Exactly one year ago on the premiere of The Bachelor, the dyed blonde vixen emerged from her limo and greeted Texas pilot Jake Pavelka by stroking his abs. It marked the start of a wildly entertaining, forehead-hitting season of the reality show vet.
I'm not saying that Brad Womack's Bachelor season won't ultimately live up to those lofty standards. But the premiere (ABC, January 3, 8 P.M.) plays out like an episode of Dr. Phil -- complete with more apologies than a Tiger Woods press conference.
We start with soul-searching. During the intro, the earnest Brad, now 38, insists -- at least four times, at my count -- that he has done a lot of it since breaking up with Jenni Croft and DeAnna Pappas on the season finale of The Bachelor in 2007. Gazing at nature, the bar entrepreneur explains his rationale and reveals that intense therapy has helped him deal with his commitment issues. (Fear not: He's still maintained his exercise regimen.) The man is ready to move on and fall in love.
Alas, the producers aren't quite ready yet. After Brad repents to Chris Harrison, the host ushers in the scorned women themselves, Jennifer and DeAnna. They're still a little hurt, blah blah. It's been three years! DeAnna is engaged! Enough. Finally, at more than 45 minutes in, Brad gets to meet his 30 paramours.
- Ashley S., 26. A darling nanny with a shy smile and a Southern twang.
- Emily, 24. This sweet single mom has an unbelievably heart-wrenching back story. She’s a beauty too.
- Melissa, 24. The resident over-sharing drama queen.
- Madison, 25. An alluring model whose obsession with vampires has affected her orthodontia. Read: The girl has fangs.
- Raichel, 29. She’s an outgoing "manscaper." Read: She waxes male body hair.
If you've watched ABC since the Dancing With the Stars finale in November, you already know that Brad gets slapped across the face (by Chantal) during his meet and greet. It's a delicious -- if seriously contrived -- moment. The rest of the introductions are less eventful, though it's fascinating to watch the contestants’ incredulous reactions when they see him for the first time. Smart move to not tip them off beforehand.
Still. I think it was a mistake to give Brad a sequel. For all of his sincere remorse, he just can’t quite shake his jerk reputation and reposition himself as a charming catch. (Which, face it, he is). The stench of the double break-up permeates throughout the episode -- most notably during the one-on-one dates, during which many of the women grill him, David Caruso style.
At least a few are willing to forgive and forget and/or admit that they never watched him the first time around. A flirty Raichel gives Brad a show-and-tell demonstration of her job on the spot and waxes his wrist. (Nooooo....Kelly Clarkson!!). Brad is so entranced by Madison that he actually digs the fangs. And Ashley woos our restaurant enterpriser by telling him softly that she wants to be his friend. Even Tenley had better game!
However, after much soul searching, I've decided to commit to this season. This is the Bachelor. Things have to juice up. Right? If not, well, let's just say it's a good thing Brad has mastered the art of apologizing.