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A drawn out but 'easy' choice

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 21, 2002

This time, he popped the question.

This time, he popped the question.

Rather than follow the lead of first-time Bachelor Alex Michel, hunky Springfield, Mo., banker Aaron Buerge actually asked 27-year-old school psychologist Helene to be his bride Wednesday on the two-hour finale of ABC's reality romance hit, The Bachelor.

"I've been thinking about a future with Helene since I first met her," said Buerge, 28, who was shown rejecting 22-year-old Alabama college student Brooke just before proposing to Helene on a flower-covered podium. (Of course, she accepted.) "This is going to be so easy," he said.

Alert viewers saw Buerge's choice in his body language long before the show's end. But there was no way ABC would turn its back on a chance to fill two hours in an important ratings period with one of its biggest hits.

So viewers spent far too much time watching Buerge take first one woman, then the other to his hometown and to meet his parents. (His grandma and sister-in-law seemed particularly dubious of the whole exercise.) Later, he shared a final, intimate dinner with each hopeful.

Buerge tried to keep the show's conceit alive during the too-drawn-out finale, swearing that he couldn't decide between two women who seemed so perfect for him. The two were the finalists from a field of 25 women that began the show, competing for Buerge's attention over a series of dates and social outings.

Through it all Wednesday, you couldn't help wondering: If the woman he finally picks truly is his soulmate, why is he having so much trouble choosing between the two of them?

As it turns out, he really didn't have much trouble making the choice, a brutal truth that seemed to sting Brooke during her final limo ride after Buerge delivered the damaging news.

"What I should have said was, 'You're making the biggest mistake of your life,"' said a weeping Brooke. "I don't understand what the hell's going on. I deserve better than this."

After two hours wasted watching this empty emotional exercise, I know how she feels.

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