''The Bachelor'': The player gets real
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to point out the exact moment Charlie O'Connell became my new TV hero: Midway through a painfully chemistry-free dinner with Megan a woman so eager to please she attempted to dye her hair to Charlie's preferred color (for the record, blond) our no-nonsense Bachelor injected an unexpected dose of reality into the reality-television genre.
''Are you liking me because I'm The Bachelor?'' Charlie asked Megan, without the slightest hint of guile. ''It seems like you would've liked anyone who walked through that door.''
To non-Bachelor fanatics, Charlie's comment probably sounded unnecessarily harsh, but to me, it was cause to raise a half-empty glass of Shiraz and toast the first smidgeon of emotional honesty I've seen on ABC's long-running dating series in what seems like years.
You see, in my mind, recent seasons of The Bachelor and its sister show, The Bachelorette, have failed miserably both in terms of entertainment value and matchmaking success precisely because the participants all seemed hell-bent on ''falling in love'' and proposing marriage on camera, whether or not any kind of genuine emotional connection had been made. (Given that, it always seemed to me that if members of Congress were serious about protecting the ''sanctity of marriage,'' they'd be turning their attention to the reality-TV arena rather than what was going on in Adam and Steve's bedroom. But I digress. . . .)
So even though Charlie comes off as a hard-partying, goofy guy with a weakness for exposed cleavage, I have to give him credit for turning the show on its overly coiffed head. For starters, this sometime professional actor seems incapable of memorizing the producers' favorite catchphrases. (I need to start keeping a log, but I don't think Charlie has yet uttered any variation on the terms ''taking the journey'' or ''future wife''). And while I haven't gotten any indication this guy is all that serious about spending his remaining days on earth with any of these women, I much prefer Charlie announcing it's his goal to find a ''good girl'' he can ''stick with'' to seeing him get down on one knee for one woman after only a few weeks of courtship (the duration of which he'll be dating a minimum of two ladies).
Despite Charlie's level-headed attitude, his trip to a brewery with Sarah W. was filled with excitement and genuine flirtation. How nice to see two people on a first date making goofy comments and nervously getting through those first-date questions about hometowns and siblings and all that good stuff. And how completely appropriate for Sarah W. to toss her rose to the floor near date's end; for once, The Bachelor felt more like a documentary than a game show.
Which brings us back to poor postdate Megan, with her strangely tangerine locks and little black gloves, sobbing that she felt like ''a loser'' not because she was saying goodbye to a man she found particularly funny or handsome or dynamic, but because she couldn't bear the idea that he thought the other women were prettier than her. Oh, Megan! Might I suggest that next time, you skip the expensive salon treatment and head directly to a good therapist? It's never too late!
While Charlie's two individual dates with Sarah W. and Megan were a study in contrasts, his group date with the remaining 10 women was a study in pure hilarity. While most of these gals were hurling insults at each other, resident vixen Kimberley hurled something entirely different at Charlie, namely her giant, bikini-clad breasts. For those keeping count at home, Kimberley has now unleashed her twin terrors two weeks running (at the most peculiar moments), and both times she's come out smelling like a rose (and a total stank ho to boot). But as Charlie so poetically summed up her attributes, ''She's not taking it so seriously not to mention, she's hot.''
The other group-date rose went to single mom Kara, who won Charlie's admiration by leaving her nine-year-old child at home in exchange for a chance to be a reality TV star. I'm not going to invoke the words ''sympathy rose,'' but from my vantage point, Charlie and Kara have about as much chemistry as a day-old halibut and a steaming city sidewalk.
The only couple with less of a connection might be Kerry and Krisily. The latter, this season's resident bad girl, assessed her older rival with this pointed barb: ''It's a total difference when you're 32 and you look 32, or you're 25 and look 25.'' Um, that's 25 going on 57, Ms. Body Shot!
I'm not sure if Charlie agreed with Krisily's scathing review, but ol' Cryptkeeper didn't help her own cause when she started blathering about inter-Bachelorette drama during the rose ceremony. You knew the minute Kerry started kvetching that she wouldn't be making the cut.
Among the eight women still standing, Krisily seems to connect easily with Charlie, but I think she's a little too hard-boiled for his taste. Conversely, Kara and Jenny each seem a little too soft to hold their own in the pool halls of our Bachelor's fantasies. And as for early favorite Sarah W., I was a tad taken aback by her tearful breakdown late in the episode, during which she invoked the ''L'' word so many times that I still couldn’t keep count after literally rewinding my tape 14 times. No, I'm not talking about ''love,'' but rather, ''like,'' as in ''Like, you know how it is when, like, you, like, like you meet somebody. I'm so cheesy, but no, like, like, it's been a long time since, like . . .'' Like, you get the point.
So while I could be, like, totally off base, I'm going to put some of my early money on Kimberley, Anitra, Sarah B., and Kindle as the final four. Certainly, it's not looking like any of the women is ready to grab the torch of feminism and take herself out of the running. To quote our ever-quotable Bachelor: ''I don't know any girl in real life that would be happy she's one of eight dating a guy, but these girls seem to be happy.''
What do you think? Who's your early bet to win Charlie's affections? Do you think he's in it for love? Was he too mean to Megan? And how about the way Kimberley busted a move?