PASADENA, Calif. -- Lawrenceville's Chase Rogan steps into the glare of the reality TV spotlight tonight with the premiere of the third season of Spike TV's "The Joe Schmo Show" (10 p.m.).
Mr. Rogan, 28, is a married agronomist with his own local business, PureTurf Consulting. He was recruited to star in "Joe Schmo," a fake reality show where all the other "contestants" are actors working from an outline to dupe Mr. Rogan. He's the third "Schmo" star from Pittsburgh.
"When you saw him on camera, you wanted to pull for him. There was not an ounce of fakeness in him," said "Schmo" executive producer J. Holland Moore about casting Mr. Rogan. "Pittsburgh people are like that. They're very genuine, and we saw that spark in his eyes, and we thought, he's the guy."
A native of Saegertown, north of Meadville, Mr. Rogan attended Penn State for undergrad (class of 2007) and graduate school, ultimately earning a master's degree in agronomy in 2011.
Actor Ralph Garman, who has hosted all three editions of the show and plays a bounty hunter host in this season that seeks to crown a new bounty hunter star, also praised Mr. Rogan.
"In every opportunity where we gave him a choice to make the wrong decision, he made the right decision," Mr. Garman said. "He did the right thing. He proved over and over again what a great guy he was, and I felt better and better about having him involved in it because I knew he was coming off so well."
Spike TV is not yet making Mr. Rogan available for interviews. But his predecessor Schmoes are ready to offer support.
Matt Kennedy Gould, the first Joe Schmo in 2003, attempted to turn his reality fame into an entertainment career, but he eventually moved back to Pittsburgh to work for a logistics company. He's now married with two children and a stepson. In an August 2008 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Gould expressed regret about appearing on the show because it made him feel dumb to be duped. But he's since made peace with the experience.
"It's funny, you come full circle on things," the Mt. Lebanon resident said last week. "You go to therapy and think you're all messed up and you come back to this: Everybody is all messed up. I had a very difficult time with the name of the show. It always bothered me, and I was totally insecure about what people would think of me."
What he's come to realize is that the show made viewers happy -- he still hears from fans on Facebook.
"No one has ever once in nine-plus years said something negative to me about it," he said. "Every piece of feedback to my face has been positive. ... But that [fear about what people would think of me] was all something I drummed up in my head. It wasn't real."
Mr. Gould said "Joe Schmo" came about at a bad time in his life.
"A lot of people in this world have a period in their lives where they have to buck down and do their internal work," he said. "Because I hadn't done mine, nothing would have worked at that time. Not law school, not what I tried to do in L.A. after the show. It wasn't for any other reason except I needed to do my work. When I came home and did that, my life just blossomed."
Now 37, Mr. Gould said he recently re-watched his season of "Joe Schmo" on demand and he was proud of how he came off, expressing support for characters on the show who were being bullied.
Mr. Gould has not yet met Mr. Rogan, but a few years ago he did meet another Pittsburgh native who starred in season two of "Joe Schmo," Upper St. Clair native Amanda Naughton, who is now married and goes by her married name, Amanda Mason. She moved to Mt. Lebanon from Washington, D.C., last summer and gave birth to her first child four months ago. She has no regrets about her time as a Schmo.
"I definitely enjoyed it at the time," she said. "As I've gotten older, would I want to do it again? No. But if I was 25 I would do it again."
Mrs. Mason offered this advice for Mr. Rogan: Just laugh.
"You were part of something fun and enjoy the fun and memories that happened while you were there," she said. "Take the small amount of fame you have with a grain of salt. My 15 minutes of fame was exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Random people knowing who you are as you walk down the street was a little off-putting."
She said her experience on the show made her feel dumb for only 30 seconds.
"As a friend of mine from college said, we always said you were gullible -- at least you got paid for it," she said. "I'm a trusting person, and I think that's a good thing. So I never felt too bad about that."
Mr. Gould's advice to Mr. Rogan? "I hope he's done his work. He's married so he seems like he's more together mentally than I was at that time. So hopefully he'll just take it in stride."
