"They're all actors working from a script, but he thinks it's real!"
Matt Kennedy Gould: Hold the phone. Are you an actor? Tell me... just say it.
Brian Keith Etheridge: I am.
Matt Kennedy Gould: What the (bleep) is going on?! Someone fill me in!
— Matt learns the truth.
The Joe Schmo Show was at once a Reality Show and a spoof of reality shows. The first season centered around Matt Kennedy Gould, a regular guy who is selected as a contestant on the reality game show Lap of Luxury. What he didn't realize, however, is that everybody else around him was an actor, specifically selected to play a reality-show archetype such as "The Rich Bitch", "The Gay Guy", "The Asshole", and "The Smarmy Host". The scenes in the house were cut with standard reality-show style interviews, both from Matt and from the actors, who would describe how they felt about keeping the charade going on this guy. (Once they got to know Gould, and realized how much a truly nice and upright a guy he was, fooling him became emotionally harder and harder for the actors involved.) Despite several close calls, Matt didn't find out the truth until The Reveal in the season finale. After this, the series was rerun under the title Mo' Schmo, with Matt giving a running commentary over it now that he knew the whole thing was fake. (Though this only lasted for four episodes before Spike pulled these repeats due to sagging ratings.) Future television and movie star Kristen Wiig appeared on the first Joe Schmo in her first big role as Dr. Pat, the incompetent therapist.Joe Schmo 2, the second season, brought in 2 schmoes, Tim Walsh and Ingrid Weise, for a parody reality relationship show, Last Chance for Love. This season was often criticized for taking the premise way over the top, and for practically daring the schmoes to figure out the truth (which one, Ingrid, eventually did; they kept things going by having her join the actors and bringing in a new Schmo, Amanda Naughton). As well, neither Tim nor Ingrid was really as likeable as Matt was. Because of this, season 2 never really did quite as well as season 1, ratings- or acclaim-wise.The poor ratings for Season 2 seemed to kill the show, but after a nine-year hiatus Spike TV brought back The Joe Schmo Show in January 2013. The new program featured Chase Rogan, a married agronomist who is also the founder of PureTurf Consulting, who believes he is on a reality series called The Full Bounty, which supposedly will offer him a job as a bounty hunter and a prize of $100,000 should he win. But as with previous incarnations, everyone around Chase is an actor and events are scripted. For the first time, the program featured an actor that is already reasonably well known, Lorenzo Lamas, as himself. The program was filmed in July 2012.Reaction to The Full Bounty was mixed. Viewers initially found Chase interesting, and the show a welcome return to some of the ideas from the first season in comparison with the second season, as well as finding Lorenzo Lamas entertaining. Unfortunately, Lorenzo was "voted off" in the first episode and the series seemed to go off the rails for a while when it seemed as if Chase had all but figured things out. Additionally, much of this seemed to be played up unnecessarily for drama. Towards the end, however, things seemed to gel again, with Chase brought back to believability, Lorenzo Lamas returning, and a good ending to the show. Disappointingly, however, the ratings were so abysmal that all repeat broadcasts of the show were pulled, leaving only the original airings. With the ratings pretty much in the dumper, it was pretty much assured that the show would not again see the light of day for at least another ten years.
The Joe Schmo Show provides examples of the following:
Adam Westing: Lorenzo Lamas as an idiotic, vain, spoiled Lorenzo Lamas in Season 3.
Ambiguously Gay: Gerald (Season 2). When asked if he wants to spend his alone time with Austin or Piper he hesitates for a really long time.
Archetypal Character: The sad thing is how little they have to exaggerate the ridiculous people that appear on reality television.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: A non-verbal example with Karlee the deaf contestant in Season 3. Actress Jo Newman, who has normal hearing, apparently does not know American Sign Language.
Berserk Button: Kip (Season 1) only wants to see pictures of positivity in his photo album. He doesn't want to see anything negative, like, say, photos of someone else's buttcheeks.
Also, do not even think of harming Bryce's pet frog Everett.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Skylar (Season 3), who was supposedly this innocent single mom whose husband died in a freak cement-pouring accident, but the husband was actually alive and the whole innocent/naive thing was an act.
