On ''The Bachelor,'' dating is fun again! Champagne and body shots fuel a friskier version of the formerly running-on-empty matchmaking franchise

By Michael Slezak
March 29, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Charlie O'Connell: Bob D'Amico
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”The Bachelor”: Dating is fun again!

If Jen Schefft’s season of The Bachelorette suffered from too little personality and too little excitement, then Charlie O’Connell’s season of The Bachelor may have the exact opposite problem. To which I say, What problem?

For starters, the producers have thrown out the tired Bachelor playbook, giving Charlie more flexibility as to when and where he passes out the roses, and letting the women do more than stand around like mute robo-brides during the rose ceremonies.

But more important than any structural change, this season’s show has an actual star. Indeed, Charlie’s a quote machine. From his group-date boast that ”Hugh Hefner can only handle seven [women], I handled nine” to his observation that among the 25 ladies competing for his heart, ”a lot of them are easy on the eye; a lot of them are not so easy on the ears,” this is a man who refreshingly chooses to abandon the bland therapy-speak that’s become the blight of reality television, and his decision yields often hilarious results.

Is Charlie looking for true love, ABC-style? More important, do we really care? It’s too early to say, but before all of us start picking out tuxes and gowns for the O’Connell-Whoever spring 2006 wedding, I think it’s important to review a few early warning signs about the altar readiness of this season’s bachelor.

1. Let’s say a man is screening a pool of 25 women to find his ideal mate, settle down, and start a family, but he’s forced to eliminate five of these women after forming initial impressions during two-minute speed-dating sessions. If this man was sincere in his quest, wouldn’t he immediately send home the appalling hoochie who greeted him by ripping off her dress and showing off her swimsuit-model physique? On that subject, how exactly is a swimsuit model (Kimberley) different from a regular fashion model? And how is a bikini model (Kristine) different from a swimsuit model? Can a woman make a living modeling bikinis alone? Apparently not Kristine, who doubles as ”a private investigator . . . for the government.” I bet she gets to do all sorts of neat undercover work while sporting the season’s hottest two-pieces, kinda like Sydney Bristow.

2. Did anyone else find it a little scary that Charlie polished off two glasses of champagne seemingly before 10 a.m.? Then again, I needed a 40 of Smirnoff Ice to make it through tonight’s episode, so who am I to judge?

3. What does Mr. O’Connell actually do for a living? Yeah, I know he’s a real-estate investor, and he used to be on Sliders, and his brother is on Crossing Jordan, but it seems to me this guy spends most of his time hanging out in dive bars, playing golf, and lying on the beach. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Just for the record, I think Charlie is the perfect Mr. Right Now for ABC’s Monday-night lineup — I just don’t know if at this moment in his life, he’ll be Mr. Right for any of his prospective fiancées.

Then again, I’m guessing a lot of these gals didn’t catch the bouquet the last time they attended a wedding. (Probably because they were too busy doing body shots at the open bar.) As my reluctant Bachelor viewing partner exclaimed, ”Where do they hold casting calls for these bachelorettes — outside a psych ward?”

This season’s So Crazy I Wish She Had Lasted Another Week Awards go to Geitan, Danushka, and the aforementioned Kristine, who left the show with the truly depressing comment: ”I want to tell him I love him. I wish he’d said I love you back.” C’mon Kristine! Is that any way for a government PI to show her moxie?

Ever so briefly, it looked like Geitan was going to make the rare dignified exit from the show, taking herself out of the game because she wasn’t really feeling Charlie’s hard-partying vibe at the nightclub. Of course, then she inexplicably returned in time for the rose ceremony, during which she berated the other women with a mangled and uppity bit of English that trumped her chicken-clucking entrance for sheer humiliation: ”I don’t feel that dancing provocatively or acting like a sleaze or a trashy is me.”

Geitan was as unpopular with her fellow contestants as fashion model Danushka, who told Krisily that letting Charlie use her navel to do a body shot on the first date ”doesn’t make you a bitch; it makes you a slut.” Snap. Snap. And snap. (By the way, were the body shots an homage to Charlie’s actor brother, Jerry, who starred in the poorly received 1999 drama Body Shots? Just for fun, let’s all put it on our Netflix lists!) Danushka had all the makings of this season’s Fabrice — right down to her Euro-moniker and her open disdain for everyone (Charlie included) — but there were apparently enough interesting women in the final 12 that the producers didn’t need to force Charlie to keep her around. That’s a shame, since she had the night’s best line: ”If I’d wanted big boobs, I’d have bought them — like some of these other girls.”

Even sans Danushka, a few early front-runners emerged (although with 25 women, it would’ve been nice if ABC had bothered to clearly identify them each time they appeared on screen). Sarah W., who scored a speed-dating rose for showing her roller-blading scars, locked in her position by locking lips with Charlie at the nightclub. These two seem to have some genuine chemistry going on — it’ll be interesting if they can sustain it when they’re having non-slurred conversation. Spunky Kindle didn’t win over the women by stealing Carrie’s spot on the first group date, but her devilish eyes and playful attitude seem to have made an immediate impression on The Bachelor. Kimberley proved she’s not afraid to completely unbutton her blouse and sit on Charlie’s lap with her bra exposed. Charlie’s mom ought to love it when her future daughter-in-law gives out lap dances at Thanksgiving dinner. Then you’ve got Sarah B., one of the few women who left Charlie wanting more when she gave him just a cold hug after their speed date. And don’t forget Jenny, the deep one. You see, one time she and a friend went to an art gallery on a Sunday, something Charlie apparently has never found time to do between his 18 holes and those Jets-Dolphins games.

Okay, okay. I take that back. Charlie himself admits he’s no rocket scientist. But at least in one episode he’s exhibited the ability to carry on actual conversations with the women about their hobbies, their careers, and their dreams — not just the incessant ”How are you feeling about the dating process?” blather that Jen and her beaux spit up last season. In that way alone, Charlie O’Connell has already raised the intelligence level of this season of The Bachelor. I, for one, will drink to that.

So, Bachelor addicts, what do you think? Is Charlie too swayed by sex appeal when he’s handing out roses? What possessed Geitan when she decided to go back to the competition? And what to make of the fact that five of the remaining women’s names begin with the letter k. Do you detect a konspiracy?

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