Welcome to the latest installment of “Average Joe,” the show where a passel of regular guys tries to win the heart of a beautiful model. This is either the third in the series or the fourth, depending on whether you count that “Adam Strikes Back” crap, or whatever it was called. NBC chooses to go with 4. I don’t care enough to quibble.
Back many moons ago, when the first “Average Joe” aired, there was a lot of heated debate over the exploitation inherent in purposely choosing the geeky, the nerdy, the obese, and the just plain weird to be humiliated on national TV by a generic beauty.
But as we all saw, the Joes quickly became the stars of the show, and those on their side rooted for them to NOT win the girl. And they didn’t – every time, the Joes have competed with vapid hunks, and every time, the girl has chosen the pretty boy. I mean, if this was a social experiment, it failed by at least the time “Average Joe: Hawaii” was on. Gorgeous girls don’t pick geeks. Nor should they. Leave the smart boys for the rest of us, you stick-insect model types, and keep on choosing the brainless pretty boys. If Darwin was right, you’ll stupid yourselves out of existence in a millennia or so, and us nerdy girls will be left to be the new standard of pretty. (I’m guessing, actually, that might be a self-perpetuating cycle. Hmm.)
This time, our un-hunks haven’t been hoodwinked into thinking they’re on a different show, only to be told the ego-busting news that they were chosen for their plainness. In fact, this time I’m not sure how they were recruited, but the law of averages – no pun intended – suggests that at least some of them watch the occasional reality show and even if they never saw the previous incarnations of this one, they should be smart enough to know the golden rule of reality tv: the producers are not on your side.
This year an assortment of hunks will again be part of the mix, and previews suggest they behave badly. Further needless previews inform us that our beauty will kiss several men, some will develop feelings for her, the hunkholes will arrive in flashy red cars, a fight might occur, a hidden camera will catch someone tomcatting in a bar, and – in a hazy shot that probably is complete misdirection – one guy gets down on one knee in a proposal pose. Yikes!
But the biggest change? Each week one Joe will get a makeover, from a personal trainer to liposuction, and a chance to go back to wow the girl. Whether any of them will decide that a girl who didn’t want them when they were average is worth it if she chooses them when they’re hot, remains to be seen.
If Mother Theresa Was a Hot Model
A montage of self-descriptions from the guys includes various claims of a “flashy mind,” and the virtues of being “good big fat.” We’ll meet these catches later on.
In the meantime, meet Anna, this season’s Beauty to her harem of Beasts. Anna, a cute redhead, is a model from Las Vegas. She’s 26, her parents emigrated from Poland, her dad is a truck driver, and she says she’s energetic, happy and romantic. I’ll just go ahead and say she does seem to be all of those things. Actually, she’s so nice I’m about to choke on the syrupy sweetness. She’s excited, she’s perky, she’s emotional – there doesn’t seem to be a mean or sarcastic bone in her body. *sigh* This might be a bit too much for my withered little black heart to take.
Anna will be living on a big-ass yacht, which she just loves, it’s so much, she’s so lucky, her parents would be so proud. *sniff* As she weeps upon seeing the huge master bedroom, I hope the producers feel at least a twinge of guilt at the trick they’re about to perpetrate upon the World’s Sweetest Model.
Because, as it turns out, Anna claims to have never heard of Average Joe before. She says she’s been taking night classes for two years and missed a lot of reality shows. And probably when she wasn’t doing that, she was knitting warm caps for mice to wear in the winter, or visiting the sick, or being a candystriper. She’s just that type of girl. You can’t hate her. But I’ll do my best.
Anna says the key to her heart is simple things, like a love note left on her car. Say it with me, people – awwww. She also says this is the first time in nine years that she’s been single. We’re not told if she’s dated the same guy for all these nine years – since she was 17 – or whether she’s just a serial dater.