In at least a couple of instances, the actors couldn't keep their stories straight and had to come up with complicated explanations to try to smooth things over. Generally, they managed to get away with it, except in the case of Ingrid, who managed to see through enough of the lies to pretty much piece the entire sham together.
Earl misidentified the underwear he was supposed to be wearing in Season 1. In season 2 the actor playing Ernie was unable to come up with an explanation for how he knew how many contestants to buy gifts for. Maybe the worst was in Season 3, when the actress playing Alison panicked after some pretty mild questioning from Chase and wound up saying she graduated from medical school at the age of 18.
Bond Creatures: In Season 3, all the contestants (including Chase) are assigned spirit animals that they must bond with at every elimination ceremony. Chase, in this instance, is assigned a llama.
The Bully: Hutch was this to Kip in the first season, messing up his photo album, teasing him about not wanting to go in the pool and threatening to shove him in the pool and such. Part of the appeal of Matt was him standing up for Kip and saying that he understands about phobias and such.
The Bus Came Back: All three seasons include characters who were eliminated from the fake reality shows returning for contrived reasons. In Season 2 they even did this with one of the Schmoes.
The Cameo: Matt Gould was supposed to have a cameo in Season 2 as a pizza deliveryman. It was cut from the broadcast but included on the Season 2 DVD release.
And one of his lines of dialogue is the classic "What is going on?"
Confession Cam: They had to be very careful with this, as the actors generally recorded their confessionals out of character. This led to a moment of panic in the first season when everyone thought that Matt Kennedy Gould had overheard Lance Krall ("Kip") speaking out of character.
Cross Over / Special Guest: Jerri Manthey from the second season of Survivor (and later, two more Survivor editions) appeared in a first season episode as one of the judges for the talent contest.
The Determinator: Chase in the third season is dead serious about becoming a bounty hunter and risks personal injury without hesitation, much to the surprise of the crew.
Disney Death: Everett the frog and Montecore the falcon in Joe Schmo 2, both of which were brought out in the finale and shown to be just fine. Additionally, Ingrid's grandfather. She stated that he was still alive and they could bring him out at the finale, but for unstated reasons, this didn't happen.
The Ditz: Dim Cammy is billed as "The Moron" in Season 2.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Season 2's "Pearl Necklace" ceremonies. And to a lesser degree the candle ceremonies. To the point the Schmoes giggle at about every elimination ceremony. This was continued in season 3, with the contestants asking to enter Lady Justice to cast their votes.
Eat That: A good portion of the drama in one of the episodes of the first season focused around one of these. Matt Kennedy Gould said he was specifically assured before the show started that he wouldn't be put in a situation like this, yet one of the latter episodes featured a gross-eating challenge. The dishes were all supposedly Foreign Queasine, such as monkey testicles or moufflon eyeballs, up until Matt's dish, which was claimed to be canine feces. Matt, having a well-known gag reflex, was immediately grossed out, but then seemed to decide that it couldn't possibly be real, until he was assured by a producer that it was. (He later revealed that he had so grown to trust the producers that the fact that none of them would even look at him led him to believe that it really was real.) Having refused to eat the canine feces, Matt met with a fake Network Executive who told him that the challenge could still be won if he got Ashleigh and Molly to either kiss or go topless. Because Girl on Girl Is Hot.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, ——, you're dead to us." (Season 1)
"Your wick is cold / your neck is bare and so is your place in ——'s heart. Please take your walk down the Last Chance For Love Trail of Tears." (Season 2)
"You've gone from hunter to hunted. You're not wanted, dead or alive." (Season 3)
Elimination Statement: Often quite interesting, since the "contestants" being eliminated were actors. The special features on the DVD of the first season of the program contained much fuller versions and made for some very revealing viewing.
Matt tried to work on making some reality show alliances and voting strategies, but given that everyone else was an actor working from a shared script. Not only that, but failure was always the only option in any of the games on any season that were rigged against the schmo.
In The Full Bounty, Chase Rogan actually won an immunity challenge that had been specifically rigged against him, powering through double-reinforced doors as if they were nothing. See The Determinator above.
