Three years ago, Brad Womack made one of the most sensible moves in reality-TV history: He rejected both women in the Bachelor finale. "I can't look you in the eye and tell you that I love you," he said with admirable clear-headedness. The alternative, of course, was going through with the charade of "proposing" to some random, unappealing stranger from a group chosen by ABC producers.
You'd think Brad would have become a hero, inspiring Americans to finally see through a genre that peddles a creepy view of romantic relationships. Instead, he became a villain, universally reviled for his failure to marry on cue. ABC probably hated him more than anyone for ruining their finale.
Womack has returned for the new season of The Bachelor (Monday, 7 p.m.), convinced that America was right and he was wrong. He entered therapy, apparently to overcome his inability to open his heart to obnoxious reality-TV contestants.
Brad now claims to be cured, and he's determined to choose a wife from among the extreme personalities ABC has assembled for the new season. They include a woman who thinks she's a vampire (complete with fangs) and a woman who viciously slaps him for what he did three years ago.
Brad responds with "I deserved that," having learned in therapy that he's worthy of contempt.
You don't think his therapist is on the ABC payroll, do you?
New Year's Eve
I rarely venture away from the TV, and I see no reason to change that strategy on New Year's Eve. I mean, why go to parties or clubs full of dull, disappointing people when you are guaranteed a fabulous time at home with stars who never let you down?
Check out this breathtaking array of choices: Flo Rida and the cast of Jersey Shore on MTV (10 pm); Bette Midler on HBO (8 pm); Nicki Minaj and My Chemical Romance on NBC (9 pm); Travie McCoy and David Archuleta on Fox (10 pm); and Fergie, Drake, Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Hudson, Jenny McCarthy and Ne-Yo on ABC (9 pm).
If you can find more fun than that out in "the real world," as you call it, be my guest. Fergie and I hope you have a great time and won't miss you in the slightest.
Sarah Palin's Alaska
Sunday, 7, 8 & 9 pm (TLC)
Most TV critics reviewed the premiere of Sarah Palin's reality series and avoided subsequent episodes like the plague. Not me. I braved more episodes with no concern for my personal safety, dedicated only to bringing back an accurate report for you, the reader.
I've watched the former vice presidential candidate tell dumb jokes, bait liberals and recite canned conservative wisdom. I've watched her pose picturesquely as an average hard-working blue-collar American in a variety of settings, from fishing boats to shooting ranges. Each time, she crows so loudly about being an average hard-working blue-collar American that the TV microphones can't fail to pick it up.
You have to wonder, though. Would an average hard-working blue-collar American need to pantomime salt-of-the-earth activities so strenuously for a TV audience?
"I love the smell!" Palin screeches stagily during a photo-op on a fish-processing line. "It smells like work!"
I don't know it smells more like brand management to me.
Monday, 8 pm (PBS)
Civil War general Robert E. Lee was deified after his death in 1870, eulogized by fellow Confederate Jefferson Davis as a "pure Christian." That view got passed down to posterity, with even such Northerners as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt buying in. But this week, American Experience looks a bit closer at the rebel leader and finds several impure, un-Christian qualities.
Lee had a sense of destiny even as a teenager at West Point, determined to become a famous military man. He was obsessed with honor, and he still gets credit for acting honorably during the Civil War, despite his rotten temper and his tendency to blame others for his own mistakes. You definitely didn't want him as a husband or a father, and God help you if this pure Christian owned you. He was an unrepentant white supremacist - "the worst man I ever see," one of his slaves testified. He had a taste for torture and was heard to say "lay it on thick" as a female slave was being whipped.
Quaint approach to "honor," eh?
Tuesday, 9 pm (TNT)
The L.A. cop show begins its third season with a doozy of an episode. One pair of officers investigate the horrific murder of a cleaning lady; another pair look into a gang execution; and a third pair become involved in a street shootout. Each subplot is gritty and intense, with disturbing images and raw emotions. And each feels authentic, partly because the officers deal with everyday personal concerns while doing their jobs.
"They've got some killer tacos," says Det. Ochoa (Jenny Gago) as she and her partner (Regina King) pass a Mexican restaurant on the way to nabbing their murderer. "We've got to stop on our way back!"
The episode is so draining that you probably won't feel like watching another TV drama for at least 24 hours. You may, however, feel like going out for some killer tacos.