Average … Yussele?
"Average Joe," which begins its fourth season of beauty and the best June 28, at 8 p.m., has proved to be one of NBC's more extraordinary success stories.
But, take a look around at the contestants, and for an ethnic group that averages 3 percent of the population, don't Jews make up a disproportionate percentage of "Average Joes"?
"Well, the first season, Stuart and I looked around – and Stuart [Krasnow] and I are both Jewish," says Philadelphian Andrew Glassman, who, with Krasnow, are the series executive producers.
And there they were – Jews to the left of them, Jews to the right of them, Jews in front of them.
"We had a significant number of contestants who were Jewish," concedes Glassman, the former star reporter of NBC 10 in Philadelphia, whose Emmy-winning ways earned him spots on WNBC and CNBC.
If Glassman's got a special fan in the cheering section with an Andrew cap on her kup, it's his bubba Muriel of Bala Cynwyd.
What a starting lineup her grandson's helped assemble; more Joe de Meeskeit than Joe DiMaggio.
Yet for the Average Joes assembled, they have suddenly become players in a ballpark where they had previously never gotten to first base. It's like Woody Allen batting .400 – if Woody Allen could hit (other than on girls) and could run (without worrying about blisters.)
All 'Oys' front
"It's not a social comment," chuckles Glassman, "but there is something about that Woody Allen-character type that resonates with audiences," that makes so many average Jews Average Joes in their oys.
Was there a question on the application that asked, "Do you eat all your vegetables and belong to the Clean Plate club, so that orphans in China won't suffer?"
Geek chic? "There is something about the good Jewish boy image, although I wouldn't label Woody Allen a good Jewish boy."
But label the series a hit. And the current "Average Joe: The Joes Strike Back" may be the most striking, as the anti-comely contestants compete for the attentions of flame-haired fave Anna Chudoba.
And, as usual, it all begins – as anyone who takes SEPTA knows – with the "see" bus, the vehicle of choice as the Average Joes – whose average weight would alarm the Surgeon General – disembark and bark out the greetings to the stunning if stunned Anna.
Judging by the puzzled and perplexed look on her face, Anna – who arrives at the luxurious waterside setting expecting a Fabio fable of her own – must be translating the "Hi, I'm Harold Gold" greeting she gets into "Hi, I'm Zenox, and I just arrived from another planet."
Ah, Harold Gold, the golden boy … or as he calls himself "Solid Gold." So, where's the mettle in his 18K charm bracelet of a bid for a step-up in social life?
Another … Jewish guy? Hey, kibitzes Glassman, "it's not like we went from synagogue to synagogue looking for contestants."
Bimah him up to the winner's circle, for the good-looking Glassman – an Average Joe Andrew ain't – has another success story on his hands.
Indeed, this edition, in which a harem of hunks as players is again brought in to give the Joes the heebie-jeebies, makes up for that jilted-Joe setup with make-overs. Some of those Joes let down easily by Anna get a lift with help from trainers, doctors and other professionals, hoping their extreme makeover may lead to makeouts with Anna.
"It's a pretty good deal," says Glassman of the gimmick that builds muscles and self-confidence.
But there's more than glitz to the glamour: "We're asking how does the makeover change another person's perception of you?"
Glassman perceived the task before him differently than it turned out. "I vastly underestimated what it takes to put a show like this together."
But he's had it all together for some time. The award-winning newsman exchanged the reality of being in the "back of an NBC 10 news van doing stories," to being a reality-series guru.
Credit Glassman with always having street cred, and turning in breaking-news that broke with standard-issue glam-boy banter. Channel 10 had a 10 in the reporter who went on to raise numbers for other stations, as well as raising the barrier for reality shows.
"We try to do this in a very sweet way," says Glassman of the heart-to-heart haimisch haven supplied for the "Average Joes."
But what about the women, the beauties who surprisingly find themselves not in Camelot but Spamalot?
"The women do get a little upset," Glassman concedes, "and you can see it in their eyes. But we say to them, 'You'll learn more about yourself on this show than you'd think' – and what a rich time they have."
So, if the prince is a frog, they still can take the ribit and come out on top. Even the tail ends of fractured fairy tales can end happily. When the Average Joe winner of the second season discovered his lovely inamorata had a thing for Fabio, he wound up leaving her. But they worked it out off-screen, says Glassman. "And today, they're happily back together."
And Adam Nesh – "Adam's a dear friend" – one of the more popular Yusseles who had his own choice of "Average Janes" in a spinoff of the series, "is doing very well; he's happy," albeit with someone other than the one he danced off the set with.
Glassman's own dance card is filled these days; he has another reality series, "Three Wishes," with Amy Grant, coming up on NBC, in which down-on-their luck contestants luck out to get some dreams fulfilled.
Grant Glassman his own wish and it's one you don't need a Joe-of-a genie to understand: "All you want to do is put your heart into your work, and hope you have the best show by doing something good for people."
Nothing average about that noble ambition.