The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain Odd
Anyway, Anna might be the focus of the guys’ attention, but she’s not nearly as interesting as they are. We get a few introductions up front, and yet others barely even rate a name caption while they’re talking. But I’m going to try to round them all up, using the twin powers of VCR and Google. And I’m going to rate their chances, based on the highly scientific measurement of Lucy’s Gut Feeling (the vaunted LGF Index):
Dante: A 34-year-old waiter with Ronald McDonald hair and bizarre glasses, Dante looks like the kind of lifelong gamer who probably does something cool with the music industry. Instead, judging at least on the first episode, he’s softer and more sentimental than … well, than anything. He’s going to be an odd one. And this group sets the “odd” bar pretty high. Also, the caption under him says his name is "Dante Alighieri", which I don't quite buy, since that's the name of the real, original, author-of-The Divine Comedy, died-in-1321 Dante. Hmmm. Dante, I'm watching you.
LGF: He’s the David Daskell. He’ll stay long enough to lure viewers to watch the odd guy, but no way is she picking him in the end.
Chuck: 36, also a waiter, Chuck looks like he spends most of his time working out. The boy is muscled. And he shaves his head, generally giving the appearance of a bouncer. I highly doubt he has trouble getting women. He tells us people expect him to have a large dog, but in reality he has a cat named Rachel. Which I guess means he’s really just a big old softie.
LGF: He’s the Fredo – tough outside, soft nougat center. Unless she towers over him, he’ll stay a while.
Arthur: Looks like a young, thinner Jackie Gleason. Arthur says he won’t get women with his looks, but that his mouth is his tool – he has the gift of gab. Given that we’ll be seeing a lot of Arthur’s humorous asides to the camera in the next hour, I guess that’s true.
LGF: Arthur’s the one in the end. He might not beat a hunk, but he’ll be the last Joe standing. Y'all mark my words (unless he’s eliminated, in which case I’ll deny everything), this one’s the one to watch.
Igor: No hump, but a lot of lumps. Igor is a bartender and has a LOT of confidence in his ability to attract women, despite an overabundance of body hair and the total absence of table manners.
LGF: He’ll make the first cut or two, but not much more. He’s good TV – sort of like watching a fuzzy, friendly trainwreck.
Jason: a 22-year-old law student, he looks even younger. He got a 1550 on his SAT but his brother still did better.
LGF: A nice guy she’ll hate to cut, but too young to survive till the end.
Damian: A proud member of Mensa, who thinks that hurts his chances with the laydeez.
LGF: A high IQ doesn’t set him far apart in this group. He’s a short-timer.
Harold: Truly average-looking, Harold claims his friends call him “Solid Gold”, or “Gold” for short. Look, boys, if your name is Andrew and people call you Drew, ok, tell people that. But if your name is Harold and people call you Solid Gold, for heaven’s sake, keep it to yourself. Have some dignity, people.
LGF: He might as well keep his gold ass on the bus. You don’t need a gut feeling index to see that.
Aaron: A self-proclaimed nerd who hopefully declares, “Geek is chic now. Right?” Aaron’s clearly smart and has a self-deprecating sense of humor. He also reminds me of an ex-boyfriend, but I’ll forgive him. For now.
LGF: Probably too self-deprecating to be sexy, but will make it through a few eliminations.
Bill: A redhead, he’s hesitant to date a redhead. “Two reds don’t make a right,” he jokes. You don’t say. Besides, I think Anna's a Clairol girl.
LGF: Obviously I’ve seen how this episode ends, so I don’t know why I’m bothering. [/foreshadowing]
Nick: 22, an extremely annoying magician. Poor thing.
LGF: Here’s a magic trick: make yourself vanish.
Clay: The virgin. ‘Nuff said.
LGF: See above. I mean, good for him and all, but I watch a lot of reality tv, and the token virgin NEVER wins. Ever. He will lose to hairier, uglier and stupider Joes, believe me.
Josh #1: A construction worker with long hair and a Jesus look going. Kinda hot.
LGF: He’s cute, so we’ll see what his personality is like, but he’s probably good for a couple of cuts.
Josh #2: Nerd glasses, and also kinda cute.
LGF: Same as above – his personality will make him or break him. Don’t know yet what it is, though, and if he doesn’t show one soon, he’s out.
Matt: He’s in a band and is 5 foot 5. That’s all I got, folks, he barely got air time.
Gino: A 35-year-old guy that does pest control. Also a bit hairy.
LGF: Nope. Not making it to the end.
