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For Real?

Are you watching this seasons’ reality TV show “The Bachelorette?” I’m kind of hooked and I need someone to talk to about it.

Can you believe Ed left the show? I loved Ed! He was my front-runner, the one that I was crushing on. (Only because he looks most like my adoring and adorable husband Brett who I love very much and because of Brett’s sheer awesomeness in all things I would never think about anyone else ever, not even through the television. Except for maybe Ed. And Matt Dillon. But that’s for another article entirely.)

Every season, I find at least one reality television show to follow more or less from beginning to end. For the record, however, I don’t go looking for these shows. They just turn up like bad pennies in my living room. Case in point. Last season, Brett was flipping through the channels when I looked up from a magazine just in time to catch a flash of tanned skin, spiky hair and Botox. “Stop right there!” I shouted.

And that’s how “The Real Housewives of Orange County” – and later of New York City and New Jersey – came to me. Those women are so awful. God forgive me, but I love watching them. For like hours upon hours at a time. Even on the verge of exhaustion, I tune in.

Bad reality television is like a car accident: I can’t turn away, so compelled am I by the horribleness. And so, by extending this metaphor, watching these shows is like rubbernecking in their dysfunctional, somewhat broken, lives.

The worst offenders are the actors from the 70’s and 80’s who haven’t been seen since, well, the 70’s and 80’s. They need a boost to their careers and so they agree to come on these reality shows where they have to cohabitate with and/or battle other nonabees in supreme acts of stupidity. The most interesting aspect of this is figuring out who these people used to be. A few years ago, Brett and I came upon something called “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” An old man sat slumped over in a wheelchair, slurring his words in a group therapy session. Something about him seemed vaguely familiar. I squinted and turned my head to the side, imagining this guy in a leather jacket with the word “T-Bird” on the back.

“Is that…Kenickie?” I gasped. “The guy from “Taxi?””

“Jeff Conaway, you mean? I’m afraid it is.”

“What the hell happened to him?”

“Drugs.” Brett shrugged. “Lots and lots and lots of ‘em.”

“Dude! That’s ghastly.” Brett picked up the remote. “No – keep it on. And make some popcorn.”

But now let us return to the lighter side of reality television and my semi-addiction to “The Bachelorette.” Jillian Harris, a 29-year-old interior decorator from British Columbia, was a jilted participant in last season’s “The Bachelor”. This makes her the perfect bachelorette for this season, having the sympathy of the country on her side and what some might call brand recognition. Before the show even started, everyone out there in TV-land already knew her and liked her.

In case you don’t already know and like her, I will tell you that Jillian is fit and cute. She’s got a bubbly personality and the most adorable vowels I’ve ever heard. She can drive sports cars and repel from high rise buildings in downtown LA without hitting something or throwing up. Each episode, she moves effortlessly from string bikini to formal evening gown. Jillian is America’s Canadian Sweetheart.

I watch this show because I can clearly remember being a bachelorette.

And it was so like that!

Like Jillian, I used to date 10 men at a time and I always ended my group dates by giving one lucky guy a rose, granting him immunity from being voted out of contention that week.

Also, the guys I dated as a bachelorette were always really hunky. Lots of washboard abs, six-packs, whatever you want to call them. These guys all loved me and wanted to marry me right away. Several fights broke out on my behalf, in fact. One guy even cried when I sent him packing.

Not to brag or anything. That’s just the way it is when you’re a bachelorette. Everyone knows that. That’s why it’s called reality TV. Because it’s so true, so real.

Here’s a real story for you: how my parents met. Myrna Katz, my grandparents’ next door neighbor in Brooklyn, heard that my mom had just broken up with her boyfriend. Myrna called her friend Fran to say she knew of a nice girl for Fran’s son, Norman. Norman requested a picture of this girl before agreeing to a date. My grandmother’s response went something like: “I’m not selling a cow. If you want to see my daughter Ronnee, you’ll call her.”

And so he called and they got married and then they got divorced and then I went to therapy and now I get to write all about it in the local paper.

Could be the next reality television show!

I met Brett though a fix-up as well. My friend Maggie was upset that we didn’t have men in our book group. “So invite Steve,” I suggested.

“My husband doesn’t read,” she stated matter-of-factly. “But I know a guy who does.”

A week later, Brett showed up at my apartment door with a paperback in one hand and Milano cookies in the other. What makes two people click? Can you find love through a gigantic, network television set-up? I wonder if the success of such a venture is just as likely (50/50, or around that) as through any other kind of matchmaking process.

I watch “The Bachelorette” because I like to think it is possible for Jillian to find her soul mate in front of an audience of millions. (I know, roll your eyes at me.) At the same time, I find the chances highly unlikely. That dynamic, the push-and-pull between my interest in true-love-fairytale-happily-ever-after endings and my 21st century sensibility of if-it-looks-too-good-to-be-true-it-probably-can’t-be-true is what makes me come back week after week.

That and all those hunky guys.

Good luck, Jillian. I really hope you do find what you are looking for. In the meantime, I’ll be watching.

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