Fan Disservice: In a game early in the first season, the guests are split along the gender line and are asked questions about members of the other team. A wrong answer results in having to wear a penalty outfit. Unfortunately for the audience, all of the outfits are intended for women. This results in Earl wearing a Bo Peep outfit, Matt wearing a schoolgirl outfit, Hutch dressed as a French Maid, and Brian in a Playboy Bunny costume. To make things worse, the penalty outfits come with a penalty action. This entails Earl pole-dancing, Brian giving Matt a spanking, and Hutch giving Earl an oily foot massage.
The first episode of the first season included a game wherein cast members had to wear other cast members' underwear while the others had to guess who said underwear actually belonged to. The sight of Brian "The Buddy" camping it up in a pair of tiny woman's panties was particularly disturbing.
Lorenzo Lamas and his European casual pouches, which he enticed the whole cast to wear.
Fanservice: Attractive female castmembers winding up in bikinis in all three seasons. The show also had a habit of bringing on scantily clad models or porn stars to participate in the games.
Flanderization: After the hoax was revealed to her and she became one of the actresses on Joe Schmo 2, Ingrid Wiese's character became largely a Flanderized version of herself, talking about Communism with a love doll and doing a skit show while reciting the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. At least some of this was entirely of her own choosing.
Lampshaded, as with so many other tropes on this show, when the Network Executive demands that Molly and Ashleigh kiss to boost the ratings.
In the second episode of Season 3 two of the girls kiss in a failed effort to get an "informant" to give them an address. It was described as the least sexy girl-on-girl kiss ever.
Gone Horribly Right: The intention of the first season was to seek out the nicest guy they could find for their experiment, once it became obvious that Matt was every bit as decent and honest as he presented himself in his audition video the morality of lying to him became a central part of the show's drama.
Hypno Fool: In Joe Schmo 2, Bryce hoped to turn Piper into this using the hypnotic command "mockingbird". The painful conclusion to this joke came when Bryce stage-whispered "mockingbird! mockingbird!" as Piper eliminated him.
I Feel Guilty, You Take It: On the original season, a sumo slam contest was rigged so that Matt Kennedy Gould would win a spa vacation. Matt, however, had no idea that the contest was rigged and got a little too into it, accidentally causing a head injury to Dr. Pat that required a brief hospitalization. When she came back that evening, he insisted on her taking the prize. At the end of the show, though, when it was revealed that Dr. Pat was actually an actress, the prize was awarded back to him, along with the show's big main prize of $100,000.
Indy Ploy: Done by the show in Season 2 when Ingrid Wiese, the female Schmo in the dating show, figured out that everything was fake. They enlisted her in the show as an actress and brought in Amanda Naughton to be a replacement Schmo.
It's Not Porn, It's Art: Chloe shows the other contestants her "modeling portfolio"—which is actually hardcore porn. (The actress playing Chloe makes sure to tell the audience that it isn't really her in the photos.)
Jerkass: The Hutch from Season 1 and Randy from Season 3 are both billed as "The Asshole" and are there to irritate other characters.
Kitschy Local Commercial: One of the tasks in Season 3 involves the contestants making a truly terrible commercial for Jake.
Lady Drunk: Rita from Season 2, who is drunk pretty much the whole time.
Manipulative Editing: While reality show contestants often complain of being portrayed in the worst possible light, the editors on this show seemed to go out of their way to portray Matt Kennedy Gould in the best possible light. Matt himself tried to downplay it a bit, basically saying that he wasn't quite the saint that they were trying to make him out to be. Not quite as true of the second season, though they did basically seem to make the Schmoes seem like good people.
Manly Gay: Lavernius, the token black guy on The Full Bounty. So much so that he wasn't even revealed as gay until the show actually premiered. When he revealed it to the schmo, Chase, he barely batted an eye and said that it didn't change his opinion of him. He even agreed to an alliance with him.
Never Work with Children or Animals: The falcon in the second season was said to be a nightmare to work with. During rehearsals, he crashed into the doors to the mansion, so they decided to leave them open, only for the thing to end up getting into the house and flying all over the place.
