Bruce Fretts
November 07, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Average Joe

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Melana Scantlin, Jason Peoples
Reality TV

We gave it a B

To its relative credit, Average Joe flips the ”Joe Millionaire” formula on its thick head. Instead of saving the surprise for the end, it opened with a gleefully wicked trick: Ex-NFL cheerleader Melana Scantlin thought she was meeting 16 Mr. Rights, but instead she met…16 Mr. Frights! (That’s not a quote from the promos, but it could be.) While most dating-show contestants are interchangeably empty shells, these guys — a nerdy, gawky, and chubby lot — possess actual personalities. The cast overflows with breakouts — and I’m not just talking about all the splotchy skin.

Homely faces to watch include Dennis Luciani, a 36-year-old virgin-accountant; Zach Cohen, a 27-year-old bully-real estate broker with chronic halitosis; and Tareq Kabir, a 21-year-old egotist-professor who attempts to mesmerize Melana with fancy words: ”It is the simplicity of your complexity that’s the catalyst of my infatuation.” ”Average Joe” alternately mocks these misfits and glorifies them as inspirational underdogs; the show wants to have its proverbial cake and eat it, too. Still, it’s a helluva lot tastier than ”Millionaire”’s Southern-fried cheese.

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