The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

REALITY CHECK: JOE BLOWS
I see from the TV schedule that the latest reality show claptrap, Joe Millionaire, is about to debut. (Hey, I just now saw from a typo I made that they could make a female version of this ala The Bachelorette: Jo Millionaire!)

Now, I've noted before that the reality show format does not speak to me, so I might not be the one to judge whether or not the various iterations of these shows will be popular. However...

The deal with Joe Millionaire is that all these women throw themselves at this guy because they think he's worth $50 million, when in fact he's some schmo who makes $19,000 a year. The concept is to "expose" how superficial and bloodthirsty these ladies are, in that they'll surely change their tune as soon as they find out that the guy they declared to be a dream catch is in fact poor. (I write "expose" because it's supposed to be some sort of amazing revelation that greed instead of true love is the motive here.)

Now, I'm wondering about why, exactly, Fox is letting the cat out of the bag about this show before it even begins. The central theme of this show, the only thing that makes it at all different from the other reality match-up shows, is that there's a big surprise shock waiting for the "winner" when all's said and done. But what's the point in letting the audience in on this secret at the very start? I mean, I suppose it heightens the anticipation, and gives viewers a smug satisfaction from being in the know before the contestants are.

Here's what I think: I think the secret behind Joe Millionaire was leaked out months ago, without Fox's consent. I'm basing this mainly on the promos that I saw for this show back during the summer, when they were much more vague about what the whole thing was about. By contrast, the promos they're running now reveals everything. I'm guessing that, once the secret was out, Fox cut its losses in that department and is trying to turn it to its advantage. (Plus, the original approach probably wasn't generating the right kind or amount of buzz.)

Given this, I have to question how this premise can sustain itself as a series. Think about it: If you already know the punchline, are you really that interested in watching the joke for some 20 weeks (or however long the show's supposed to run)? If I were running Fox, I'd turn this into a two-hour movie special instead, probably get a lot more out of it that way.