Adhering to the same underlying premise as “For Love or Money,” NBC apparently has decided viewers dislike contestants in dating shows so thoroughly that the network has carte blanche to screw with them. Yet after you get past “Average Joe’s” big moment — the one where the beautiful cheerleader feebly tries to hide her disappointment upon being presented with 16 average-looking to homely suitors — you wonder if anyone other than dweeby network execs and producers will be motivated to stick around for the ride.
Proving all you need for a dating show these days is the barest twist on what’s come before, “Average Joe” (not to be confused with “Joe Millionaire,” though that’s clearly NBC’s intent) features what host Kathy Griffin calls “the real men of America.” In other words, so long, perfect six-packs and chiseled features; hello, fellas with bad hair and spare tires around their guts.
They are sent to Palm Springs to woo Melana Scantlin, a former beauty queen and cheerleader, we’re told, initially seen frolicking in the ocean as captured through a gauzy lens. Melana is looking for her soulmate, because, as we all know, former beauty queens and NFL cheerleaders have such a hard time meeting men.
Melana looks appropriately vacuous, but you have to wonder who this show is going to attract. After all, it’s mostly women who watch such fare, which makes you think they’d be more apt to buy into the reverse — namely, having 16 Prince Charmings court one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.
Moreover, evidence suggests viewers like looking at beautiful people on TV. Consider the quick hook given CBS’ “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.,” which looked like a “before” ad for a fitness center. Or maybe that’s over-thinking things.
To be fair, most of the “Average” schmos (not to be confused with “Joe Schmo”) aren’t exactly hideous. A few are fat, a couple have questionable facial hair, one bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Howie Mandel. Perhaps what’s funniest is that they’re so smitten with Scantlin, who — in a classic double standard — is theoretically going to look bad if she judges them based on their looks. “She is so my type,” one of them salivates. Dude, she’s everybody’s type, get over it.
Anyone buying the word “reality” in connection with this fluffy bit of commerce is also advised to read the fine print, which states, “Some participants were paid in connection with their appearance” and “Participants may have consulted with producers regarding their choices and decisions.” Then again, this is the same network that sneakily said the $1 million prize on “For Love or Money” would be paid out over 40 years, so keep that pinch of salt handy.
Rather than let “Third Watch” keep getting pasted by “CSI: Miami,” NBC probably is making a smart move by tossing a semi-scripted program into this hour, where it has the chance to do reasonably well with a pretty good inherited lead-in from “Las Vegas.”
Still, the cynicism (and possibly ennui) surrounding reality dating is starting to catch up with the networks, which, given the tepid response to “The Next Joe Millionaire,” appear to be in need of some enticing new wrinkle on “Joe” shows, if not a full-blown evolution of the genre.
“Average Bob,” anyone?