Spike TV's hit comes to DVD with everything you'd expect in a reality show; the smug host, the stereotypical contestants ("the blonde virgin," "the bitch," "the guy nobody likes," etc.), and of course, the over-the-top competitions. So what made Joe Schmo
Spike TV's first season of The Joe Schmo Show
is a real-life variation on the Jim Carrey comedy The Truman Show
, in which Carrey played a man unaware he is the star of a television series, living on an enormous set and surrounded by actors playing family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Joe Schmo
fools a gregarious, likable 27-year-old fellow, Matt Kennedy Gould, into believing he's part of the cast of a reality-TV program called Lap of Luxury
, competing for a $100,000 prize by surviving humiliating trials and those inevitable, once-per-week evictions of unlucky contestants. What Gould doesn't know is that his competitors--all living in the same house under the watchful eye of an ubiquitous production crew--are all actors playing sundry reality-TV stereotypes: the token gay guy, the good-looking sweetheart, the good-looking bitch, the clown, Mr. Macho, the borderline-pariah, etc.
The eight episodes in The Joe Schmo Show: Season One Uncensored look and sound like any other reality gimmick, though part of what makes the series fun are little risk elements that threaten to blow open the whole scheme or at least create suspicion in Gould's mind. There are several occasions in which one or another actor gets confused about a character detail and Gould wonders about apparent contradictions; once or twice, actors have to leave a situation because they are close to cracking up. For the most part, however, the tall, gullible, good-natured hero bonds with his "housemates" and keeps a smile on while participating in underwear-swapping contests, gross-out meals, and tense elimination rituals. The final episode, in which Gould is told the truth, is surprisingly moving. This DVD set includes extensive supplementary material, including Gould's after-the-fact, mixed responses to many of his experiences. --Tom Keogh