Joe Millionaire put hearts in the eyes of viewers and dollar signs in eyes of Fox executives. So, although the network's entertainment president Gail Berman said in January that there probably wouldn't be a second installment because "the secret is out," she has drastically amended her statement since the show's Feb. 17 finale pulled in 40 million viewers and helped Fox clinch its first-ever sweeps victory among young adults. Now, says Berman, "There will be a sequel to Joe Millionaire."
But how can the suits pull it off? Given that there can't possibly be another gold digger alive let alone 20 who wouldn't already be in on Joe's infamous fib, Fox has brainstormed a "slightly different" little white lie. "It will not be the same concept," Berman confirms, "but it will feel completely compatible with the Joe Millionaire title."
Of course, if Joe Millionaire has taught the viewing public anything, it's this: When those reality shows come recruitin', trust no one. "The difficulty will be finding people who will participate, because they're going to wonder if what they're being told is true or not," says Stacey Lynn Koerner, a senior vice president at media-planning agency Initiative Media. Adds Mark Cronin, exec producer of the WB's has-been slumber party The Surreal Life: "Everyone will be a lot more suspicious now."
Should Berman and Co. overcome that obstacle, however, Fox may have a hit franchise on its hands. "It's like Survivor," Koerner says. "Everyone said, 'Well, now that we've had the first Survivor, they've figured out how to play the game.' But you end up getting a whole new set of people who, armed with the knowledge, behave differently. It could add another layer to the show."
Fox won't say when the follow-up will premiere, but sources do confirm that Evan Marriott's successor will probably not make his debut until September. In the meantime, Joe Deux conspiracy theories abound. The scenario gaining the most steam? That this time around, the joke will be on the bachelor.
"Maybe the [new] twist is that all of the women are heiresses," muses Koerner. In which case, producers may not have to go far to cast another leading man. "They could bring back that same guy," cracks Cronin of dim bulb Marriott. "I think he'd be easy to fool."
For more on Joe Millionaire 2, including scoop on whether everyone's favorite butler, Paul Hogan, will be back, as well as speculation about the sequel's big twist, pick up the new issue of TV Guide magazine, on sale now.