Nathan: Who? I don’t think he’s visible until he gets off the bus to meet Anna.
LGF: Well, with that kind of track record, he’s not likely to show enough personality to last long.
Aaron: Yes, another one. This one shall be Big Aaron, because it won’t matter for long. He thinks he’s in the “top tier” of the Joes, and generally has an ego that far outstrips his abilities.
LGF: See ya, sucker.
Dan: I totally forgot he was even there. He’s either extremely shy or well-trained in the art of blending into the background.
LGF: Meh. Middle-tier.
The Losah, the Leaver and Daaaaaaskell
The men gather in a gym for what is apparently an Average Joe orientation session, led by none other than three of the most talked-about AJs from the Hawaii season – Brian, of the Boston accent, who lost whatshername to a brainless hunk; Fredo, who I always thought was hot in a scruffy, bad-boy way, who left the show after spying whatshername canoodling with someone else on a beach; and David Daskell, the Carrot Top of Average Joe, who doesn’t need to be back on my TV screen, ever.
“There is honah in being called an Average Joe,” Brian intones, his seriousness marred by that accent. He tells the assorted new Joes that Anna is a model with a business degree, and eyebrows wiggle impressively along the bleachers. Wow! A pretty girl who might….have a brain! I can see every one of them mentally flashing on their wall poster of Tina Fey. Drool appears at the corner of their mouths.
But it won’t be all wine and roses, using their brains to win over the pretty girl, Fredo warns. “The producers on this show are sneaky bastards,” he says, cutting straight to the chase. (If you don’t remember, the producers also put Fredo in a submarine to spy on whatshername. Sneaky indeed.)
Fredo warns them about the hunks, and tells them not to be intimidated. They all nod, as if they don’t still have nightmares in which hunks give them swirlies.
Daskell’s advice is not to change for anyone. Since this season features full makeovers, I’m not sure what purpose Daskell’s advice serves, except perhaps to confuse everyone.
Chuck appears delighted to have the advice of AJ veterans. “They’ve been there, they’ve been through this stuff, they’re telling us it’s going to work out.” Easy there, Chuck. It’s not like they’re Navy SEALs telling you how to reenact their victorious raid on a platoon of guerillas armed with bazookas.
If You Can Dodge a Wrench, You Can Dodge a Ball
Fredo then notes an oddity I myself had noticed – there are guys sitting there who are not in our list of bios. Well, the way Fredo puts it, there are 22 guys and only 18 slots and they’re going to have to compete to get in. Seems like NBC’s just foreshadowing willy-nilly, since I can already spot the losers of this one, and it’s not through the LGF Index, it’s because I looked at the NBC site.
The first challenge is a useless and modified form of dodgeball in which the Joes throw balls at a row of weighted punching bags with the pictures of last season’s hunks.
The second, and far more entertaining one, is the “special skills event.”
Nick does magic with rubber bands. I can’t imagine why no one invites him to parties.
One of the guys who clearly will not be making it through is a tattooed, bewhiskered, self-described “sideshow freak” who can breath fire and make flames come out of his eyeballs. Ouch. Although that’s a talent that could come in handy, I guess.
The funniest one, though, is Dante, who enters in a leotard and proceeds to do an interpretive dance with streamers. *jazz hands* He says softly that he’s just trying to make people laugh and be happy.
The third challenge is a mock date with whatshername, who I finally am told is Larissa. Brian, who was dumped by Larissa, is somehow able to overcome the pain and stand by while Joe wannabes come in and try their best lines on her. I’m not surprised that these consist largely of “so, where are you from?” I am surprised that no one asks her her IQ or how well she can do at Everquest. Brian shakes his head.
Finally, we’re back to dodgeball, although this time the guys are the targets. I loved that movie, and laughed far harder than any intelligent woman should at the scenes of people being hit in the head by metal tools and rubber balls. It’s very similar, although not quite as funny, when David Daskell uses a machine to shoot dodgeballs at the Joes. Some embrace it, knocking balls away right and left. Others go down within seconds, curling into fetal positions on the floor.
Challenges over, Brian notes again that only “18 of youse” will be chosen. The three old hands call out 18 names, the last being Clay, who says it hurts a bit. Well, Clay, maybe they were saving it for you so it would be special.
