The WB’s latest foray into reality television fancies itself a “social experiment” — one in which half the participants don’t know how to be social and the other half don’t know the word “experiment.” Seven members of the pocket protector squad pair up and trade information with seven women whose careers include cocktail waitress, lingerie model and aspiring fashion expert, all in pursuit of a $250,000 prize. The results are silly and entertaining, if not one bit edifying.
As the pairs face off, proving themselves incapable of identifying either Al Gore’s running mate or the meaning of the DK in DKNY, you’re left wondering which contestant crawled out from under a bigger rock.
Of the seven geeks, three are fairly normal and normal-looking men (though their willingness to appear on the show belies that). This leaves three virgins and a nose-bleeder to help the show live up to its name.
Doing his part is Bill, whose duties as prexy of the “Dukes of Hazzard” fan club keep him so busy he has trouble meeting women. Sadly, no one has explained to Bill it’s not because the club keeps him busy, it’s because the club exists at all.
The cast standout, however, is Richard, described succinctly as a “white Urkel,” who hams it up like an unsexed Woody Allen. The women, classic reality television types, are ditzy, nice and confident of their looks. After their initial horror at the men’s appearances passes, they begin to claim things, like, “These guys are, like, some of the greatest guys I’ve ever met.” Despite the men’s lack of game, there is some spontaneous canoodling, but wisely hook-ups aren’t the show’s mission. If “Average Joe” taught anyone anything, it’s that pairing hot women and normal guys is a loser’s game.
Less fortunately, the show is saddled with an elimination system similar to that of MTV’s “Inferno” in which the two weakest teams duke it out to keep playing. Given the low level of competition, it’s hard to tell which teams deserve to get the boot. More interesting than the elimination rounds are the interactions that take place in the house. The power dynamic that develops there favors the women, who, though they can’t name three states starting with the word New, aren’t socially stigmatized. Ultimately, the men have more at stake: The women don’t want or need them. After the show is done, they return to, for better or worse, happy lives. But the men, besides harboring faint hopes of landing these women, need to learn how to land any woman. If wooing beauties on a TV show doesn’t teach them how to do it, many of them seem fearful they’ll be alone forever — an undercurrent of real emotion that creates some accidental moments of seriousness in an otherwise flip program.