12 days of reality: Joe Millionaire’s slurps, Joe Schmo’s schmo

Of the gifts reality TV has given us, it has given us a lot to laugh at and mock. The 2003 Fox series Joe Millionaire formalized that mockery by satirizing The Bachelor, pretending its star was a millionaire when he really was not. It ushered in an era of prank reality shows, most of which sucked big time, but Spike’s The Joe Schmo Show perfected the genre by making Matt Kennedy Gould think he was on a real reality show when in fact everything was scripted except for his reactions. (It even included Kristen Wiig in a pre-Saturday Night Live role.)

On the Fox series, which was hosted by former Trading Spaces host Alex McLeod (although she kind of evaporated), perhaps the most memorable scene was the one that had no visual imagery, but instead included a subtitled “(slurp),” which suggested Sarah Kozer performed oral sex on Evan Marriott in the woods when they snuck off together. Fox’s president later admitted sound effects were added but that the scene wasn’t “totally fake” like Evan suggested. Still, that episode drew 20.3 million viewersAmerican Idol numbers today.

Spike’s version tricked just one person, but worked so much better, and worked up to an incredible conclusion during which the smarmy host told Matt, “the only real thing on this reality show is you.” If you haven’t seen it, you should get it on Netflix or buy the DVD (the second season is available, too), because it’s a great series. But it really worked because it had a surprising amount of humanity, thanks to both the way the producers handled the show and to the person they cast, Matt Kennedy Gould. In the end, it’s always about real people and real reactions, even in satirical series.

The 12 Days of Reality TV (introduction)

  1. Richard Hatch it a tree
  2. Two dog bites in the vagina
  3. Three people fighting on Real World, and “it wasn’t not funny”
  4. Four seasons of The Mole
  5. Five golden vetoes
  6. Six Deadliest Catch seasons
  7. Charla and Mirna race around the world
  8. Joe Millionaire’s slurps, Joe Schmo’s schmo
  9. Bands running on VH1’s Bands on the Run give birth to Magical Elves
  10. Osbournes ham-throwing
  11. Regifting 11 years of reality blurred end-of-year recaps
  12. 12 reader suggestions, from Erik giving up immunity to The Real World’s Pedro

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.