Primetime daters need to get a clue

February 25, 2003|By SUSAN REIMER

I ADMIT THAT I was one of the 35 million people who watched the finale of Joe Millionaire, and it wasn't because I was snowbound.

And I was there when Trista shocked the odds makers and chose shy firefighter/poet Ryan over Charlie, the dashing and confident financier, on The Bachelorette. I also watched as they both faced jilted favorite Charlie for the first time since her surprise decision.

And I made sure I was tuned in when frustrated and angry Aaron of The Bachelor declared that things were over between him and the tearful Helene.

And I couldn't wait for the Joe Millionaire reunion, because I heard that Evan Marriott told People magazine he chose the saintly Zora Andrich, not because he loved her best, but to redeem the show's increasingly mercenary overtones.

(I also heard that Evan and second-place finisher Sarah were "in touch" during the keep-your-distance-to-keep-the-secret period between the shooting and the broadcast of the final episode and were getting along quite well, if you know what I mean.

(And, I heard that Amanda, who beat out Trista in the first edition of The Bachelor, dumped Alex after she found out he'd slept with Trista during the taping and had never quite gotten over her.)

I can barely find time to watch my president on The West Wing, but I have been determined to see these romances play out. It must be because I am fascinated by the spectacle of so many empty-headed, self-involved 20-somethings gathered in one place. All of them in search of something that has the staying power of fresh fish - romance.

It is no wonder Evan and his gaggle of women kept describing their month-long adventure in the French chateau as a "fairy tale." I bet Cinderella was the last book any of them read, and Mommy helped them with the big words.

And Zora, so loved by children, the elderly, animals and small-town mayors, was so completely unresponsive - even when presented with a check for a cool mil - that she made The Bachelorette's Trista Rehn, with a giggle that made you want to reach for the duct tape, sound like Gloria Steinem.

Geez. Is everyone born after 1973 that stupid? Was it the drugs their parents did in college?

The conversation on Joe Millionaire never sparkled. But after scheming finalist Sarah Kozer listened to Joe stumble through his confession of poverty, she reacted not at all.

Sarah, baby. You've been dumped for the small-town saint, the girl you describe as having just fallen off a turnip truck. And you are still grinning like the music in this bar is so loud you can't hear the cute guy next to you when he tells you to get lost.

And Evan? Script girl! This guy needs some new pages. Fox did his hair, gave him the proper clothes and taught him to dance. But the producers spent less time teaching this guy how to express himself than they did teaching him how to ride a horse.

Maybe that's the reason neither Sarah nor Zora could get it together to react after he hacked his way through his big speech. They had no idea what he'd just said.

A simple "What?" would have done nicely from either woman. Something along the lines of "Well, how much money do you have?" was the obvious follow-up question.

"Are you serious? That's cool," was Zora's heartfelt response. I swear, Fox gave her and Evan the big check in a desperate attempt to keep this finale from hitting the floor like a bowling ball.

I kept thinking that these were all absolutely beautiful young people. Why can't any of them get a date? Maybe the problem is, none of them can get a second date once the prospects for lively conversation disappear.

Why else would anyone agree to preen and scheme on national television for the heart (or bank account) of a complete stranger? I kept thinking, "Guys, join a health club or a church! Get some pride!"

Perhaps, as we parents are fond of saying, it is the age. Perhaps this is what 20-something looks like. All hair and hot tubs, all booze, back-biting and breasts, all romance and unreality.

But there appears to be an appetite for the narcissism of overgrown adolescents who, apparently, couldn't find each other if they were stuck in an elevator together.

Next up? Married by America, where the viewers at home get to do the matchmaking between complete strangers.

We can't do any worse.

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