The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty

The world's greatest fake reality TV series The Joe Schmo Show returns with a new premise: Bounty hunting

Credit: Spike

Chase Rogan is the butt of an elaborate practical joke in the return of The Joe Schmo Show

The joke’s on him when The Joe Schmo Show returns for an all-new season

Back in 2003, reality shows were all the craze when Spike TV introduced The Joe Schmo Show, a deconstructivist reality experiment that wickedly spoofed reality shows while actually being one. 

The “Schmo” in question was actual person Matt Gould, who entered a mansion alongside several other contestants to compete in what he thought was a new reality show called Lap of Luxury.

What Gould didn’t know was that all his fellow contestants were actors (including a pre-SNL Kristen Wiig) playing reality-show “archetypes” such as “the schemer” and “the virgin,” all of whom were in on one of TV’s most elaborate practical jokes. 

Yet the show viewers saw wasn’t quite the show producers expected to make. As it turned out, Gould was a legitimately nice guy who actually wept when an actor/contestant he had befriended was voted off, and gave Wiig (who was playing quack psychologist Dr. Pat) an all-expenses-paid spa vacation he previously won after accidentally injuring her during a sumo-wrestling contest. 

The show was a hit, spawning a less-successful sequel (Joe Schmo 2) that hoaxed a man and a woman who thought they were competing on a Bachelor-style dating show. 

The Joe Schmo Show: Bounty Hunter

And now it’s back, with The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty debuting this Tuesday. This time out, the show’s schmo  — 28-year-old Chase Rogan — doesn’t realize he’s the only non-actor competing in a reality show to become a bounty hunter, with a US$100,000 prize at stake. His fellow competitors are all reality-show stereotypes, including an empty-headed model, an ex-con who’s found God, a self-absorbed jerk and Lorenzo Lamas, playing himself. 

As in the past, producers push the envelope of believability as Rogan takes on an array of bounty-hunting challenges, ranging from interrogating a hostile witness to defusing a bomb, James Bond-style, to being chained to a tough-looking dude he’s told is an actual prison inmate. In addition, Ralph Garman returns to reprise the role of “smarmy host.” 

All these years later, the original Joe Schmo remains one of Spike’s highest-rated series, and time will tell whether this new edition will recapture the goofy glory — and the ratings — of its predecessor.

The Joe Schmo Show: The Full Bounty premieres Tuesday, January 8, at 7 pm on Spike.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.