Down the Rabbit Hole
The Joes climb on a bus and are taken to the mansion where they’ll be living. Like all reality-show mansions, this one is an odd amalgamation of manicured grounds, large swimming pools, and so few bedrooms they’re forced to bunk together. Odd floor plans they have in mansions out there in California.
Upon arriving, they all “darted like vultures for the kitchen,” as Arthur says. There, Igor shovels food, table decorations and small children into his mouth. Someone says watching him eat is like watching Jim Belushi in “Animal House.” Table manners are evidently not Igor’s strength.
Incidentally – and this may explain why no one else is eating much – Igor takes off his shirt to reveal tattoos, manboobs and back hair. I can deal with exactly one of those, and I think you can all guess which one it is. Hint: it involves needles.
As the Joes get to know each other, they make a few more random observations: someone thinks Nick’s magic is creepy, *I* think Dante is so white he’s almost translucent as he belly-flops into the pool, and they collectively agree that Josh #1, henceforth to be known as Jesus Josh, looks like the Messiah.
Back at the yacht, Anna coos that she does believe in love at first sight. Cut to a shot of the Joes lined up shirtless, in all their pudgy, hairy, slope-shouldered wonder. Yeah, best of luck to Anna on that.
So Much For Love At First Sight
Finally – six pages into this bloody recap – it’s time for Anna and her Joes to meet. They’ll be doing this on a beach, in daylight. Hey, I’m just handicapping the challenge, here.
Poor Anna. Dante gets off the bus first, and she’s obviously surprised, murmuring “oh my god” as he bounces over the sand towards her. He gives her a tinfoil rose – isn’t that one of those simple things that win her over? Dante goes off and gets teary about the goodness he sensed from her. See what I mean? He’s quirky all right, but not in the way you’d think.
Aaron comes next, and tells us his mother’s a redhead. That might not be a good sign.
Clay thinks she’s beautiful, Nick introduces himself as a magician, Harold tells a stupid joke, Jesus Josh runs up to her sideways like a nutter, and chews gum.
Matt, whom we’ve hardly seen before, tells us he’s 5 foot 5, and admits that being short is a handicap with the ladies. He tells Anna she’s adorable.
My boy Arthur kisses her hand and tells her she’s stunning. Jason brings chocolates. The Other Josh nearly falls in the sand. Gino tells her his family’s from Italy, which is, like, almost close to Poland. Except for, you know, Austria and the Czech Republic. Minor hurdles.
Igor comes out to heavy metal music – I think that’s just played for us, not for Anna – indicating that to the producers, at least, Igor has already developed a character. He again reiterates that he has no trouble with women.
To Anna’s relief, the bus door finally closes for good. She’s seen the worst. Now she just has to figure out why she didn’t get a bevy of beauties.
As usual, a hidden camera records for us Anna’s private reaction. She tells producers that these guys aren’t the type she’d typically date, and she jokes that she hopes there have been psychological screenings. Or, I guess it’s a joke. Although between Nick’s magic, Jesus Josh’s weird sideways run, and Igor’s inflated self-confidence, I guess she has cause to wonder.
But, Anna adds, they all seem sweet and she still feels like a princess. Since this is the end of the hidden camera work, I guess she never said anything nastier than what I noted above, because you know if she did we’d have seen it.
Getting All Freaky Naughty
Now that the introductions are over, it’s time for all the in-depth get-to-know-you business that a cocktail party of 18 men and 1 woman can bring. Anna approaches the party area and is swarmed by men behaving as if she’s a veela, shouting out that they’re financial consultants or in a band or whatever they’ve got to set themselves apart.
Harold, unfortunately, admits that he quit his job to come on the show and thus is unemployed. Yes, because women love unemployed men, and we love even more being told it’s our fault. Real solid gold maneuver there, bucko.
Igor decides that the scrum around Anna is too much, and he’ll just finish his large plate of food. Other Josh also recoils from the clamoring masses, saying it reminds him too much of the New York bar scene. If the New York bar scene regularly involves a dozen men clamoring for the attention of one woman, I’m packing my bags now. Assuming that woman would be me, of course. If I want to see men swarming other women, I can stay right here for that.
