Joe Schmo 2: Janet Van Ham
Liane Bonin
June 15, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Joe Schmo, it’s time to meet your Jane.

For their next elaborate prank, the folks behind Spike TV’s ”Joe Schmo” (season 2 debuts June 15 at 10 p.m.) will trick not one but two unsuspecting marks into believing they’re competing on a cheesy reality dating show called ”Last Chance for Love.” Little will targets Tim Walsh and Ingrid Wiese realize that the nitwits, creeps, and divas around them are actually actors poking fun at the clichés in shows like ”The Bachelor” and ”Joe Millionaire.” talked with ”Schmo” executive producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick about their ingredients for cooking up the perfect parody.

A BRIT TWIT Taking cross-Atlantic inspiration from Paul Hogan, the fussy butler of Fox’s ”Joe Millionaire,” the producers chose Englishman Derek Newcastle to host the show. ”He hosted the British version of ‘Last Chance for Love,’ and he’s a B-level star in England,” says Reese. ”His fondest desire is to be knighted, but the royal family pays no attention to him, so he came to the States to make his fortune.” The twist? Newcastle is actually Ralph Garman, last season’s ”Joe Schmo” host, disguised with false teeth, a goatee, and a bleach job. And don’t forget a ”Masterpiece Theater”-worthy accent.

THE FAUX O While most of the show’s characters are modeled on broad reality stereotypes (including The Playah, The Stalker, and The Weeper), one was based specifically on a certain Trump reject. ”Omarosa [Manigault-Stallworth, of NBC’s ‘The Apprentice’] was one of the great characters of reality TV, so our character Ambrosia [played by Gretchen Palmer] is an Omarosa rip-off,” says Reese. ”She’s tough, bitchy, and black.” And in case you don’t get the reference, Derek Newcastle accidentally calls the ”Schmo” villainess ”Omarosa” during one episode.

AIR MAIL While shows like CBS’ ”Survivor” and ABC’s ”The Bachelor” deliver messages in pretty boxes and coconut hulls, this show uses a falcon to dispense news. ”What could be more over-the-top than to announce a twist with a British guy wearing a falconer’s glove?” laughs Reese. ”And the falcon plays a huge role, because he has a very contentious relationship with Derek.” Even the falcon is a thespian: He’s really a hawk named Ace who’s appeared in a Bud Light commercial. Oh, and the fancy name? ”Montecore is the name of the tiger that attacked Roy Horn. That makes us feel terrible, because it’s a sick joke,” says Reese.

POETIC JUSTICE There’s a fine line between devotion and obsession in reality-TV dating, and ”Schmo” decided to push it. Hard. ”On every one of these shows there’s a suitor who gets too into the person too quickly, like how Ryan [Sutter, of ABC’s ”The Bachelorette”] started writing really bad poetry to Trista [Rehn] almost immediately,” says Reese. ”So we decided to have a wildly obsessive character [Bryce, played by Kevin Kirkpatrick] who tries to hypnotize Piper, our bachelorette [played by Valerie Azlynn], into falling in love with him. Ultimately he won’t even accept his elimination and flies banners over the house — which was something we picked up from ‘Big Brother.”’

THE MOST SHOCKING EVICTION CEREMONY EVER (REALLY!) Instead of copping from ”The Bachelor”’s rose ceremony, in which the chosen ladies each get a single red stem, Reese and Wernick modified ”Joe Millionaire”’s concept of handing out jewelry. ”We wanted to take aim at that tentpole moment with flowery, cheesy romantic language and sexual innuendo,” says Wernick. So not only is every eviction trumpeted as the most dramatic ever and drawn out with lingering pauses and reaction shots, but the show’s bachelor will hand out pearl necklaces. And, yes, they make wink-wink references to that other kind of ”pearl necklace,” which is a euphemism for something we can’t print here.

‘RENTS CONTROL Just like on NBC’s ”Meet the Folks,” Tim’s and Ingrid’s families are invited to meet their potential in-laws later in the series. But adding real family members to the mix turned out to be more stressful than the producers anticipated. ”Tim’s stepdad is a high-ranking government official in the CIA and his brother works for the senator of Delaware, so we didn’t want them both there,” says Wernick, who was able to keep the stepdad off the set. Other family hijinks include a faux death in one contestant’s family. ”The fake dead grandparent was made infamous by Johnny Fairplay on ‘Survivor: Pearl Islands,’ and it really happened to Meredith on ‘The Bachelor,”’ says Wernick. ”So in our storyline, the grandfather dies, then it’s suspected he didn’t die, and then we find out he really did die. A twist upon a twist upon a twist.”

A HIGH-FAT DIET Remember when Melana Scantlin donned a fat suit to trick her suitors on NBC’s ”Average Joe”? In one ”Schmo” episode, Tim and Ingrid are the ones in the heavy-set disguise, never realizing that their true identities are known to all of the show?s fake contestants. ”You really needed a pie chart to figure out who was fooling who after a while,” says Reese.

THE RACE CARD Noticing that we’ve never seen an interracial couple make it to the finish line on any other dating shows, Reese and Wernick decided to play up the touchy subject. ”Invariably the bachelor and bachelorette on these shows are white and shallow, as evidenced by them sending home minorities in the first round,” says Reese. ”So we thought it would be funny to have them eliminate people of race exclusively in the first five minutes.” ”It’s less of a parody than a reflection of what really happens,” says Wernick. ”We just wanted to highlight it.”

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