"Can true love survive a little 50 million dollar lie?"

The latest reality show from FOX. Joe Millionaire indulges in a little bit of poking-fun-at-one's-own-network on the part of FOX; the same network that ran "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" now exposes the aspect of human nature which gave them such high ratings.

The premise? Evan is an urban construction worker who makes $19,000 per year. FOX held auditions for another "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" spinoff, and gathered twenty women excited by the prospect of wealth. The women then visit Evan's "French chateau", part of a fictional inheritance of $50 million.

The show has a duration of one month, over the course of which Evan will eliminate all but one woman, to whom he will reveal his true nature. The highly emotionally piqued climax will come when the lucky gal decides to stay with him or hit the road in search of a shinier man.

This is pretty clever; everybody in America will want to see whether materialism or love will triumph. The women on the show (Disclaimer: Obviously they do not represent women at large) are all certified evil -- you can see their eyes gleaming when they walk up to the house.

FOX has hit upon the ideal way to catch audiences: to give them ridiculously hatable characters and a spunky loser who's trying to get the girl. It's the perfect combination of formula and voyeurism; I expect the finale will have fanatically high ratings.

Joe Millionaire premieres Monday, January 6, 2003. You'll be watching.

Let me state up front that I didn't see the first broadcast of "Joe Millionaire" last night, but I have seen a few trailers on TV. I'm not a great fan of these kinds of shows, (e.g. The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?), but then again, who is? None of us watch these shows, but we all know people who do watch them, right?

What intrigued me about Joe Millionaire was the twist that's been added - the expectaton that the women he selects will reject him once she finds out he hasn't reallly inherited $50,000,000. Perhaps she'll still want him, money or not, but the truth is that their 'romance', contrived as it is already, is based upon a huge deception on his part. In real life, any sensible person would reject a suitor once such a lie is revealed. However this is TV; the 20 women competing for "Joe's" love are implicitly portrayed as gold diggers. The finalist will be regarded with scorn if they ultimately reject "Joe", and with a mixture of mild-amusement and pity if they don't.

I also started to think about the inevitable 'role-reversal' follow-up: Josey Millionairess. How will that work? "Josey" will, of course, be an attractive young woman with a 'normal' but low-paid job - perhaps she's a waitress, or a nurse or even a software engineer. She must be really attractive, otherwise it's just not good TV.They'll take her, dress her up in designer labels and lease a mansion in Malibu for her. Stick a Lincoln Navigator on the driveway and, hey presto: instant millionairess! After whittling down the field of 20 men, Josey will reveal the 'truth' about the money as she and her fiance are lounging around the pool. We know the outcome - he'll look her up and down, check out her hooters and decide to go ahead with the marriage anyway.

Back to "Joe" and his harem: Obviously, there's something pretty wrong if you're prepared to be humiliated and rejected in public and even to marry a total stranger all for a shot at your fifteen minutes of fame, but by adding this huge deceit the program's producers, and by association its viewers, take on the role of an audience watching the gladiators.

Lets spare a thought for the hard-working producers of such shows: Fancy hotels? French chateau? Limousines? Travelling by jet to foreign locations? All paid for by us, the voyeuristic consumer.

Finally, let's not forget "Joe Millionaire" himself. Plucked from his honest obscurity by the lure of cold, hard cash, Joe's a modern Pygmalion. How does he feel to be paid for pretending to be something he's not for the 'benefit' of women. There's a word for what you are, isn't there Joe? That's right: "Actor".

Update: Ereneta confesses to watching the show has the following prediction:

" I'm predicting a shock ending: after Joe picks his gal, and she dumps him, or not, they actually do give him a million dollars (especially if she dumps him)."

Saturday Night Live did several hilarious takes on the "Joe Millionaire" concept in Season 28, Show 9 (aired on Jan 11, 2003, with host NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and musical guest Avril Lavigne).

Each skit began with the familiar "Joe Millionaire" theme music, complete with "Joe" riding on a horse and arriving to greet the various ladies waiting to meet him. The suggestion was that once this show ran its course, we could expect to see the following fine "surprise ending" offerings from the oh-so-glamorous FOX network:

Joe Hetero: Twenty-five lucky ladies compete for the hand of a handsome millionaire, only to find out that he's "totally gay" and has no interest in them whatsoever.

Joe Dude: Twenty-five lucky ladies compete for the hand of a handsome millionaire, only to find out that he's biologically a woman. (Featured Tina Fey with a fake mullet.)

Joe Not a Rapist: Twenty-five lucky ladies compete for the hand of a handsome millionaire, only we turn the tables on them when they discover he's actually a convicted serial rapist! (Shudder.)

Joe Caucasian: Twenty-five lucky ladies compete for the hand of a handsome millionaire, only to discover that he's "actually a brother." (Featured Tracy Morgan wearing whiteface, declaring "I'm gonna get all these white bitches pregnant!")

According to SNL insiders,* another sketch entitled "Joe Huge Penis" (in which the surprise ending was that the guy's package was smaller than advertised) was written and rehearsed, but didn't make the cut. (insert joke here)


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