Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

IF THIS WAS GOING TO BE THE RESULT, WHY EVEN TRY? That, I have to admit, is what I'm thinking about the second season of Joe Millionaire. I firmly believe the first time around was an unqualified success. I think, in fact, that it was the highest achievement of the early-21st century "find-your-soulmate" genre of reality TV. "The Bachelor" may have done it first, and "Married By America" may have been the most outlandish, but Joe will always be the best. The first Joe had three big things going for it. It had a brilliant, original premise. It was perfectly cast. And it was brilliantly edited. (This third point was the real secret of the show's success. The producers led the audience around by the nose, but always barely perceptively. We were set up to root for the eventual winner, Zora, from the first episode, without knowing, until the very end, what was happening. We were made to subconsciously anticipate events, but nevertheless to be blown away consciously when they actually happened.)

In the second season, much of what initially worked in the original Joe is gone. The premise, still clever, obviously isn't original anymore. We know what happens when Joe reveals he doesn't actually have a fortune. We saw it last winter. Might the woman he chooses this time react differently? Sure. If we did the show 150 times, using control groups and statistical sampling to get the proper makeup of Joes and women, might we get useful statistical data as to how women in these situations react? I suppose. But who cares? This isn't science; it's TV. Show me something new or move along. (How's that for the jaded product of a media-saturated era.)

The editing's not great either, but that's not the real problem. The real problem is casting. Who are these European chicks. Allow me to describe who I remember from tonight's episode: the black woman from Berlin. the Italian woman with the faux-Hindu dot on her forehead. the really hot Czech. the kinda-horsey/kinda-hot German blonde. the Swedish "freelance fashion designer" (which I interpret as a euphemism for "unemployed"). Notice that I'm not using their names? That's because I don't know their names. I know them only by vague physical description.

Contrast that to the original Joe. After one episode, you could easily distinguish: Zora, MoJo, Heidi. By episode two, you knew Sarah, Melissa M., the incomparable Alison, plus a whole host of women who weren't even coming back. They were all individuals, weird characters, distinct and distinguishable. The Euros all seem alike to me; all equally over-tanned, ditzy, catty, overtly gold-digging in a way the Americans never allowed themselves to be. Which is to say: they're all Heidi, in different bodies. And Heidi was fun to watch, for a while. But I can't watch a show of 12 Heidis chasing after one Joe. (who is himself much less well cast than Evan, the original Joe. David's too aww-shucks dumb. Evan had a kind of down-to-earth-yet-arrogant dumbness that really worked with the premise)

Maybe I'll give it one more week. After all, he brought back the hot Czech. But if it doesn't improve, I'll leave it behind, and pretend it never happened. It's not like I don't have other things to be doing on a Monday night: I'm a law student, for Christ's sake. But I'll always have that magical moment when Evan and Sarah went off into the woods to (SLURP!)**(GULP!) No crappy sequel can EVER take that away from me. Ever.