Reality Bites: Average Joe: Hawaii - Episode 1
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: January 6, 2004
Let's do the time warp again ....
The first thing that Average Joe: Hawaii showed to eager viewers was Dennis Luciano, one of the most memorable characters from the first incarnation of NBC's surprise hit, Average Joe. Dennis was there to assure us that we would indeed be entering a time warp, back to a more innocent time. A time when none of the participants in Average Joe knew the central premise of the show -- that a beauty queen would, instead of being set up to date Hunks, be set up to date "Average Joes" -- or the pivotal twist -- that after the beauty queen had time to develop relationships with some of the Average Joes, the Hunks would then be introduced into the mix. Because Average Joe: Hawaii was filmed before Average Joe ever aired, all the reactions were as spontaneous and surprised as the first time around. And the producers took no chances that the viewers would forget it.
The very setting of Average Joe: Hawaii is one calling to mind the Garden of Eden, and certainly Larissa Meek, our beauty queen for this tour, displays a touching innocence as she contemplates "the journey" ahead of her.
She is, undeniably, a very lovely girl. And an artist! And a pageant winner (Miss Missouri in 2001, and 4th Runnerup in the Miss USA pageant). And I feel severe dislike for her. Not for being lovely, not for being an artist, not even for being a beauty queen. But because she comes out with statements like, "I don't think that I go through life necessarily looking for love. I think when it happens it kind of falls in your lap." Possibly it "kind of falls in your lap" when you're drop-dead gorgeous. For many, many others, it's a wee bit more difficult.
As, perhaps, for the Average Joes! They are, as with last season, a motley crew, consisting of the very large, the very small, the very geeky, and the very ... well, average. The most obvious "character" is David -- "Daaaaaa-vid Daskal," as he introduces himself. From the previews, he was Carrot Top's endearingly goofy younger brother. On the show, he's Carrot Top's psychotic alter ego. He runs around yelling, throwing watermelons into the pool, jumping on the furniture ("because I can't do this anywhere else but here"), and in general cutting a frightening figure. Intriguingly, he says that he was a geek from kindergarten to 11th grade. I am intensely curious as to what happened his senior year!
One by one we meet the other 17 Joes, but of course it's all prelude to Larissa meeting them. As with last season, they bond and joke around with one another. And as they get to know one another, Larissa examines her house. She's moved by the easel, canvases and paints provided for her (because she's an artist). She also was touched that the producers had included framed paintings of hers on the walls (did I mention she's an artist?). And there's also the beautiful scenery. She's convinced that this is the perfect place to find her soulmate "because it's just absolutely gorgeous here. If it doesn't happen here, I don't know if it will happen." Of course, if it's a beautiful location, that's all that counts. But I'm sure that she won't have that attitude about the guys!
Oh, who am I kidding? Gentle readers, you are not in Larissa's state of innocence! You know what's coming! First, the fake-out. The limo rolls up and a Hunk gets out, introduces himself, and tells her about the 18 great guys waiting to meet her. Unfortunately, he tells her, he himself cannot stay. Personally, I think he needs to leave because he has to see a stylist. He has some very strange hair going on. But his hair apparently didn't bother Larissa, because she's disappointed to see him go.
And then ... the bus rolls up. And the first one out is Daaaaaa-vid Daskal. Larissa blanches. David presents his conversational bon mot: "When's your birthday?" "August 29th." "Happy birthday, August 29th." ("It's gonna be a long night," Larissa thinks.)
While last season Melana made some apprehensive faces as she met the guys, this season Larissa's facial expressions are downright disdainful. There must be some creative editing going on, because none of the guys seem to notice Larissa's twisted face. All of them are excited to meet her, and ecstatic at her appearance. At one point, Larissa remarks, "All right, I get it. I'm the butt of the joke." We don't hear anyone tell her that possibly it's worse to be the person whom the idea of dating makes someone "the butt of the joke" than to be "the butt of the joke" one's self -- but I'm sure that omission is also due to editing.
Once everyone makes it into the house, Larissa heads upstairs, where she talks with some of the producers. She is shocked, upset, and halfway to crying. "I think most girls would be pissed," she remarks in voiceover. Personally, I think most girls would go with the flow. "How am I going to be able to go on dates with these guys if I'm not attracted to them physically?" she accusingly asks the producers. "I don't see myself getting intimate with anybody, if that's what you guys were hoping for." That's a darn good try, trying to introduce a li'l forbidden fruit into the Garden, but her continued comments indicate the producers didn't bite. She decides she's going to commit to it, she's going to try to get to know the guys, and "it's going to be an adventure."
It's fortunate that the Average Joes here did not see the previous round, because compared to Melana's charming manner at the first party, this round of Joes got gypped. But Larissa does manage to make some conversation and get to know some of the guys. She's impressed when Tony takes her to the side for a private conversation, and even more impressed by his graphic design and artistic experience. (I should have read the web site bio -- who knew she was an artist?) The most fun was seeing the guys cheer each other on and advise one another. It's also interesting to compare the impressions of the guys with what we see of their conversations. Matt Botti jubilantly declared that he felt he'd done well in conversation, but what we saw was him stumbling when she asked him about a subject -- mortgages -- about which he'd just told her he had a lot of knowledge.
After the cocktail party, Larissa has to eliminate four guys, bringing the field down from 18 to 14. The first evictee is CJ, one of the blandest of the bland. I'm a little surprised he left so quickly, simply because there didn't seem to be anything particularly offensive about him to draw attention.
The second evictee is Robert, an Adam Sandler lookalike who spoke in a rapid, indistinct mumble. "He was so nervous that he had trouble talking, and it made it really hard to just be comfortable." I feel bad for him, because a speech impediment can be such a difficult thing to overcome, and who knows what would have happened if he'd stayed a little longer and gotten a little more relaxed? But I think he also hadn't helped his cause when he'd made a general apology for "weird" conversation earlier in the evening. Apologies like that never work; they only draw attention to the fact that you felt awkward and are looking for reassurance.
The third evictee is Chris, a guy who's been dressing like he's in the '50s since high school. His sideburns are worthy of Wally, one of the first round of evictees last season, so if there's an Average Joe 3, I advise Joes to beware the curse of the 'burns!
And the final evictee is Matt Botti. But I don't think it was the mortgage conversation that sunk him, or even his diminutive height. He had earlier declared his virginity on the show, and that, apparently, is the Average Joe equivalent of wearing a red shirt on Star Trek (I'm guessing that followers of Average Joe are going to get the Star Trek reference). In the first season Dennis Luciano left on the same episode that he revealed that he was a virgin.
Will Average Joe: Hawaii maintain the interest built during Average Joe? We'll have to wait and see, but there are some good signs. Larissa's bitter 'tude is a change of pace from Melana's sparkle. Although David scares me, there are some interesting Joes left in the mix -- most notably Fredo, the Cleveland construction worker who has the confidence of Season 1's Zach in a far more appealing package, and Sean, the Philadelphia chef (hmmmm ... I wonder if he's a Mummer?) with a charming, easy manner to him. But the real test will be when the dating starts -- which should be next week!
Average Joe: Hawaii is on Mondays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, on NBC.
On the Internet: NBC.com's Official Site | SirLinksaLot.net