''The Bachelor''

Rose Bowl

Bachelor Jesse Palmer fumbles his rose ceremony. But in a two-hour season kickoff where he rewards the mean girl and sends out his spy, he also wins over EW's Mandi Bierly

Jesse Palmer, The Bachelor: Jesse | HOT FLUB He meant to say Karen, but Katie (at right) got a rose too
Image credit: Jessie Palmer: Craig Sjodin
HOT FLUB He meant to say Karen, but Katie (at right) got a rose too

Bachelor Jesse Palmer fumbles his rose ceremony

Until tonight, I've never enjoyed a ''Bachelor'' as much as I've enjoyed either ''Bachelorette.'' Maybe that's because 25 men vying for one woman's affection raises questions that are more complex than ''Aren't they catty?''

That said, this two-hour season premiere had me at the first declaration that ''Trish is a gold-digging skank.'' The husband-seeking Trish, we're told in the opening teaser, is about to become the most hated woman in ''Bachelor'' history. She and her collective competitors will be ''bolder, wilder and sexier than ever.'' And -- surprise! -- the stakes will be higher than ever, presumably because this season's prize is Jesse Palmer, a 25-year-old backup quarterback for the New York Giants. Is he a worthier catch because he's rich and somewhat famous? No. Is he a worthier catch because he's articulate, confident, and handsome (well, at least compared with the Bachelors who preceded him)? Yes. Well done, ABC... assuming he doesn't screw this up. Which, of course, he did from the start.

So, here's why this season could be the most dramatic ever!

The Bachelor has already screwed up, big time, by calling out the wrong name at the Rose Ceremony The real question: Why didn't this ever happen before? Even someone who never had his brains juggled on a gridiron might have trouble learning 25, or at least 15, names in one hormone-charged night. But at least his blunder let us see host Chris Harrison's reaction (a suppressed smirk, an internal Happy Dance). It's hard to say what was less believable: that all this fuss was over  KAREN, a seriously scary former Miss Rhode Island, or that KATIE agreed to stay when Jesse, taking Chris's advice, asked her to be his 16th amour.

The Bachelor has a spy Sure, it would have been better had it been his best SINGLE female friend posing as one of the 25 contestants. And four weeks from now she'd realize that SHE'S the one for Jesse. But his best friend's wife will do. Somewhere down the line, we've been warned, she's going to report back on a contestant, telling Jesse: ''She has slept with a married man. You hate divorce -- she's possibly caused one. If you ever marry a woman like that, I would not be able to be your friend.'' Nice.

Jesse has, um, interesting taste Forget the narration claiming that one of his chosen ones will become an alleged stalker when she's ousted. So far, Jesse's shown that he's not always a good judge of character (giving the pointless ''First Impression'' rose to model Trish) but he has potential to improve (after chatting with medical student Kristy, he said he kinda wished he'd given the first rose to her). Then there's ''blond goddess'' Jessica B., one of several contestants who qualifies as a poor man's Kate Bosworth. She thought it was a really smart idea to give Jesse a stuffed Florida gator, in honor of his alma mater (did he honestly like it?). And, of course, there's wild card Jesse, the insecure attorney who's either a lunatic or quite possibly the most appropriately babbling and giggly dating contestant ever. For the record, I think the mole is Julie, the NFL cheerleader, who seemed a bit too awkward at their meeting. Or pro soccer player Mandy C., who seemed a bit too comfortable.

And here's why this season may not be the most dramatic ever!

While I appreciate the shots of Jesse in a towel, thank you, I'm over seeing the Bachelor in a pool or hot tub with multiple ladies. I'm also over seeing women acting shocked and declaring that they can't handle it when their new ''boyfriend'' dates their new best friends. But somehow, I have a crazy feeling that things like this may start happening next week.

What do you think of Jesse and the new season? And who do you think the mole is?

Originally posted Apr 07, 2004