‘The Choice’ Premiere Recap: Beauty Before Brains

The Choice (Michael Becker/FOX)

If you like the concept of “The Voice’s” blind auditions, then you, like me, probably had at least an ounce of interest in Fox’s totally trashy-looking dating show “The Choice,” which premiered Thursday night.

The concept is this: four single “celebrity” bachelors from the B-through-D lists have their backs facing a stage on which girls with names like Amber and Alyssa and Vanessa, desperate for a date with someone nominally famous and hopeful for a possible future in reality television, have 30 seconds to woo the men with their words alone. If the men’s interests are peaked, they can spin their chair around by pulling on their “love handle.” Then the girl is theirs, unless more than one bachelor chose them—in that case, the girl picks whose team she’s on. Each bachelor gets three girls, and then rapidly whittles their picks down to one, with whom they will go on a date that very night (so they tell us).

Ok, it’s not like that premise could have fooled us into thinking this was going to be the next “Mad Men.” I never expected this to be intellectually challenging. But I had a little hope that some of the demographic mash-up that makes the early “Voice” episodes so powerful could have rubbed off a little bit here, since Fox so brazenly ripped off that show in every other way. And? Fail.

In fact, there was no need for the spinning chairs—other than to inflict minor whiplash on the bachelors with constant, pointless revolving. All of the women were hot—at least by reality TV standards. They were all thin, wore tight dresses, had nicely coiffed hair, sizable racks, pouty lips and eyes, legs, and whatever else you need to charm a man these days. And most of them used their 30 seconds to describe themselves physically, anyway. Shouldn’t there be some rule about that, like how in charades you can’t spell out the word? Plus, the audience cheered louder depending on the hotness of the girl, so at one point, bachelor Romeo spun his chair around before one woman even began to speak.

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Therefore, even with the blindness, there were no surprise uglies or fatties slipping through the cracks here, and, unlike the “Voice,” there were certainly no gays or lesbians finally getting their TV due. All but one of the girls got picked, but it didn’t matter. Twelve girls needed to be assigned within about 20 minutes, so it was just rapid spinning back and forth. About five girls in, the parade of women just blended together, making each man’s selection arbitrary. Oh, this one likes sports? That one’s favorite color is pink? Her favorite movie is “Titanic”? (Original!) Good luck distinguishing one girl’s pathetic plea from another’s.

Where the “Voice” asks the judges to find beauty below the surface, the “Choice” asks the judges to find beauty below the neckline. Despite the noble pretense.

It’s all rather insulting to the lovely Cat Deeley, the “So You Think You Can Dance” host and the most natural beauty on the “Choice.” Cat, with her long blonde hair and perfect face and eight feet of height, looking like a regular girl next to these overdone mannequins…who would have thought? Right off the bat, one of the bachelors asked Cat out, but she quickly closed that down, announcing that she was “otherwise engaged.”

And poor Cat had to lead the parade, cheerfully welcoming one woman after the next to the meat market, like a madam. “She really was gorgeous,” Cat described one contestant. “I’ll start the bidding at $200,” seemed like what would naturally come next. I don’t understand why Cat was chosen to host this. Or why a woman was chosen to host this. Other than the fact that it might look even worse for a man to be giving these women away to other men. But I couldn’t help but feel betrayal from Cat, whom I normally love, for coming across like a total pimp.

But if there’s one thing a sane person should NOT do, it’s watch the “Choice” through feminist glasses. It will get you nowhere but very angry, very fast.

In Thursday night’s premiere, the four bachelors were rapper Romeo, skier Jeremy Bloom, soap actor Jason Cook and “Jersey Shore” star Pauly D. Romeo seemed to be the most down-to-earth. (During one exchange with a contestant, he was asked if he could live anywhere, where would it be. He said Africa. The girl just burst out laughing.) Pauly D was his usual tan self; and the other two were indistinguishable douchey white boys. The proceedings kicked off quickly, with Jeremy selecting an “innocent” blonde from North Carolina, supposedly because she said something nice about her 96-year-old grandmother. Others attracted the bachelors based on their interest in dancing, liking to party, being a virgin, wanting to cook for their men, etc.

Several of the women tried to convince the men that they had both brains AND beauty: one was both prom queen and salutatorian of her high school, we learned; another graduated from college magna cum laude; and another said she has a PhD in fun or some such cliché. But brains here aren’t brains in the real world. During the first round of eliminations, when the bachelors had to endure 15 seconds of conversation with each of their picks before sending one of their three women home, one girl was actually asked to multiply nine by nine, and what was the capital of Colorado. Clearly if you get those two right, you are rocket scientist material. I know that’s what I look for in a mate—3rd grade-level math and geography skills.

So, after the first elimination, bachelors have now spent all of 45 seconds hearing from their potential dates. For the final elimination, they each ask their two girls a single question, after which they spin around again (why???) for 10 seconds, and then return forward and choose their date. Romeo asked, “What is the most impressive thing you’ve ever done for love?” The first girl said that she took her boyfriend on a trip to Jamaica and it was really fun. The other girl flew across the country to see her boyfriend for just six hours. And Romeo went with Jamaica, choosing Lisa, an Olivia Wilde-lookalike.

Jeremy asked his girls when they were most adventurous. The first girl said she on principle would never skydive, but if he asked her to, she would debase herself and her principles and do whatever he wanted. The second girl said her biggest adventure was being on this show. Jeremy picked her.

Jason asked how his girls would heal his broken heart? The first girl, the only black woman competing, said she would give him “a little coffee for your cream.” When the second girl answered (not knowing what Nia said) responded innocently “chocolate,” she basically handed the win to Nia.

And Pauly D asked if men and women can be friends. Elyse, dark-haired, short-skirted and with a tan to match Pauly’s, and Donna, a petite Romanian, both said yes, referring to Pauly’s deep, deep friendship with those multi-dimensional female pals of his, JWOWW and Snooki. Since what they said didn’t matter at all, Pauly finally brought this whole show home with one honest line. “If you look up my type in the dictionary, there is a great big picture of Elyse.” And so, after all the pretense of the spinning, the love handles, and those less-than-minute-long “conversations,” the “Choice” was really about one thing and one thing only: which girl was hotter?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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