No Animals Were Harmed: The show had to post one of these when Montecore the falcon somehow missed his target (Derek, holding a piece of meat) and instead plowed into the plate glass window with a loud thunk and fell to the ground.
Non-Gameplay Elimination: A number of these were created for plot purposes. In the first season, Dr. Pat accepted $25,000 to "voluntarily exit" the program. The votes revealed that The Hutch would have been eliminated had she not left. The Hutch was later ejected from the program for making threats against another contestant, but returned on a legal technicality and went on to "win." In the second season, Bryce the Stalker was eliminated via the normal elimination, but invited back to the show. He was then ejected later on for supposedly killing the falcon, Montecore. Also, Eleanor "The Weeper" Took a Level in Badass and quit the show after Austin had treated her badly. In the third season, LV up and quits for no particular reason.
Perp Sweating: One of the challenges in the premiere of the third season involved this. Chase, the schmo, was described as coming "full on bad cop," but he didn't have a good cop to go with it.
Pursue the Dream Job: In the third season, the Full Bounty. The chosen "schmo" for the season already owned a successful business but nevertheless went on the show, believing he was competing for a dream job to work as the understudy of a world famous bounty hunter, and eventually perhaps gain similar fame.
Raging Stiffie: In one Season 1 scene Ashleigh and Molly sit on Kip's lap in the hot tub and start cuddling up with him. Lance Krall, in character as Kip, says "That's the chlorometer, that measures the chlorine level", and the girls quickly get off. Later in an out-of-character interview Krall admits that he couldn't get out of the hot tub for a while.
Reality Show Genre Blindness: Matt Kennedy Gould, the original Joe Schmo, had a heavy dose of this and admitted more than once that had it been a real reality show there would have been no way he could have come anywhere close to winning.
Reality TV Show Mansion: All three seasons of the program were set in one. One of the rules of the fake reality show in the first season was that anyone that stepped outside the front door of the mansion without permission was automatically eliminated. This led to a plot point when the character Molly threatened to walk out to chase after her "boyfriend," William.
As explained in Season 3, the need of one controlled location is essential. The "Real World" threatens their delicate house of cards every second the mark is exposed to it, as shown in their worry when the S3 Schmo has to go to the emergency room.
Towards the end of one of the episodes of Joe Schmo 2 one the producers revealed that Everett the frog had been killed by Montecore the falcon. Ingrid suggested a moment of a silence and a memorial was shown on-screen to Everett. In the next episode, Bryce, the owner of the frog returned, but before a certain point, everyone kept avoiding the issue of Everett's death. However, the characters kept working in subtle references to Everett and, whenever they did, the memorial was shown again.
Before that turn of events, Montecore's habit of coming in low and scaring the bejesus out of the cast when he swooped in became a very funny Running Gag.
Serial Escalation: How over-the-top and stereotypical will Joe Schmo's competition be? Could any challenge be more insanely sadistic than the last one? And will any elimination ceremony top the last one in terms of sheer ridiculousness?
Sexophone: A musical theme that began with this was used regularly when showing scenes of something that was sexy, or wasn't actually, but they wanted to play it as it was for comedy.
Shocking Elimination: Poked fun at by including the phrase "the most shocking elimination yet" in several of the promos either going to break or at the end of the episode.
The show often lampoons specific events from real reality shows. After Ingrid transitioned from Schmo to actress in Season 2, her character was accused of fabricating a death in the family for sympathy, which actually happened on the seventh season of Survivor. And in the first season, Gina was said to be a big fan of Richard Hatch, but later gave a speech that was referential of Sue Hawk's "snakes eat rats" speech. The planes with banners in the second season were referential of something that happened on Big Brother, which was even Lamp Shaded by Ingrid, after she had been converted to an actress. Karlee the deaf would-be bounty hunter and her interpreter Stan from Season 3 are a parody of Marlee Matlin's appearance with an interpreter in the 2011 edition of The Apprentice.
