« Is Johnny Hart's B.C. comic strip anti-Islamic? | Home | Average Joe: Queer Eye for the Average Guy »

November 25, 2003


Joe Millionaire: The Fakest Show Ever


Everything about this show was fake. Certainly, all other reality dating shows are fake, in that they put people in an artificial environment, but this show took artifice so far that it became almost impossible for the participants to have a moment of genuine interaction. Perhaps the only spontaneous moments in the whole series came in the closing moments of last night's finale, in which Cowboy Dave thinks he's lost Linda forever, only to discover her waiting for him at a ranch back home in Texas.

In every episode, Linda has talked incessantly about her "connection" to David, and that's been the only legitimate emotion we've seen since the show began, but the sum total of our knowledge about this connection is: Linda says it's there. We never see any substantial evidence of it, we never see David have a real conversation with her, we never see her do anything but cry or smile as she ponders the connection. After watching these people for 6 weeks or however long it's been, can we say we know anything at all about them? Do they know anything about each other?

From its earliest moments, the show's producers have seemed to control every second of everyone's time, and by the middle of last night's marathon episode (was it seven hours? Eight?), you felt like you were watching a director rehearsing with his cast: Go there, say this, then leave, then come back, then say this. Cowboy Dave, Linda, and Kat moved around mechanically saying lines they couldn't remember, and even the off-camera reaction interviews seemed scripted. When David tells Cat he rejected her, she's speechless for 5 seconds and then Dave abruptly leaves. If these people had any kind of real emotional bond with eachother, wouldn't they have wanted to say goodbye or explain what happened, or offer some kind of sincere gesture towards each other? We didn't get that. Stand over here. Say this. Leave.

But maybe David is nearly as much to blame as the producers. He seems incapable of expressing himself in a spontaneous way. Listening him try to string sentences together is as agonizing as listening to President Bush offer ungrammatical and incoherent remarks. Here's how he tells Cat he wants to be with Linda: "I don't mean this bad, but, like, I didn't choose you." As David tells Linda, the woman he supposedly loves, his true feelings, this is how it comes out:

I want to tell you a story. From the moment I first seen you, I knew you were special, you know. You have this presence. I think you're an angel. You are the most pure thing I know. I chose you.
Nevermind the "I seen you" usage. Just look at his last words, "I chose you." This is the language of the show, not of a person who truly cares for someone else. Even at the most emotional moment he's had on the show -- and maybe in his life -- David adopts the interactional method of a game show contestant which, of course, he is. Whereas other reality dating shows tend to feel like a game early on, eventually the artifice slips away as people begin to develop true feelings for each other. By the time the end of The Bachelor came around, it felt like you were watching two intimate people sort through their real feelings. By contrast, Average Joe seems only interested in mechanically presenting robotic contestants who do whatever they are told to do and feel whatever they are told to feel.

It was a relief to see David at the ranch finally react genuinely to Linda, who was obviously overjoyed at the opportunity to get to know him better. As she expresses to the camera her hopes for the future, she reveals this little gem: she comes from a "poor family" (her words). She even says she's going to use the money she got from the show to help out her mom and her family. The whole premise of the show is built on the notion of class: What's going to happen when these jet-set girls learn that their rich suitor has no money. In the end, though, when we finally get a small peek into Linda's life, it turns out that despite the producers' best efforts, the show wasn't about class at all: it was about two people who maybe actually aren't all that different trying to have a natural relationship despite the artificial obstacles thrown in their way.

categories: TV
posted by adm at 12:15 AM | #


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)