Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2002 / 30 Kislev, 5763

Jerry Nachman

Jerry Nachman
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Consumer Reports

The newest installment in reality TV: But what if your dream guy turns out to be... poor? | This January, 20 women have been invited to a chateau in France to win the affection of one man who's wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. He's handsome, he's charming and he's everything a woman could want.

But things aren't always what they seem. If you're suffering withdrawal pains from the emotional final episode of "The Bachelor," get ready for "Joe Millionaire." This time, there will be a big surprise for the woman who thinks she met prince charming.

Get ready for "Joe Millionaire" and his harem: It's scheduled to debut next month on Fox, the network that gave us, "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?"

You remember that mere disaster involving Rick Rockwell and the bride he picked, Darva Conger? "Joe Millionaire" may not end happily either based on what's leaking out. Apparently Joe isn't precisely a millionaire. He's really a construction worker who makes $19,000 a year.

The "Fox Insider" is quoted in the "Daily Variety" as saying, "It's the gold diggers and the ditch digger." It's a mean twist.

"Mike Darnell, who is kind of like the P.T. Barnum of reality TV, may have another hit on his hands," says TV Guide media columnist Max Robins.

This is the set-up: The women are being hoodwinked and they don't find out until the final day that this guy they've been falling in love with is really a bum.

"I guess the idea is that we'll find out if this is love or the love of the almighty green," says Robins.

This premise might find it's problems with feminists and media critics.

"I have several problems with it," says Paul Farhi already, who covers pop culture for The Washington Post.

"I got to ask, who is being more cynical here? Is it Fox, is it the women who go on the show, or is it the viewers who will watch it? I think it's an absolute loser. It not surprisingly comes from the same company that did 'Temptation Island.'"

"Temptation Island," was another reality show where couples' loyalties were tested when they were isolated in an island with scores of other gorgeous singles. "'Temptation Island' started real strong, very popular, curiosity factor, went into an absolute nosedive thereafter. This is the same kind of thing," says Farhi.

"The Bachelor," says Farhi, played on a very positive fantasy. "The idea is that a woman could meet someone, fall in love and live happily ever after. 'Joe Millionaire' turns on a very cynical idea, which is, women are gold diggers and that they can be fooled into acting like idiots for the love of a man. In this specific case, you're talking about playing on the worst aspects of human nature. Women don't want to be made to look like fools. That's what this show does. You can get 20 people to do anything on television. The question is, can you get millions of people to watch them do anything on television?"

"TV viewers want a sort of positive fantasy," adds Farhi. "Joe Millionaire is sort of un-American, not in an unpatriotic way, but in a way that is against American values."

Despite this, Robins thinks that "Joe Millionaire" will be watched. "As sad as a commentary as that may be, this is voyeurism - voyeur vision, if you will. I think they're going to find an audience."

JWR contributor Jerry Nachman is vice president and editor-in-chief of MSNBC, and the host of “Nachman,” which airs at 5 p.m. ET, weekdays on MSNBC. A former radio reporter, newspaper Editor-in-Chief, and even Hollywood screenwriter, he is the recipient of the prestigious Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association and an Emmy Award, plus numerous others. He has served twice as a Pulitzer Prize Juror in the Journalism competition. Comment by clicking here.


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