I watched the live “After the Final Rose” finale of the latest installment of ABC’s The Bachelorette on Monday night. (To the peanut gallery: Let he who is without reality-show sin cast the first remote control…) Jen Schefft is a sweet-faced blonde from Chicago—it makes sense she is an event planner/public relations professional. Jen’s just the right combination of Midwestern practicality, 21st century assertiveness, and feminine acquiescence, with her soft voice, wide eyes and determinedly set jaw. I can practically see her tossing her hat on the plaza in front of the Hancock Tower, just like Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis thirty-five years ago, as well as extolling the benefits of upgrading to premium-quality sashimi for your next trendy cocktail event.
But Jen became the reluctant Bachelorette that night, not only dashing her swains’ hopes for a happy ending (and lucrative bottom-feeder celeb career and plenty of airtime on Extra!), but probably pounding the final nail in the coffin of ABC’s Monday night True-Love juggernaut. The bloom is off the Final Rose, folks.
"I just want to make sure that we do it right,” she vowed after turning down her second televised proposal, from Jerry. Runner-up John Paul was dissed and dismissed just before, in the first hour of the program, previously recorded in the New York penthouse or rooftop or wherever the final showdown occurred (I didn’t watch it since I couldn’t fast forward or Tivo through the lame—I mean lamer—parts. I cannot afford that kind of convenience).
Seeing him Monday night before a live audience after being (ostensibly) apart for the last several months, Jen rejected Jerry, an LA art dealer who actually appeared to be a wee bit too canny to appear on a reality dating—well, marriage--show, AGAIN. The newly terminated couple perched uncomfortably next to each other and gamely answered chuckleheaded questions from host Chris Harrison, who’s about as much a non-entity as you can get this side of a black hole, yet who still managed to feign enough surprise at the break-up to garner a Daytime Emmy nomination. If only the show was on before 5pm.
Then Chris turned the True Love Inquisition over to the audience. The first questioner was visibly perturbed with her Bachelorette’s decision (or non-decision). “I mean, what is it going to take to satisfy you, Jen??” she demanded, quivering under her carefully-chosen Banana Republic outfit.
That’s right, how dare she? Doesn’t she know you can marry someone you select from a group of bleached-teeth TV suckups you’ve romped across NYC with for six weeks?
“You can’t make yourself fall in love with someone,” Jen parried, both to the irate Bachelorette fan whose faith in True Love she had trampled, and to ex-almost-fiance Jerry. “You know that, don’t you?” she implored the sucker. Ever-suave Jerry was at a loss for words.
Chris alluded to the rumors swirling that Jen has been dating her boss, who turns out to be Chicago nightclub impressario Billy Dec (who has to have the most asshole-sounding name I have ever heard, ever). Jen demurred with enough shock to give Chris a run for his money in the Daytime Emmy race. "I'm not dating anyone," she remonstrated, widening those already-wide eyes, not even her first TV-fiance, the Tire King of San Francisco (also with an a-hole name), Andrew Firestone.
The first domino to fall in this go-round, eager-faced John Paul from Oklahoma City, told the cameras after his own sucker punch, "I think Jen made a mistake. I think six months from now she'll regret it. Jen's going to wake up, she's going to be 32 and [still] looking for a husband... looking for someone she knew was there and passed up, and it will be too late at that point."
Oh my God, the horror! She still might be single at 32, and thereby well on the way to a hairy chin, a bus pass, and 15 cats in a frowsy one-bedroom apartment in a Sheridan Road highrise.
Jen, let me have a moment with you, girl-to-girl: You are my new hero. By rejecting the Harry Winston engagement pabulum they offered you, in your own sweet, blond Kelly on 90210 way, you told the omnipotent architects of reality TV, millions of True Love brainwashees, and the ABC network (and hell, probably FOX too) to shove that Final Rose up their arses.
Maybe you should have stayed in Chicago and conducted your Husband Search from barstool at John Barleycorn. It's sad, but you might have had better odds.