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'Joe Millionaire': A Sad Reality?

Fox is at it again.

by Mark D. Johnson
January 5, 2003

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'Joe Millionaire': A Sad Reality?_Mark D. Johnson-Fox is at it again. Joe Millionaire
Mondays at 9/8c on Fox

Fox has been heavily promoting its latest controversial foray into unscripted programming, also known as Reality TV, and considered by many to be Trash TV. From the network that brought you the cringe-inducing hits “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” and “Temptation Island” comes “Joe Millionaire,” which debuts Monday, January 6.

The premise, in case you haven’t heard: twenty women travel to France to vie for the affection of a handsome heir to a 50 million dollar fortune who is looking to share his newfound wealth with one special lady. Thing is, he’s not really a millionaire; he’s a construction worker and part-time model who earns a reported $19,000 a year. The big question is when “Joe” (Evan Marriott) chooses his mate, will she still profess her love after learning the truth?

Sound funny? Fox is banking on it, but not everybody is laughing. USA Today ran an editorial last week criticizing Fox for setting these women up for ridicule. Of course, the people who run Fox aren’t likely to feel any shame – they’ve heard it all before and couldn’t care less. It also goes without saying that we, as a society, should be scrutinizing these reality-based shows closely, not just to consider any negative impact to the audience, but the potential for the exploitation of unsuspecting contestants.

But wait: aren’t those who audition for these shows just greedy, fame-hungry freaks who deserve any embarrassment that may befall them during their Fifteen Minutes? Well, I have to admit that I don’t have much respect for gold-diggers, and I can see how viewers might get caught up in seeing these women pulling out all the stops for a “lowly” blue collar worker, but I am concerned that Fox is too comfortable toying with the lives of regular people for the sake of entertainment.

There is, of course, the chance that Marriott’s pick will choose to stay with him despite the lie. My only problem with the USA Today editorial is that they had not yet seen the show. It is akin to condemning the Harry Potter books without having read them. I’m guessing that the show will not be worth watching, but will do well in the ratings, and none involved will suffer greatly. Fox is on perennial probation when it comes to its reality programming, but I doubt they’re really pushing the envelope as hard as they’d like you to think they are.

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