Fox: 'Joe Millionaire' TV Fib OK
Sat Jan 18, 7:32 PM ET
By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES - Fox executives are making no apologies for "Joe Millionaire," the reality series built on a lie.
The female contestants vying for the affections of Evan Marriott were told he's worth $50 million. He's really a $19,000-a-year construction worker, according to Fox.
"I think that when people get involved in these unscripted shows these days, they know they're in for a ride," Gail Berman, Fox's entertainment president, told the Television Critics Association.
The women of "Joe Millionaire" are eager to take part in post-production publicity, an indication they were satisfied with the series, Berman said Saturday.
Marriott, 28, already has turned out to be more than a construction worker: He posed for underwear ads. There's been speculation that a real plot twist could be in store — that Marriott actually may be wealthy.
Asked about that possibility, Berman was guarded.
"What we presented to the American public in our promos is accurate," she said. "We are not lying to them."
Berman was asked if the public would feel it had been deceived when the show's finale airs Feb. 17.
"I think the American public is going to be extremely satisfied by the ending of this show, extremely satisfied," she replied.
In a later session with reporters, Marriott described a life that made him sound far from wealthy. His trade was hard hit by the post-Sept. 11 economic slump.
"A lot of the reason I did the show is I had such a bad year financially. I couldn't afford a bed," he said.
His parents are comfortable but not extremely affluent, Marriott said. His father worked two jobs, as a banker and teacher, and was a Marine Corps reservist, while his mother was primarily a homemaker.
"We weren't living in poverty but my parents struggled to make sure my sister and I had nice things," Marriott said.
He's worked a variety of jobs, including doorman and model, as he's tried to "find himself," he said. He dropped out of high school, Marriott said.
As for his newfound celebrity, Marriott called it "freaky." He was amused by various rumors circulating about him, but also said he found it uncomfortable to disclose his limited education.
"Joe Millionaire" has proven a hit for Fox, gaining the upscale viewers advertisers like to reach. It's the No. 3 show among adults 18 to 49 who earn $75,000 a year or more, behind NBC's "Friends" and "ER," the network said.
On March 10, another reality show, "Married by America," will take over the "Joe Millionaire" 9 p.m. EST Monday time slot.