Amid all the fakery in reality TV, the timing for reviving “The Joe Schmo Show” — a series where being bogus is the point, as well as the fun — could hardly be more propitious. And the writers (yes, they’re publicly acknowledged for once) have outdone themselves, going hog-wild on sheer giddiness. Granted, the show dabbles in standard tricks of the trade in terms of seeking to build suspense, but it’s genuinely witty, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Keep this up, and “Joe Schmo” could really make a name for itself.
As with the two past editions of the series (and there hasn’t been one since 2004), the skein creates a fake reality-show competition, casting one unsuspecting guy (or two in one earlier version) as the mark, while everyone else is an actor. So the question becomes just how silly and out-there the producers can make things in what’s described as a “giant circus … for an audience of one,” before he becomes suspicious and detects the ruse.
Obviously, the real audience is at home, and those viewers are treated to a fake bounty-hunting competition, “The Full Bounty,” with an especially outrageous group of contestants. They include a deaf woman and her interpreter (no, she’s really not), and Lorenzo Lamas — who played a bounty hunter in the series “Renegade” — as, naturally, Lorenzo Lamas, who has hit hard times and is trying to slip his product-placement deal for a tiny “casual pouch” bikini swimsuit into the action.
Aside from rampant silliness, part of the intrigue underlying “Joe Schmo” involves taking an ostensibly nice, ordinary fellow and seeing what ridiculous stunts he’ll perform in the name of “playing the game.” In that respect, it’s one of the few reality shows with an overt social-science component, much like “Candid Camera,” except here, it’s what somebody will do with $100,000 on the line when they actually know people are watching.
Granted, such musings might sound a tad elevated for Spike’s testosterone-oriented niche, but fortunately, the laughs aren’t exactly high-brow. One also has to admire the performers (including original host Ralph Garman, who reprises that role as the tough-talking bounty hunter) for managing to stay in character amid the lunacy and occasional moments where not everything goes according to plan.
All told, it’s as good a reason as any to kick back on the couch in a “casual pouch” and watch Spike, waiting for the inevitable moment when the producers pull back the curtain and say, “It ain’t so, Joe.”