Matt is a really good guy. He’s all heart, all sleeve and he just wants to believe the best intentions of people. Matt has been thrown into a reality show where he is the only contestant, but he doesn’t know that part. He thinks his fellow nine players for $100,000.00 are also part of the game, regular people like him who are gunning for the cash. The others are, in fact, actors playing different classic unscripted television archetypes. There is the scheming bitch, the loose cannon, the stern old soldier, the dumb blonde and, of course, the flaming homosexual, and they are all in on the joke. Except for Matt.
The producers control the action from a remote control booth and they play puppet master, modulating the game for maximum embarrassment to sweet natured and endlessly cute Matt. The name of the game is “Lap Of Luxury,” it’s setting a new luxurious tract home on the outskirts of Los Angeles. All of the conventions of reality TV are in play from the silly competitions to the final voting ceremony; only the volume is turned up to eleven on all of it.
The host, playing his part brilliantly, is given to constant self-promotion and nasty asides. He shamelessly flirts with the blonde and shows contempt for the other teammates. During their “tribal council,” an event held in the living room, in front of a crackling fireplace, he warns that one of them are about to be kicked out of the house and “go back to the sad existence you came from.” Then, in a flourish worthy of an Emmy, the losing “contestant” has to address the group in a final good-bye while their tacky Franklin Mint collector’s plate is shattered in the fireplace. “Please leave. You are dead to us,” he says as the camera predictably pans the remaining members for their reaction.
On the last show, however, Matt’s reaction was unexpected. Usually they giggle behind the poor guy’s back as they knowingly lead him astray. But when his best friend was voted off, he broke down in tears and kept repeating, “This isn’t worth the money. It’s just not worth it.” The cast of actors began to question themselves for participating in this callous exercise. So did the producers.
Any given moment of this show is far better than the overblown The Truman Show, a beautiful script crushed by heavy-handed direction and the empty Jim Carrey. It is a testament to Matt, our hero, who we now watch to see what his reaction will be when everyone jumps from behind the sofa and yells “SURPRISE!”
The Joe Schmoe Show is deliciously cruel but if it weren’t for Matt’s sincerity and genuine nice guyness, this expensive experiment would fail miserably. I knew a guy like Joe; someone who would search for the best in people at any cost, a guy who loved being silly, a man who couldn’t imagine being insincere. Those are admirable and lovable traits, and I really hope Matt is able to find the humor in being the butt of a nationally televised joke. I hope the producer’s hand him the big check at the end.
But whatever happens, I also know I will be there watching every second of it.