The Joe Schmo Show was a brilliant reality TV parody well ahead its time. The reality TV craze really kicked off around the start of the millennium, thanks to the success of shows like Big Brother and Survivor. The format is still running strong today if the robust success of series like Dancing With The Stars or The Bachelor is anything to go by.
Of course, not everybody is a fan of the format, with the worst examples of reality TV coming across as incredibly vapid or artificial. It didn't take long for movies and TV shows to start parodying reality television, including movies like 2002's Halloween: Resurrection, Series 7: The Contenders, and shows like The Comeback or Comedy Central series Drawn Together. These parodies were scarcely much better than the shows they were making fun of, though both the British and American versions of The Office had a lot of fun with the reality TV format.
One of the few parodies to really nail the format - and be genuinely funny - was 2003's The Joe Schmo Show. This series was created by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Deadpool) and season 1 involved a fake reality show called Lap Of Luxury which had a cash prize of $100,000. The show revolved around Matt Kennedy Gould, who had no idea the show was fake, as he competes against other actors playing reality show archetypes. The original idea behind the show was to make it as awkward as possible for Gould, but his genuine sweetness caused the showrunners to tweak this along the way since it would have been cruel to put such a nice guy through the wringer.
The Joe Schmo Show still milked a lot of laughs from the premise, and future stars like Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters) played parts on the series; comedian Ralph Garman also played Lap Of Luxury's "Smarmy Host." The finale of the first season attracted huge ratings for Spike TV, where Gould learned the truth behind the show, and his genuine befuddlement and earnest "What is going on?" became the show's most iconic moment.
Sadly, The Joe Schmo Show's second season - which parodied shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette - didn't quite catch on in the same way. The series took an eight-year hiatus before Spike greenlit The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty, which aired in 2012. As the title implies, it was a spoof of shows like Dog The Bounty Hunter, with actor Lorenzo Lamas playing himself among the new contestants.
There doesn't appear to be any plans to continue The Joe Schmo Show, which sort of peaked with its hilarious first season. The show was one of the few spoofs to both capture and successfully parody the format, and while it seems to have slipped through the cracks since it first aired in 2003, it deserves some love.