PBS's "Masterpiece" hit "Downton Abbey" returned Sunday for its third season with its best ratings ever. The British costume drama averaged 7.9 million viewers nationally with a 5.1 household rating, beating "Revenge" on ABC and "The Biggest Loser" on NBC. ("The Good Wife" on CBS had 10 million viewers.)
The third season "Downton" premiere drew almost double the season two premiere, which was watched by an average 4.2 million viewers. Sunday's "Downton" premiere quadrupled PBS's average prime-time rating, according to Variety.
Locally on WQED, "Downton" out-performed the national PBS average with a 6.0 household rating, which is better than WPXI or WPGH averaged in prime time during the November 2012 sweeps period.
Locally, KDKA was No. 1 from 9-11 p.m. followed by "The Biggest Loser" on WPXI, "Downton" on WQED and "Revenge," "Happy Endings" and "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" on WTAE.
'Twin Peaks' not returning
The owls are not what they seem. Nor are those Internet rumors about a "Twin Peaks" revival that cropped up just after New Year's.
The rumor went like this: NBC was considering a revival of the show, which didn't make sense on the face of it when the network has proclaimed a mandate for shows with broader appeal. "Twin Peaks" does not fit that particular mold.
Still, it's a cool idea not only to the show's fans but even its star, Kyle MacLachlan.
"[Series co-creator Mark Frost] hasn't said anything to me about it. It looked like it was just talking about what could be," Mr. MacLachlan said. "I was actually going to check in with [series co-creator] David [Lynch] to see if he heard anything. It would be cool if it happens. I think we can all agree on that."
The wheels started coming off the rumor pretty quickly. On Jan. 2, "Twin Peaks" co-creator Mark Frost tweeted, "Dear Internet: You are very good at spreading rumors. Truth is more valuable and much harder to come by."
On Sunday at the TV critics press tour, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke debunked the rumor.
"I actually called every person [in NBC's programming ranks]: [NBC chairman] Bob [Greenblatt] didn't get a call or meet, nor did the head of our drama division," Ms. Salke said. "We thought it sounded like an interesting idea, but we have not heard from Mark Frost."
A&E reopens 'Bates Motel'
"Psycho" has spawned many remakes, spinoffs and sequels, even a 1987 NBC TV movie called "Bates Motel."
Now A&E is taking viewers back to "Bates Motel" (10 p.m. March 18), a sorta-prequel series about a teenage Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore, 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory").
"Bates Motel" is executive produced by "Lost" overlord Carlton Cuse. He promises no polar bears or smoke monsters.
"This story has a beginning, middle and end," Mr. Cuse said during an A&E press conference. "Bates Motel" is set in the present and disregards past "Psycho" stories.
"The idea of doing a contemporary prequel made it clear this is something inspired by 'Psycho' but not an homage to 'Psycho,' " Mr. Cuse said. "We want the audience to fall in love with these characters, particularly Norma and Norman, and the tension of knowing what their fate is and knowing how they get there is something we as storytellers found fertile territory for storytelling."
Vera Farmiga plays Norma, Norman's mother, in "Bates Motel," a serialized show that marks a sea change in A&E's style of original drama programming, which previously had been epitomized by procedurals such as "Breakout Kings."
"It's a beautiful love letter between a mother and her son," Ms. Farmiga said. "She's as strong as an oak and as fragile as a butterfly."
Mr. Cuse said viewers should not expect the show to line up exactly with the events in "Psycho."
"In some general form we will catch up with a version of the Norman Bates character from that movie," he said. "But we don't feel literally bound to have Marion Crane come rolling up to the Bates Motel."
Canceled daytime soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," which were expected to be revived online a year ago before a deal fell through, will be the anchor programs for The Online Network. Production is expected to resume on both soaps in February; no premiere date or casting was announced. ... USA's "Necessary Roughness" has been renewed for a third season; second season episodes resume airing at 10 p.m. Jan. 23.
On the web
Read more coverage from the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Tuned In Journal at post-gazette.com/tv.tvradio
A portion of this column originally appeared online in the Tuned In Journal blog. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published January 8, 2013 5:00 AM