'Average Joe' Ups the Ante in Hawaii

(Thursday, January 01 12:05 AM)
By Rick Porter

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - The producers of "Average Joe" have an idea of why their show's premise -- less-than-beautiful guys trying to win the affection of an attractive woman -- went over so well.

"What we tried to do is create a show we all could relate to," says executive producer Stuart Krasnow ("Weakest Link," "Dog Eat Dog"). "In doing the first series, when the guys were moving into the house, [fellow exec producer Andrew Glassman] and I just looked at each other and were like 'This is the most real thing we've ever done.'"

Krasnow and Glassman will try to capture that feeling again next week with a second edition of the show. "Average Joe: Hawaii" is scheduled to debut at 10 p.m. ET Monday (Jan. 5) on NBC. Larissa Meek, a 25-year-old artist, model and former Miss Missouri USA, takes Melana Scantlin's place as the beauty in question.

The network is also hoping "Hawaii," which was taped before the first series aired, will build on the ratings momentum of the first series. With little advance promotion, the first "Average Joe" brought in about 12.6 million viewers a week over its six-episode run, with a high of 17.4 million viewers for the Dec. 9 finale. It also performed well among the 18- to 49-year-olds by which NBC measures success and among the elusive "upscale" viewers.
Krasnow has a theory on the show's success among affluent watchers as well.

"I think a lot of the audience that's upscale tends to look down on reality shows, because they sort of see them as just [contrived], Frankenstein TV adventures that have nothing to do with reality," he says. "I think ... it really helps that even people who are snobby about reality shows can say 'Hey, I know a guy like that.'"

The basic premise of "Average Joe: Hawaii" remains the same as that of its predecessor. Meek, believing she's taking part in a "Bachelorette"-like dating show, has her expectations tripped up when the 18 guys she meets are anything but the himbo types usually prominent on such series.

She then has to overcome her initial shock -- which, judging by NBC's promos for the show, is profound -- and get to know the Joes.

"My reaction was that of looking at other reality shows out there and having a conception of what to expect," Meek says. "I was surprised -- it wasn't what I was expecting. It was an honest reaction."

Meek says she never considered walking out on the show (although a backup woman was on hand just in case), nor was she angry with the producers.

"It's just a lot of pressure to be under in any situation, regardless of the guys who are going to be there vying for my attention," she says. "I had to deal with it and get into the mindset to be there for the guys and not make the judgments that we all tend to do."

Midway through the series, as Meek is growing closer to some of the Joes, a group of eight hot guys (up from three the first time around) join the game. The contrast doesn't end with looks; Krasnow and Glassman aren't shy about noting that while the Joes tend to have made the most of their careers and other interests, the hotties are pretty much all about their hotness.

"The show is about choosing between guys from two worlds, and we want it to be a clear-cut choice," Glassman says. "Every one of the hot guys you'll meet in 'Hawaii,' they're great guys in their own right, they have interests, they have jobs, but you can always add '/model' to the end of whatever their current career choice is."

Adds Krasnow: "I think if we're being accused of stacking the deck, sure. Guilty."

Naturally, the people involved aren't saying how things turn out, nor will they reveal any of the other twists "Average Joe: Hawaii" has in store. Meek does say, however, that after going through the experience, she'd do it "a million times over."

"Even though I was initially shocked, this is an amazing group of guys," she says. "... Most people are lucky to meet one amazing person in their lives, and I was fortunate enough to meet a group of 26."