By Kate Ward
Updated January 03, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST
Rick Rowell/ABC

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I’ve seen Intervention. But when it comes to the guiltiest of TV’s guilty pleasures, The Bachelor is unmatched: The ABC series is truly one of the most depressing things to air on television.

Now, I like to think I have a good sense of humor. In fact, I’m such a huge fan of Schadenfreude, I’ve obsessively watched entire seasons of dating reality shows like Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, Parental Control, Mr. Personality, Temptation Island, and, yes, even A Basement Affair. (Not to mention the fact that my basic cable-less teenage self was raised on 3 a.m. showings of the likes of ElimiDate and The 5th Wheel.) But there’s something about The Bachelor that leaves me wanting to cry like a regular off-camera Jenna.

Perhaps it’s my inner feminist eager to rail against any series that promotes female in-fighting for the affection of a man essentially dating dozens of women at once. But, then again, I love watching this. More so, it’s the seriousness in which The Bachelor takes itself. Sure, it might incorporate ridiculous plot twists and, occasionally, the band Train, but insisting that every scene is THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. EVER. gives the series an emotional weight unrivaled by the striptease challenge-laden likes of Rock of Love. Thus, though it’s obvious most women join the cast of The Bachelor for the attention or for free exotic trips, it’s easy to assume a few hop on board convinced that they’re about to find themselves in THE. BEST. RELATIONSHIP. EVER., rather than on THE. MOST. EMBARRASSING. TV. EVER.

Because, let’s face it, that’s exactly where these women find themselves: Sure, some might turn on-screen rejection into future love and opportunity (see: Trista Sutter), but most Bachelor contestants end up reviled (Vienna Girardi), ridiculed (Ashley Hebert), or pitied. And I’m not sure which of those three is worse, especially since the contestants know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. Just see last night’s show, in which two women emotionally clawed at one another immediately after meeting, leaving one (Jenna, pictured) to break down on day one because of competition over a man she doesn’t even know. I know dating is tough these days, but expecting to enter into a life-long, meaningful relationship by appearing a reality show? Why, that’s more ridiculous than wanting a one-night stand with Bret Michaels.

Every time I catch the series, I actually hope with all my being that its contestants are in it for anything but the love — the notoriety, the future reality TV gigs, money to party at nightclubs, etc. Otherwise, we could be talking about women donning permanent rose-colored glasses and clinging to the desperate hope that their Prince Charming will swoop them up in front of dozens of cameras after kissing 20 other women. As a TV viewer, it’s tough for me to accept The Bachelor‘s rose — unless it comes with heaps of Prozac.

Am I alone in thinking The Bachelor is the most depressing guilty pleasure on TV?

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWardEW

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