Spike TV's 'Joe Schmo Show' twists reality TV

NEW YORK: Here is a show that combines the real with the fake. It claims to be the ultimate reality show but has just one real participant. America's Spike TV from the Viacom stable claims to have taken the reality TV concept to the next level with The Joe Schmo Show. the show debuts next month.

While The Joe Schmo Show combines elements from many reality shows, apart from one contestant everybody else from the host to the other 'player', are actors following a predetermined outline.

This series is pushing itself as one of television's biggest and riskiest experiments. It will test the reaction of the naive reality contestant to every outlandish element reality television has showcased. It will also see the limits to which the show producers are able to push this 'reality,' and the ensuing ridiculous competitions.

The main protagonist is Matt Kennedy a typical middle class American. He is "Joe Schmo." Matt was playing basketball when a casting director approached him to compete in a new reality TV series. Matt is the only non-actor in the house.

Kennedy was told he was a contestant on Lap of Luxury, a reality show in which he would live the life of the super-rich; pampered beyond his wildest dreams in a gorgeous, sprawling mansion while vying with eight other contestants for a grand prize of one hundred thousand dollars. As on many reality programmes, the show features reward challenges.

On Lap of Luxury, these challenges are called Pampering Competitions, games in which contestants "compete" for high-priced luxury items including flat screen televisions, vacations or simply the use of the mansion's master suite. The show also includes Lord of the Manor Immunity Showdowns, in which contestants compete for immunity to avoid being "evicted" from the house.

Both the Pampering Competitions and the Immunity Showdowns are parodies of similar elements in eviction style reality shows like Survivor and Big Brother and are completely rigged by the writers and producers.

At the end of each episode, the Lap of Luxury pseudo-reality show holds a Riches to Rags Eviction Ceremony. Here cast mates vote to evict one of their own. The evicted contestants 'Lap of Luxury Collectors Plate' is tossed into the fireplace. The host says "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, (fill in name), you are dead to us!" with a straight face. The ritual done in an over the top fashion using extreme close-ups, histrionic music, and ridiculous, gut-wrenching moments of tension.

Another show segment A Meal Not Quite Fit for a King lampoons Fear Factor. The cast mates were all brought plates of delicacies such as goat eyes and monkey testicles. Fortunately for them, the delicacies were in fact innocuous look-alikes, not the real thing. The Battle of the Sexes section makes fun of the trivia about your house mates contest, not to mention any reality game that pits men against women.

Cast members were asked to fill out sexual questionnaires about themselves. The actors' answers were provided for them, but Matt's responses were the real deal. The winners received a day at a spa, whereas the losers were forced to dress in clothing of the opposite gender; and act out ridiculous punishments such as submitting to a spanking or performing a foot massage.

There is pressure on the actors to be convincing enough or else the unsuspecting "contestant" will figure it all out. The colourful characters include The Hutch who is an asshole. The Hutch passes himself off as a cop, but he wasn't able to pass the Houston PD psych test -- so now he is a security cop at a mall. An authority-dispensing bully who has the ability to burrow under everyone's skin, Hutch's horrific hygiene and social habits make him the guy everyone loves to hate. Actor David Hornsby portrays the Hutch.

Then you have the Gay Guy - Kip. He is the loveable doormat with a huge heart. Kip wears his emotions on his sleeve ... his collar ... and his boa scarf. He laughs, he cries and he keeps right on crying. He's the guy who wants a group hug.

Women are represented by The Rich Bitch - Ashleigh portrayed by Melissa Yvonne Lewis. Melissa's experience includes roles in feature film, television and theatre. The virgin named Molly is like fresh snow and straight out of Sunday school, Molly is the stereotypical "goody two-shoes" type complete with teddy bear T-shirts.

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