Playing the Game

If you've never seen The Bachelorette and therefore have no idea what it is about, I forgive you. To tell the truth, I've never been a fan of reality tele-vision either. That said, this story will make more sense if you understand how the show works.

Will you accept this rose?

The season begins with a crop of twenty-five men, all single and all, presumably, looking to get married. (Last fall, one of them was me.) The bachelorette is the star of the show. Her task is to get to know the men through a series of individual (one-on-one) and group dates and, as the show goes on, gradually pare the field through a series of ""Rose Ceremonies"--a selection ritual in which she offers a rose to those bachelors she wants to spend more time with. The others are thanked and, unceremoniously, sent packing. At the end of seven episodes, she chooses the bachelor she wants to spend more time with--theoretically, the rest of her life (most seasons end in an engagement).

The season I became a contestant on the show, Jen Schefft, a twenty-eight-year-old PR executive from Chicago, was the bachelorette. Jen became a reality-television star back in 2002 after she was the last woman standing in The Bachelor, the male version of the show. She was picked by bachelor Andrew Firestone, and they got engaged. But their love affair eventually fizzled. The producers of The Bachelorette invited her to try, for a second time, to find love on national television.

This was the first show to be filmed in Manhattan (Los Angeles has been the traditional home of the series), and the dates all had a distinctive New York feel to them. A dinner cruise down the Hudson and a leisurely afternoon at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park were among my favorites. In between came the infamous Rose Ceremonies. The number of bachelors she selected varied. The first night she let ten men go, whereas in my final Rose Ceremony, she released just me.

The process continued until Jen selected her bachelor--in this case, Jerry, a twenty-nine-year-old art-gallery director from Los Angeles. The two didn't stay together for very long following filming, which caused a public backlash against the show. Nevertheless, with an average viewership of more than 10-million households each week, the series continues to be the most successful reality-television program in ABC's history.


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