela Dodson), is a character who has been seen on countless shows as the uptight religious type who is saving herself for her boyfriend back home.  Ralph Garman is “The Smarmy Host,” and he has his act down perfectly.  He does that “pause talk” that so many reality show hosts do, where they feel the need to pause after every third or fourth word.  They are all competing for $100,000 while living together in a mansion.  There are luxury competitions, immunity competitions (called the “Lord of the Manor Immunity Showdown,” represented by the “immunity robe,” a pimped-out, feathery purple and black robe), and eviction ceremonies.  Their portrait on a “collector’s plate” represents each of the contestants in the “Riches to Rags” eviction ceremony.  The contestants write their eviction choice on a piece of paper and put it in an urn, a la “Survivor,” and Ralph reads off the names in a dramatic form.  The one who gets the most votes is evicted, and they have to hand their plate to Ralph.  He then throws the plate into a fireplace after saying “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, [evicted player], you’re dead to us.”  Every competition is scripted to have a specific outcome, but sometimes, unexpected things happen.


In the first episode, we see Matt and the eight other characters move into the mansion.  Matt quickly bonds with Kip.  Not long after they arrive is the first luxury competition, which involves the competitors wearing each other’s underwear, and they have to guess whose underwear each person is wearing.  Matt surprisingly gets more correctly than anticipated, so the producers change some of the answers.  Kip wins the prize, which is the mansion’s luxurious master bedroom.  The person who got the least answers right, Matt, had to wear Kip’s thong for the rest of the day.  Since the answers were changed, the actors had to pay attention to which pair of underwear was theirs.  Earl almost messes things up by telling Matt that he thought Matt was wearing an individual pair of underwear that in reality was supposed to be his.  He covers up his mistake by blaming the confusion on poor eyesight.  They then have a show-and-tell of their “creature comforts,” otherwise known as the one familiar item from home that they brought with them, again a la “Survivor.”  Gina and Molly almost mess up here.  Gina is supposed to be a reality junkie, but she forgot the first name of the first winner of “Survivor,” Richard Hatch.  Molly brought a picture of her boyfriend that she claimed was precious to her, but then she just left it on a table.  Matt forms an alliance with Gina and tries to calm down Hutch’s Puck-like behavior.  In the immunity competition, the competitors had to place a body part on an assigned place on an adult film star’s body.  The last one to take their body part off the adult film star would be the winner, and the first one to remove their body part would have to sleep in the laundry room for the remainder of their stay.  Matt surprises the producers a couple of times during this competition.  The first time is when he actually recognizes the adult film star as Tawny Roberts.  The second surprise is that he took his body part off Tawny first (they had planned to have Matt and Hutch be the last two left in the competition, with Hutch ultimately winning.)  He says it is because he didn’t want to sleep in the same bed with two other people anymore.  They make it come down to Hutch and Kip, with Hutch winning after psyching Kip out.  After the immunity competition, a few of the other players show Matt a clipboard that they “accidentally” found under Gina’s bed that had mean things on it about all of the other players.  Matt starts to doubt the strength of his alliance with Gina.  The producers fix the bedroom situation by having Kip suggest a just-for-fun competition where they would imitate each other.  The best imitation would win the master bedroom.  Matt wins the competition after doing a decent imitation of Kip.  With Matt now in the master bedroom, the producers could keep closer tabs on him.  At the “Riches to Rags” eviction ceremony, Matt votes for Molly, while the others just write silly stuff on their slips of paper, since the outcome had been planned already.  Ralph reveals that one vote was for Molly, one vote was for Matt, and the other seven were for Gina.  She gives an over-the-top goodbye speech, which Matt automatically parallels with the speech that Susan Hawk gave during the first season of “Survivor” (she compares them to snakes and rats, she wouldn’t help them if they were poisoned in an alley, etc.)  Brian is worried that Matt has caught on to the rouse because of Gina’s speech and tries to smooth things over.  Matt instead thought Gina had screwed him over by being the person who had voted for him.  In the end, everyone was amazed at how much of a dupe Matt has been so far.


In the second episode, the producers regroup with the cast and plan the day.  Matt flirts with Ashleigh a little more.  Molly almost blows it by confusing where she and her parents live.  She covers it up by pretending to bite her tongue.  She thinks Matt has caught on when he confronts her, but he instead confesses that he voted for her.  In the luxury competition, they competed for some pampering outside of the mansion, and the losers had to clean the mansion.  The teams were split down gender lines (with Kip playing for the women.)  They had to answer sexual questions about other team members, and if they got the individual question wrong, they had to dress up weird and do a humiliating act.  Earl lost, so he had to do a pole dance dressed like Little Bo Peep.  Molly lost, so she had to dress like a cop and frisk Ashleigh for drugs.  Matt lost, so he had to dress up as a naughty schoolgirl while Brian spanked him.  Ashleigh lost, so she had to dress up as a farmer and grab a peach out of Dr. Pat’s cleavage with her mouth.  Hutch lost, so he had to dress up like a French maid to dust and massage Earl’s bare feet (with oil.)  Brian lost, so he had to dress as a Playboy Bunny while eating a carrot between Matt’s knees.  The guys got the most questions wrong, so they had to clean the mansion while remaining in their loser outfits.  While cleaning the house, Hutch replaces the photos in Kip’s photo album with pictures of his butt.  Kip comes back, finds the pictures in his book, and is mad.  He confronts the group, and Hutch fesses up to taking the pictures (and cutting up the old ones), which makes Matt and everyone else mad at him.  Dr. Pat tries to counsel Matt with some goofy breathing exercises, which surprisingly helps him.  At dinner that night, Ralph has all of them show off their unusual talents.  After that, Ralph gives them all a present, which is a headshot of each of them with a note written by him on them.  This is to set up the fictional love-triangle between Ashleigh, Ralph, and Molly.  Ashleigh likes Ralph, and Ralph likes Molly, so Ashleigh is upset when Molly gets a more expressive note written for her on her headshot.  Matt tries to comfort Ashleigh about it.  Later, Ashleigh and Molly sit on Kip’s lap in the hot tub, and Dr. Pat suggests a game where everyone tells someone else a nice thing.  There are no immunity or eviction ceremonies in this episode, so I guess those only happen every other hour (the first episode was two hours long and the second episode was an hour.)


This show is so funny and outrageous that it is almost ruining my viewings this summer of the rest of the episodes of “Big Brother 4.”  The host and most of the characters have their parts down perfectly.  The goofier the competitions, the more my eyes would tear up with laughter.  I did think Molly could have been a little more offended at all of the “naughty” things going on, Earl could have been a little more grizzled, and Ashleigh could have been a lot more mean.  I suppose that they didn’t want to reveal these character traits too soon, but in a two-hour pilot episode, they should have come out a little more.

The Joe Schmo Show” may sound cruel, but I have a feeling that Matt ended up leaving with the money in the end.  The reason why I think this is because I haven’t heard of him suing the network for defamation of character.  I’ll bet he took it the same way I did, which was as a brilliant send-up of reality shows.  He is probably cracking up each week at the same time I do, while counting his money.


Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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