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Looking for direction

The reign of The Bachelor's Bob Guiney has left rejected bachelorette Mary Delgado of Tampa and the show at critical junctures.

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV/Media Critic
Published November 19, 2003

It cost her a job and brought rejection on national television from a guy she told the world could be the love of her life.

Still, Mary Delgado won't say she entirely regrets taking part in the latest edition of ABC's reality dating show The Bachelor.

"At this point, I'm trying to pull the pieces of my life back together. . . . It's kind of emotional for me," said Delgado, 36, who left a job she had held for seven years at Masonite Corp. in Tampa as obligations for the show increased. (The former Buccaneers cheerleader appeared on ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28 as a sideline commentator Sunday, and she has since landed a position as marketing director for the new Towers of Channelside development.)

"There are parts of me that will regret it," she said. "It's been real difficult these days not knowing which direction my life will go in."

Reality TV fans are used to hearing sentiments like these from show participants, particularly as the programs air and people begin to realize how much they've been exploited.

But this season's Bachelor, which concludes with a two-hour episode tonight, seemed a study in exploitation as bachelor Bob Guiney, 32, indulged the time-honored reality TV tactic of saying one thing and doing another.

He said he wanted to connect with the women emotionally, then wasted no time getting down to making out. He said he wanted children and a family life, then ousted Delgado, the one most honest about sharing those goals.

And though it's true that The Bachelor has always been a meat market disguised as a search for romance, Guiney has made that distinction painfully clear, making the show feel as seamy as a Temptation Island rerun.

When Guiney was the chubby underdog rejected by Bachelorette star Trista Rehn, his self-deprecating humor and amazement at the media attention (including multiple appearances on Oprah) seemed appealing.

Now he's just another grasping opportunist with a book, What a Difference a Year Makes, and an album called 3 Sides, being released Tuesday.

"He's like most of the bachelors. . . . He's taking full advantage of the fact that these women are throwing themselves at him," said Alima Ravenscroft, a former contestant on NBC's dating show For Love or Money, who writes a Bachelor recap column for RealityNewsOnline.com. "I believe (the women are) infatuated with him. . . . And the idea that he's somebody well-known to Oprah and the country, that's going to add a bit to the infatuation."

Certainly, Delgado seemed to fall off that ledge, proclaiming soon into the show's run that she had fallen in love with Guiney and talking of raising a baseball team-sized family with him.

Fans say those words sealed Delgado's fate, branding her as the older woman desperate for an instant family that newly christened playboy Guiney wasn't about to provide.

The show was taped over the summer, and the episode featuring her ejection aired Nov. 5.

Like many reality contestants before her, Delgado, the oldest woman ever to appear on the show, said she was a victim of unscrupulous editing. "Every time we did talk, he was the one who would bring up, "How do you feel about family and . . . kids,' " she said. "But the only part they showed was me talking about it."

Ravenscroft expects Guiney to choose Kelly Jo Kuharski, 24, a Michigan marketing analyst. ("They have a really good connection.") Delgado's money is on Estella Gardinier, 28, of Beverly Hills, Calif. ("I'm not seeing a lot of Estella. . . . They may be steering viewers away from her.")

Despite some viewership erosion, The Bachelor franchise remains a solid draw for ABC, which will televise Rehn's wedding beginning next week and reveal the identity of its new bachelorette in December. (Regarding rumors she might be the new bachelorette, Delgado said, "Would they cast a woman my age? No. I'm not.")

But ABC needs to shake up its reality dating franchise and pick its bachelors more carefully. Viewers can endure only so many empty hot tub visits and apricot massages before we start feeling a little too cheap ourselves.

AT A GLANCE

The Bachelor concludes its fourth edition in a two-hour finale at 9 tonight on WFTS-Ch. 28.

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