Reality Check: Local is a Joe worth rooting for
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Fans of reality television know that, as with scripted shows, there is good, bad, ugly and, occasionally, great.
Spike TV's "The Joe Schmo Show" is good to great, and let's hope it stays that way.
For the uninitiated, this is a refresh of the 2003 and 2004 series that featured Mt. Lebanon native Matt Kennedy Gould. He believed he was competing on a reality show, but everyone else -- producers, directors, actors playing the other contestants -- knew it was an outlandish, fake show.
It takes a certain kind of person to make this work, and the current "Joe," Lawrenceville's Chase Rogan, is so nice and earnest, you really root for a happy ending, whatever that might be.
Mr. Rogan, an agronomist with a degree from Penn State University, is incessantly good-natured. Surrounded by a cadre of reality show stereotypes -- the overachieving Asian girl, the jerk, the muscular African-American, the washed-up actor, the model -- he always appears to have an explanation for the crazy things happening around him.
The trick, of course, is to keep Mr. Rogan from discovering the truth. Scenarios are outrageous, but then, anyone who has watched even 15 minutes of "Big Brother" or "Scream Queens" knows subtlety is not the hallmark of actual reality shows.
This being Spike TV, it's not a program for kids, with profanity both unfiltered and bleeped, and the occasional dose of sexual innuendo (the "voting booth" has to be seen to be believed).
Returning from the original show, where Kristen Wiig was a castmate actor playing a "quack," is host Ralph Garman. This time, he is disguised as "bounty hunter Jake Montrose," and mentors the contestants in useful pursuits such as using a stun gun or interrogating a perp.
He also spends the series wearing sleeveless outfits, with his sexy wife, "Wanda," by his side.
Joining the cast is Lorenzo Lamas, playing a skeezy version of himself. He's all about self-promotion and insisting his fellow contestants wear the teeny tiny banana hammock skivvies he's hawking on his fake website.
As Mr. Garman puts it, "The Joe Schmo Show" is "a giant circus being put on for an audience of one." That's not quite accurate: it's more like Mr. Rogan's world is a stage and everyone else are merely players.
Because this is not an actual reality competition show, it's unclear whether Mr. Rogan can win or lose a cash prize by figuring out he's been had. It is worth noting, however, that the first "Joe Schmo" was nonetheless awarded $100,000.
Hines scores in kitchen
Hines Ward got off to a fast start in the kitchen, and he wasn't bad at dinner theater, either, when Food Network's "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off" kicked off its six-week run on Sunday night.
Teams of four were asked to come up with feeding a dinner theater crowd of 100, and Mr. Ward's "Asian Persuasion" chicken wings were a rousing success. Later, he got on stage to play a king, donning a blue bath robe and a silly, brown, curly wig.
"I thought I was here to cook, not act," Mr. Ward said.
Teammate Gilbert Gottfried was kicked off for his lack of culinary skills (he made two different versions of peanut butter and jelly, so no surprise there). On the other team, Dean McDermott appeared to know his way around a kitchen, and Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, looking fabulous in a gold lame jacket and silver-studded shoes, was so entertaining, let's hope he's around for a long time.
"My competitors shouldn't be fooled by my sparkly exterior," Mr. Weir said, smiling. "I am a dirty competitor."
Next week's episode involves a field-fresh approach to gathering ingredients, with the celebrity cooks stomping around a field and complaining about the smell of manure.
Winner of the show gets a $50,000 donation to the charity of choice. Mr. Ward is cooking for his Helping Hands foundation.
Battle for the roses
On the season premiere of "The Bachelor," (ABC, Mondays), we see young women literally doing backflips to catch the attention of Sean Lowe. Pittsburgh community organizer Brooke Burchette, 25, didn't get much screen time in the two-hour episode, but she did get a rose.
An Entertainment Weekly online story featured a clip from next week's show that addresses the program's sudden upswing in diversity; there are four women of color -- including Ms. Burchette -- among the Bachelorettes.
Mr. Lowe said he wasn't looking for "a type," physically, but someone who was "sweet," "funny" and "intelligent."
He added that the assumption "he probably goes for white girls who are blond" was inaccurate, and that his last girlfriend (if you don't count recent "Bachelorette" Emily Maynard) was not Caucasian.
First Published January 12, 2013 12:00 am