Joe Millionaire (2003) was a short-lived reality show. OK, so you take a bunch of women, an attractive-looking guy (and rich to boot!), and throw them all in a house for a romantic elimination-style Reality Show competition. What's that, you say? It's been done before? Not original?
Well, how about this: the guy (Evan Marriott) isn't really rich, but he's a working-class laborer who's pretending to be rich - for the sake of the camera? Well, then you'd have Joe Millionaire.
The show was a standard Bachelor-style setup - each week, Evan would send off another lady who hadn't quite earned his affection. At the end of the show, he revealed his lack of finances to his ultimate choice (they didn't last as a couple), and they were given a million dollars to split between them.
Joe Millionaire had an impact on the reality genre that is not to be overlooked: it was one of the earliest successful programs that could be described as "The Bachelor with a twist". There was a second season - complete with new Mock Millionaire - and this time, the ladies came from all over the world (understandable, as The Reveal from the first season was, thanks to its popularity, common knowledge in the United States). It didn't do nearly as well ratingswise, and that was it for the franchise.
This series provides examples of the following:
- Alpha Bitch: A contestant named Heidi was obviously groomed to be this, but she was eliminated early on. The eventual runner-up, Sarah Kozer, gradually replaced her.
- Breakout Character: The show made a minor star out of professional butler Paul Hogan, who narrated the opening titles, conducted Masterpiece Theatre-inspired "fireside chats" with the viewers in each episode, and whose genial unflappability contrasted nicely with the pettiness and histrionics of the various contestants. The network and even the show itself acknowledged his popularity during its original run, and he was the only cast member to carry over to the second season. By contrast, the nominal "host", Alex McLeod, appeared only in the elimination sequence (they used necklaces instead of roses), for a total of five minutes over the entire six-episode season.
- Elimination Catchphrase: "You must leave the chateau!"
- Gold Digger: Played with. The whole premise is that the female contestants are competing with each other for the affections of a handsome millionaire, but he's not really rich. Will true love prevail? No. He and the other winner broke up afterwards.
- Mock Millionaire: The entire point of the show.
- Reality Show Genre Blindness: This is pretty much what killed the show. There are only so many times (turns out it's just two, and even then they had to go to Europe the second time) that you have a guy pretending to be a millionaire and the girls believing it.
- Sequel Goes Foreign: Season 2 went to Italy and cast female contestants from Europe, because everyone in the US would be Genre Savvy enough after the first one that they couldn't pull the same trick again.