Revisiting Joe Millionaire, the Experimental 2003 Dating Show Built On an Elaborate Lie

Its entire absurd premise was whether or not its contestants would marry for love or money


Though the reality shows of the 2000s were notoriously absurd, the concept for the 2003 experimental dating show Joe Millionaire was unique when it aired due to the fact that it was based entirely on a poorly crafted lie. Its premise: an average “Joe,” whose real name was Evan, was dressed up in the finest of cable-knit sweaters and oversized trousers, housed in a chateau, and instructed to tell a group of women that he was a millionaire. In reality, Evan was a construction worker supposedly making $19,000 a year. Even for the early 2000s, something about that annual take-home didn’t quite make sense, but in 2003 I was a child, so what do I know?

Throughout the show Evan and the women went on the types of dates normally associated with wealth—boarding a private plane to Cannes, horseback riding, eating pasta that is not ravioli—all while the women try their hardest not to come off as gold diggers who are only interested in Evan’s imaginary money. Just like its direct competitor, The Bachelor, there was also an elimination ceremony, during which women were invited to continue their journey to love—not with a rose, but with pendants made from precious stones. The two finalists were given diamonds before battling out for Evan’s heart.

What gave the show one extra layer of ridiculousness is that Evan eventually had to tell the woman he chose the truth and she had to decide whether she wanted to stay with his broke ass or not. What she didn’t know is that if she chose to stay with him, the couple would get a check for one million dollars. If she left because she had been lied to for several weeks, then they would get nothing, but she could keep all the necklaces.

Unfortunately for viewers, Joe Millionaire only had one season as it was nearly impossible to fool enough women to sustain a second one. But the warped minds at Jezebel have an idea if anyone from Fox wants to get back into the fake millionaire business.

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