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''The Bachelorette'': Jen takes charge

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The Bachelorette: Jen
The Bachelorette: BOB D'AMICO

”The Bachelorette”: Jen takes charge

So much of dating is about first impressions. Sometimes you can impress a girl by wearing clothing so tight you literally pass out by evening’s end. Other times you show up in hideous orange socks and accidentally hit on her best friend. And once in a while, you do things just right — smile genuinely and often, avoid talking too much about your money or your issues or your mother, maybe even bring along a little gift that shows you’ve paid attention to your date’s interests and background.

Well, luckily for those of us who enjoy a deep, meaningful night of reality television, the season premiere of The Bachelorette was like a world-class yenta, presenting us with a smorgasbord of suitors: from the rugged firefighter to the ”sensitive” artist; from the falling-down drunk to the just plain falling down; from fit and handsome white gents to . . . umm . . . well, there was one black guy, who got about 11 seconds of screen time. (I don’t know about you, but I’m psyched that ABC capitalized on its decision to move the show to New York City by showcasing the diversity of its population.)

Okay, okay. Some of the blame falls on The Bachelorette herself, Jen Schefft, who got to help cast the show’s 25 suitors. But we’re not mad at ya, Jen. Although I’m not sure if I’d go as far as calling you ”America’s sweetheart,” the way host Chris Harrison did umpteen times in the first hour, you did build up your share of goodwill during your run on a previous edition of The Bachelor (which ended in your failed engagement to Andrew ”Cheekbones” Firestone). And you’re certainly funnier than most titular Bachelorettes and Bachelors. (Yes, Bob, we mean you.) I laughed out loud when you were watching the interview with that hunky firefighter and shouted at the screen, ”There’s a fire in my pants. You can come put it out.”

Jen’s relatable, too: I have yet to see in her eyes the blazing, primal ambition of former Bachelorette and rabid fame-o-sexual Trista Rehn. (May she rest in pink.) And like most of us, she has parents who can take one minute in the spotlight and use it to humiliate us with maximum efficiency. Poor Jen — I cringed when her dad revealed how a lot of girls in high school didn’t like her because ”she always had boys around.” Here I thought I had it bad because my mother likes to tell how I carried a Miss Piggy binder in the first grade.

At the meet-the-Bachelors cocktail party, some of the boys broke rules that appear in the first three pages of the Dating 101 textbook. Eric T. managed to mention his mother during his introduction. Eerily pleasant Stu innocuously dropped so many hints about his obsession with Jen during a two-hour period that I seriously considered dialing 911. Pumpkin-socked wonder Eric H. became the victim of a brilliant sting when he tried to pick up one of Jen’s two buddies, who were disguised as cocktail waitresses. And Kentucky hairdresser Chris C. drank like a frat boy on his 21st birthday, turning his Southern drawl into a symphony of slurs.

(Speaking of unique voices, why did the producers start using subtitles whenever Fabrice started talking? I mean, yeah, the dude is from France, but he was speaking anglais.)

Eric T. , Stu, and Eric H., however, have got nothing on the ”ultimate humiliation” the show promised — and delivered — during the climactic rose ceremony. As Jen dragged out her floral distribution, cheeseball David, who boasted of his love of tight-fitting clothing (the better to show off his sculpted physique), collapsed into a heap. Now I hate to kick a man while he’s down (heh, heh), but maybe David needs to spend a little more time in the gym working on those weak knees of his. (Blanche, fetch the smelling salts!)

With the pretenders dropping like flies, the contenders were pretty obvious. Ski instructor Ben has a ton of personality (although his group toast was so heavy-handed I’m surprised he could hold up his glass). And we all knew that Josh Duhamel clone Jerry was an early favorite the minute he pulled Jen away for private time and got all deep, telling her the reason he was on the show was ”because I’m supposed to be here.” Is that romantic? Or just drivel? I didn’t have time to decide, because suddenly the guitar music kicked in, and the (con?) artist picked up Jen and proceeded to carry her down the stairs.

Keep an eye out too, for Wendell, who’s got a nice smile but needs to learn to enunciate; John Paul, who says he’s not all about money but spends an awful lot of time talking about how much he has; and Mark, who comes across as a real live adult.

And at this point, I wouldn’t rule out either of the virgins. Yeah, you heard that right: virgins! You got a problem with that? I told you New York was a diverse kinda town. Jen seemed pretty taken by both of them, though I’d give the edge to Virgin Jason, who amusingly notes the ”body is not a carnival ride, it’s a gift,” over Virgin Josh, who has bad hair and claims his virginity is his ”greatest accomplishment.” (Can your greatest accomplishment come from not doing something?)

Which leads me to my personal pick for Jen, the man whom I now boldly — and perhaps foolishly — select after week 1 to win the whole damn thing: charming English teacher Michael. Yeah, the teddy bear was over the top, but the guy has a million-dollar smile and a genuinely good soul that’s evident the minute you see him. He clearly likes Jen (without creepily wanting to profess his love for her 20 minutes after meeting), and ya know what? I think our gal digs the big lug too.

Maybe after sampling the Firestone fortune, all Jen wants is a nice, normal guy to love her. Which may be why she’s America’s favorite sweetheart reality dating show contestant of all time. Ever.

Which Bachelor is your early pick to win it all? Which of the 15 remaining guys would you boot first? And is Jen really such a sweetheart?

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