Contestant doesn't buy 'Schmo' ruse
An Agoura Hills series, in which actors pretend to be contestants on a fake reality show, failed to fool one of the two dupes -- a woman who has monitored foreign elections.
By Dave Mason, June 27, 2004
On Tuesday's episode of "Joe Schmo 2," Ingrid Wiese, a contractor with the United Nations and governmental agencies, will get confirmation that her suspicions are correct: The "reality" show "Last Chance for Love" is fake. "Joe Schmo 2" airs at 10 p.m. and is Spike TV's highest-rated original series.
The show's premise is that Wiese and Tim Walsh, both Washington, D.C., residents, are being misled to believe they're on a reality show, "Last Chance for Love." They're supposedly competing with other men and women for the affections of bachelor Austin Newton Rice (actor Tim Herzog) and bachelorette Piper Davidson (Valerie Azlynn). But actually, everyone on the show except Wiese and Walsh are actors. (So far, Walsh hasn't figured out he's being misled.) "I tortured the producers," Wiese joked, laughing.
The episodes showed executive producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and others in the control booth talking quickly to figure out how to keep fooling Wiese, who voiced suspicions from the start. There were clues
In a phone interview last week, Wiese, 30, praised the actors but said she saw several clues that the series, filmed at an Agoura Hills mansion, was fake. The last straw was when Cammy (played by Jana Speaker) told her in the episode airing Tuesday that she was worried about her pornographic past catching up with her. That was too over-the-top for Wiese.
But even then, Wiese, who was enjoying the experience, said she didn't tell the producers she knew she was being misled. "I didn't want them to kick me off the show; I wanted to see what would happen next." But Wiese said the producers could see she had the whole thing figured out, and Tuesday, British host Derek Newcastle (played by American actor Ralph Garman) lists all the things that made her suspicious and tells her she's right. (The series will continue with the actors trying to keep Walsh fooled.)
"A feeling of relief washed over me," Wiese said. "I realized, 'I'm not crazy. I'm not paranoid.' "
Wiese's suspicions about the series began soon after a casting director followed Wiese and a friend out of a bar in Washington, D.C. When Wiese asked if she could e-mail back a questionnaire the director requested, she was given a Yahoo address.
"They were being very secretive about the origin of this show," Wiese said. "We didn't even know the name of the show." The casting director simply told Wiese it was a reality relationship show.
"My initial feeling was this was going to be a comedy," Wiese said about her first day of filming in March in Agoura Hills. "I was told this was an MTV production. I didn't think the other people were actors, but I never took this seriously."
She said she came on the show for the adventure and a payment of $10,000. But her suspicions rose again when she asked fellow contestant Veronica how she got on the show. The actress playing Veronica slipped and said she got a call from her agent.
Other clues followed. Fellow contestant Ernie Gallo, the supposed heir to Julio Gallo, got away with interrupting Newcastle, the host, with a Shakespearean quote. Strangely, that scene wasn't reshot even though other scenes interrupted by distractions such as airplanes had to be refilmed, Wiese said.
She also got suspicious when Ernie (Steve Mallory) gave gifts in envelopes to the other contestants. "I thought, 'How did he know the exact number of envelopes to give out?' " Wiese said.
Wiese said she also thought it was odd that her fellow female contestants gave what sounded like scripted monologues as they talked to Austin during the first elimination round.
"I knew Ernie was fake; I knew Cammy was fake. I knew Tim was real," Wiese said.
In addition, Wiese said she caught some of the actors being referred to by their real names instead of their characters' names.
Those characters include a drunk, Rita (Natasha Leggero) -- Wiese, who used to work in bars, didn't think she was really drunk -- and Bryce the stalker (Kevin Kirkpatrick), who kept professing his love for Piper even after she kicked him off the show. Take it down a notch
In another interview earlier this month, Reese said the producers had to walk the tightrope between making the series a funny spoof of reality shows and believable for Wiese and Walsh, a bartender and entrepreneur. Reese said he told the actors to leave the over-the-top scenes for specific scripted moments and not be outrageous all the time.
Despite her appearance on "Joe Schmo 2," Wiese said she doesn't feel like she's suddenly famous. "I'm not looking for a career in Hollywood. I'm happy with my job."
Wiese does various contracts for governmental agencies and the United Nations in conflict resolutions, work that has taken her to Bosnia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where she monitored elections.
Wiese, who has a master's degree in international relations, said she didn't know whether her education necessarily made it more difficult for the "Joe Schmo" producers to fool her. She noted Walsh also is well educated.
"The fact that I'm a woman and am intuitive may have made it harder," Wiese said.