You know… As I look back to growing up, there are many times that I think back to my young adolescents and the things that I used to watch growing up. Some of these things have aged well with time and there are some that have not but I will defend them for the pure sake of nostalgia and the fact that it brought me joy growing up as a child. I think the best example of this would be the original Transformers cartoon. Looking back on it the show is episodic and formulaic to the very end and by all accounts a pretty poor show… But I still own all three seasons on DVD, hell I even bought all three seasons from some random ass company in China before Michael Bay’s movies came out and the seasons became readily available in the states. I watched them growing up and it was my favorite show and to this day I will still defend that show to the very end as one of my favorite TV Shows of all time.
… The same cannot be said about the show I am reviewing today. Just around the time when they first came out, I was obsessed with game show based reality shows. I liked the idea of competition more than anything a ‘there can only be one’ type of mentality that all of them had. I grew up through my early teenage years watching SURVIVOR, Big Brother, and The Mole. Hell, one of my earliest adventures into making anything with a camera is making my own version of The Mole for YouTube… Which is still up if you ever want to dig through the dark areas of YouTube for them. As the years of progressed these shows have fallen out of favor for the new wave of reality shows which I will not even dignify to write names on this blog. I do have standards after all. And shows like SURVIVOR and Big Brother have mainly resorted to casting people with mental conditions in order to boost ratings so ever since graduating high school I would not bother watching any reality shows at all.
But… This is part of my life so I do feel compelled to discuss it. While shows like SURVIVOR have fallen out of favor with me, I can still respect the idea of the show and what the show used to be. The Joe Schmo Show however is one that has very little redemption to it. The first season was released in 2002 at the height of the Reality Game Show craze and was brought to the newly created Spike TV. The show actually seemed like a parody to reality shows where the ‘game’ itself was just filled with a group of actors playing roles. The only problem with that is that they recruited one guy ‘Joe Schmo’ who was not in on the gag. They filmed this guy, in this case Matt Kennedy Gould and his reactions to the absolute insanity that surrounded him, basically a real life incarnation of The Truman Show. I will admit that as a kid I loved the show and thought it was hilarious… But as I have grown older and my aesthetic has changed, this show almost feels like the summation of shit I thought was good when I was a child, that turned out to be absolute garbage now.
Now I am well aware that there are two other seasons connected to this show. But for all intents and purposes I want to focus on the first season alone. Mainly because as the second season came out I was beginning to see the show for what it truly was and by the time it was reincarnated in 2011 I wanted to throw my TV through the window at just the mention of it. So we will merely be focusing on the season that had the largest influence on me.
It is Still the Best Parody of a Reality Show I Have Seen
To this day, The Joe Schmo Show does remain the best reality show parody that I have seen on a major network television station. All in all the creators and writers of the show definitely understood what all went into a reality show and how to make them rich and interesting. The characters they created in the show such as ‘the rich bitch’, ‘the asshole’, ‘the veteran’, and so forth were all really well done characters and good representations of the kind of people that reality shows typically attempt to recruit for their programs. They were caricatures of these types of people reality shows prey on… But they also walked a very fine line in making these characters believable. There were many times that I actually did wish that they were not actors and were real people since some of them fit their personalities so well.
This might have been a bit of type casting as they did recruit a number of people onto the show that seemed to fit the personality. Franklin Jones who played Earl Bradford the veteran was an actual veteran turned actor who seemed to really play a more serious version of himself in the show and Brian Keith Ethridge who played himself as the friend of Matt’s also seemed to just insert himself into the proceedings as a type of… officiator I guess would be the term. But regardless it was good casting and the characters did create the atmosphere and good parody of a reality show.
Some of the Acting is Really Well Done… And Some of it is Dreadful
Just as I get done praising the characters I do have to step back for a moment and say that some of the acting in the show… Was just God aweful and I mean dreadful to the point that I actually felt bad that Gould didn’t figure it out. These characters who were dreadful seemed to be eliminated early on in the show and allowed the more talented actors to shine through. The biggest example of this would be Nikki Davis who played a character named Gina and the first eliminated. Through the whole first episode she did nothing but chew the scenery and not just portray a parody of her character but made her so unbelievable that you could even tell in the show they were just trying to get her out the door as soon as possible. Her speech at the end of her elimination you could see the shows host Ralph Garman trying to force her out the door and Brian doing everything he can to keep Matt in the dark. After the ceremony Brian did an interview saying, he did not know how he could not think that this was fake? Other characters like Earl (Franklin Jones) did have a few slip ups as well and Kristin Wiig’s character (yeah she was in this… Chew on that SNL fans) just seemed so surreal that she needed to be eliminated. Then there was Lance Krall who played a gay character named Kip who now looking back on it… Actually felt very offensive.
But other then that I do have to give some praise to David Hornsby, Melissa Yvonne Lewis, Angela Dodson, and Ralph Garman put forth very well done performances in their roles. Making exciting and engaging characters and then see their attitudes out of character in interviews. The cast runs the gamet of very talented to oh God what am I watching bad.
The Treatment of the Schmo
I think what all of this really boils down to is the fact that the mere concept of The Joe Schmo show is little more than a cruel joke on the Schmo. After it was all said and done and the big reveal occured Matt Kennedy Gould was given a lot of ‘prizes’ or as I see it bought off to make him feel better about the fact that he had been dupped for the better part of two weeks and that these people who he thought had legit relationships with were really only actors. Even in a post interview done by Garman with Gould he stated that he was okay with this, but still did not like the stigma of being Joe Schmo. It was good that they were able to find a person who could take the title in stride and I think that is what they attempt whenever they find the ‘Schmos’ for the three seasons they have been in business. But really it feels little more than a long and cruel pracitcal joke that is shown to a national audience.
If the Joe Schmo Show was simply a show that parodied reality shows I would dare call it one of the most brilliant shows around that truly understands just how fake and cheesy any type of reality shows tend to be which includes the people that particpate in them. But seeing as how there is one or a handful of people who are ‘not in on the joke’ makes the show just come off as cruel and heartless, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the people watching.
This is one area of my past that I do regret and it is merely because as I have gotten older I now see these reality shows for the fake pandering that they really are. Luckily I never got into the new wave of reality shows which merely follows horrible human beings doing horrible and stupid things but the game shows did have a level of intrigue to me and in a way they still do to this day.
And the Joe Schmo Show is the epitome of that and everything that I feel is wrong with a reality show. It is a cruel mean spirited joke that turns the person being pranked into little more than a laughing stock and even if the particpants take it all in stride, it just isn’t something that is worth putting your time into.
Final Score 1.5/5
Thank you for reading and as always if you enjoyed this please like and subscribe for more reviews. Well it has been a while since I have reviewed a movie and really that is what this site is mainly about so Tuesday I feel like it needs to be a return to form. Until next time.