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'Bachelorette' sets up ABC's humiliation reality show

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 20, 2003

Mr. Needy beat Mr. Smooth.

Despite the predictions of some (including the New York Daily News), former Miami Heat dancer Trista Rehn picked moon-eyed, poetry spouting firefighter Ryan from Vail, Colo., over self-assured, coolly confident account executive Charlie from Hermosa Beach, Calif.

ABC pulled the usual reality TV fake out Wednesday during the two-hour finale to its reality romance saga The Bachelorette, playing up Charlie's appeal to Trista's family and his born-to-win attitude. But I knew he was destined for the scrap heap when he was the first bachelor to face Trista on a rose petal-covered platform (with only one rose to hand out, she couldn't face the second contestant with nothing).

Once Charlie hit the showers, there was lots of mushy talk about enduring love and such. ("You were the breath of my voice," said a relieved Ryan, who has always seemed dangerously needy to this critic. "I love you with every ounce of who I am.")

It was enough to make you think this engagement might actually last longer than the four months previous Bachelor Aaron Buerge notched (not to worry; ABC has already scheduled a show tonight to plumb the depths of his breakup, airing commercials Wednesday of Buerge telling his former fiancee he doesn't love her anymore).

But I could care less about the smooching; I was waiting for the real payoff: smarmy, overly pampered celebrities tortured by the elements.

Yes, I was waiting for I'm a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here.

Debuting Wednesday after The Bachelorette conclusion, I'm a Celebrity features 10 sorta-famous people stuck in a patch of Australian rainforest enduring manufactured humiliations before a national audience. Viewers get to kick out the famous names one by one as each episode unfolds live over 15 consecutive days in a bizarro blend of Fear Factor, Big Brother and Survivor.

The roster was a who's who of C-list names: Bruce Jenner (former Olympian), Cris Judd (ex-Mr. Jennifer Lopez), Downtown Julie Brown (former MTV VJ), Alana Stewart (ex-Mrs. Rod Stewart), model Tyson Beckford, model Nikki Ziering, actress Maria Conchita Alonso, TV host Robin Leach, Melissa Rivers (daughter of Joan) and Howard Stern sidekick Stuttering John Melendez.

During the debut episode, producers showed the stars trudging into their new home, with a minimum of food and no shelter. Predictably, rotund aging Leach had trouble hiking to the campsite, while pampered, self-admitted "drama queens" such as Stewart and Ziering had trouble adjusting to the idea that they're actually sleeping outside with no hairdresser handy.

Rivers actually freaked out the worst, enduring a contest to win food for the team that required pouring rats and insects in her pants, only to exclaim later, "I did not sign up to be humiliated."

Honey, you're a reality TV contestant. For the next 15 days, humiliation will be your middle name.

All in all, I'm a Celebrity proved more thrilling in concept than reality. Turns out, it's lots more fun watching nobodies torture themselves to get famous than seeing it all in reverse.

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