Nick, of course, must do a magic trick, but he’s in love the second Anna shows him a card trick he didn’t know. Ah, the pleasures of the young and easily impressed.
Finally Anna breaks from the pack for some one-on-one conversations. She tells Jesus Josh that she does construction too, including welding, which throws ME for a loop. She just got a LOT more interesting. And dude – that’s one of the best slashies ever! Model/welder! You don’t see that on reality tv every day.
Jesus Josh is impressed too, and says he likes a girl who doesn’t mind getting dirty.
Nick, not content to totally weird Anna out with his constant crappy magic tricks, also volunteers that he had a two-year relationship that ended when she ran off with his best friend. Anna’s eyes clearly say “restraining order, party of one.”
Proving that stupidity is not confined to the magical, Big Aaron also puts his foot in his mouth. He tells Anna that while people say he looks like Ben Affleck – har. Not. – he thinks he looks more like JFK Jr. As if being delusional isn’t bad enough, he seals his fate by also being crass. “Ok, the guy’s dead, but I’m the next best thing in line,” Aaron says, a line that comes off in print just as bad as it did when he said it.
Arthur sings her a swingy little song, which would sound completely dorky from most men, but Arthur manages to pull it off. I’m telling you people, he’s going far.
Dante tells Anna that he can tell from her energy that she’s a very good and kind person. Oh, help.
By the end of this cocktail party, Anna claims to be excited, and the poor Joes are all half in love.
Unfortunately for them, six of them are going home, and it’s time for her to choose.
All that Glitters Is Not Gold
Big Aaron is first to go. Hah! Take that, fool. He’s shocked, not surprisingly, because he had “complete confidence” that those other losers would be going home. Evidently he’s oblivious to his own boorishness. He claims it’s rigged, because he thinks there’s a physical type that would stay, and that there are people remaining who are less her type. Because, of course, he discovered Anna’s type during his domination of his own brief conversation with her. And you know what else, Aaron? You don’t look like JFK Jr. Not one bit. Adios.
Not so Gold: Harold’s the next to go. He thinks her choice is a mistake because he “coule have taken her places she’s never been,” and not just in the “Hey, let’s go see the Grand Canyon” sense. Ew.
What Good is that IQ?: Damian’s out. He thinks he just didn’t make a good connection with Anna.
Two Reds Make a Wrong: Bill the redhead is gone. Anna says she enjoyed talking to him but it just didn’t seem right. She gets a bit teary.
Who?: Matt, the short boy in a band, is next. He notes that a model isn’t ever going to end up with half the guys who are left. Well, really, that’s the premise of the show, isn’t it?
Losing the Magic: Nick goes off in a puff of smoke. He’s shocked and upset – after all, this girl did a card trick! It was love! “I worked hard to get here and I put a lot of effort into it,” he says, making dating sound like the National Spelling Bee. “I guess I need to go home and work on the magic.” If he means that as a cheesy pun, ew. If he means it literally, he must. Be. Stopped. No more magic!
One Pill Makes You Larger, the Other Pill Makes You Small. And The Ones That Mother Gives You Don’t Do Anything at All
And that’s it, that’s six. Anna gathers with her remaining suitors, and we should fade to black …. But wait! One of the six gets a makeover! And it is …. Nick. Oh, lord. Why him? Why couldn’t they cut Bill’s hair or lipo Aaron’s jawline? I’m weary to death of Nick. Off with his head!
In the TV world’s fastest makeover segment, a nutritionist tells Nick he’s got 45 pounds of extra body fat. A trainer says it’s obvious he hasn’t worked out in years. Some eyebrow expert deems his pointy brows “creepy.” And a “life coach” watches a tape of Nick’s performance with Anna – the magic, the ex-girlfriend story – and advises him to shut up about them both.
Then, a plastic surgeon spots nonexistent undereye bags, and siphons off “fat pads” along his jawline. A new haircut, a new suit, and Nick is supposedly a new man, although really, I can’t tell much of a difference at all.
The models arrive to wreak havoc. Doom!
If you're Arthur or Fredo, email me at email@example.com Oh, all right, the rest of you can come, too. Except Daskell.