'Bachelorette' and 'Joe Millionaire': Dumb and dumber
Mon Jan 13, 7:34 AM ET
Robert Bianco USA TODAY
On instant hits Joe Millionaire and The Bachelorette, love isn't just blind; it's dumb as a stump.
Consider the deep thinking being done by Trista Rehn, The Bachelorette (ABC, Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET/PT), who should know firsthand that the show's Cinderella/Prince process doesn't work. Yet there she is, America's favorite consolation prize, sharing a house with 25 wannabe husbands who fell in love with her image on TV. These aren't suitors, honey, they're stalkers.
Yet dim as Trista and her posse may appear, for romantic lumps it's hard to top Evan Marriott, the man pretending to be Joe Millionaire (Fox, tonight, 9 ET/PT). Never mind asking why he thinks the road to marital bliss begins with lying to women about your life, your goals and your income; the real question is how he thinks he's going to get away with it. This is a man, after all, who had trouble remembering that salmon is a fish and was flustered by that probing question ''What's your middle name?''
Then again, he's not trying to fool a gaggle of brain surgeons. Hello, ladies: Why exactly do you think a man this good-looking and supposedly this rich would need to set up a bridal shop in his French chateau? It's not as if gold diggers are in short supply.
In this triumph of the phonies, however, it's not just the players who have got game. For sheer lack of credibility, it's hard to top Joe's not-so-upper-crust butler, Paul Hogan, or Bachelorette host Chris Harrison, who practically oozes cheese with each word of simulated concern. Evan isn't even the worst liar on TV; that prize goes to the folks on The Surreal Life and Celebrity Mole, who are pretending they still have careers.
Still, there's so little that's at stake in Joe and Bachelorette, it's hard not to see the shows as harmless, if tacky, amusements. Yes, as in all such emotional torture dating shows, the people involved may be hurt by rejection, but how long can that pain last?
But, of course, romance isn't what's at issue in either show, anyway. Evan and Trista aren't on TV because they want love. They're on TV because they want to be on TV. Permanently, if possible.
And it's working: The premieres of both Joe (18.6 million viewers) and Bachelorette (17.4 million) rank among the season's biggest.
So why do we watch? In part, it's the joy of feeling vastly superior. There but for common sense go I.
No doubt, part of the appeal also is morbid curiosity. Will Evan learn to ride a horse without hitting his head on the saddle? Will any of the boys cry on Bachelorette? And will America allow Trista to be as indiscriminate as Aaron was on the last go-around, or do we still think what's good for the bee is not so good for the flower?
Yet in their own unreal way, these shows also offer us a chance to relive exaggerated versions of problems we've faced.
We've all stretched our "sum" a little to impress someone or competed for someone's affection or been forced to choose between suitors. And who among us hasn't pretended to be worth $50 million and tried to carry the ruse out for a national audience?
No, wait; we haven't done that. Up to now, nobody has been that dumb.