The single biggest blunder that tipped Ingrid Wiese off in Season 2—Cammy's "Porked and Beans" food fetish video—was inspired by the first season of Joe Millionaire and the reveal that runner-up Sarah Kozer had appeared in fetish videos while she was in law school.
After Chase's convict escapes in Season 3, the Warden gives a speech that is a direct quote of Tommy Lee Jones's "hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse" speech from The Fugitive.
One of Derek's (Ralph's) elimination speeches in Season 2 was as follows:
This ought to scare the living daylights out of you. Love is as precious as a diamond. And as we all know, diamonds are forever. But love sometimes is not. Tonight, should fate point its gold finger at two of you, you'll be evicted. That's right, we'll be having both a Pearl Necklace and Flame of Love eviction ceremony tonight. If Austin and Piper choose to sever their emotional bond with you, the world is not enough to save you. The rest of you will have a chance to die another day.
Surprise Party: A surprise party was held for Tim Walsh of the second season on his birthday, and Chase Rogan of the third season. Both were used as a way to advance the plot, with the former involving a face-painting party held by Gerald the Gotta-Be-Gay Guy in which Bryce the stalker painted "Piper" on his face, and in the latter, Randy the asshole taking advantage of the party to get closer to the host's wife. The second season one, though, was generally more interesting, as Tim had never been given a surprise party before in his life, but had always wanted one. The party was said to be sponsored by "Club G" and even included Tim giving Gerald a lap-dance as part of a game of Truth or Dare. Afterwards, Jonathan Torrens ("Gerald") said in an interview segment that his favorite theory of Tim's so far was "But I don't think he's gay. I think he's Canadian."
This Is A Competition: Several of the supposed contestants. Also, Chase, the schmo of the third season. Averted by Matt Gould, who gets emotional when Earl is eliminated and says "No amount of money is worth this!".
Token Minority: Noting that contestants with an ethnic background typically tended to be eliminated first on reality-relationship shows, the producers decided to have a "black ball eviction ceremony" in the premiere episode of Season 2 in which several were eliminated before the program had even really gotten started. This bit them in the butt when one of the supposed contestants told Ingrid that her agent had gotten her the gig, causing Ingrid to be immediately suspicious.
Season 3 has several token minorities (the black Lavernius, the Latino Chico, the Asian Allison, and the deaf Karlee), if for no reason other than for the racist Randy to make fun of them.
Tonight Someone Dies: One of the promos for Joe Schmo 2 promised "We've laughed with them. Cried with them. And on the next episode, one of them is going to die." The "death" was that of Everett the frog, who had supposedly been killed by the falcon Montecore. Later, Montecore was supposedly killed off as well. Both were brought out at the finale and revealed to be just fine.
Trailers Always Spoil: After The Hutch was kicked off the program in the first season, the promos for the next episode clearly gave away the fact that he was coming back.
Trophy Wife: In The Full Bounty, Ralph Garman's character, Jake Montrose, has a trophy wife.
Truman Show Plot: Lampshaded in at least a couple of instances. In the first season of the show, Ashleigh stated that if she won the money, she would go to Fiji. In The Truman Show, Truman Burbank's dream destination was Fiji, because it was where he believed his first love to be.
Ingrid from Joe Schmo 2 likened the show to The Truman Show at one point. Later, when he is eliminated from the show in Joe Schmo 2, Tim tells everyone "if I don't see you guys, good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night," a play on one of Truman Burbank's Catch Phrases.
Turn in Your Badge: Each contestant who is fake-eliminated in Season 3 has to turn in their bounty hunter badge and stun gun.
Uncanceled: There was nearly a nine year gap between Joe Schmo 2 and The Full Bounty.
Voted off the Island: Well, not really. Seasons 1 and 3 used this trope; in Season 2 the bachelor and bachelorette eliminated one contestant per episode.
Ralph Garman, the only recurring castmember, plays three different Smarmy Hosts in three seasons.
In Season 2 the same pair of actors played both Austin's parents and Piper's parents. (The show could get away with this because the first dinner was only with the male "contestants" and the second was only with the females. Part of the reveal for the final episode was when they called for Austin and Pipers' parents to come in, and only these two actors showed up.)