Season finale, 8 p.m. Sunday, WSOC-TV, Channel 9
On Sunday – during a two-hour season finale that will be followed by a live one-hour “After the Final Rose” special – Emily Maynard will choose between Arie (and his race car) and Jef (and his skateboard), then the “winning” couple either will live happily ever after or split up, like almost every couple to come before them eventually has.
Me, I’m rooting for nothing except for the show to end.
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This was my first experience with “The Bachelorette,” and dear God, I hope it’s my last. The experience has been excruciating partly because watching dating reality shows for me is like rinsing my eyes with gasoline, and partly because Emily has proven herself to be one of the more unexciting characters in the long, sad history of reality TV.
Let me clarify this, though: You and I would, too. Make for boring television, that is. We’d also look a heck of a lot worse in a swimsuit.
The problem with Emily is that she’s not controversial. She’s not abrasive or cocky enough to be The Girl You Love to Hate (see “Big Brother”/“Amazing Race” alum Rachel Reilly, of Concord); she’s not adorably goofy enough to be The Girl You Love to Laugh at (see “Big Brother”/“Amazing Race” alum Jordan Lloyd, of Waxhaw).
Believe me, I’d take great pleasure in being able to mock Emily. To call her a bimbo, a tramp, a dimwit, a screwup. This is, generally, how I like to make my own peace from my own couch with reality TV stars: I hurl insults, taunts, sometimes my Adidas.
But Emily, I hear, is the sweetest, nicest person in real life (meaning outside of the show). And I don’t have trouble believing that. Virtually all season long, on TV, she’s been agreeable, polite, accepting, gracious, friendly, obliging, selfless, lenient, civil, practical, amenable and kind. To everyone.
Even to Ryan, the doofus out of Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., who warned he “might not love on her as much” if she gained weight after they got married. Even to finalist Arie, who she learned midseason had withheld from her a previous relationship with a “Bachelorette” producer. Even to stuck-up jackass Kalon – well, until he openly called her daughter Ricki “baggage,” after which she promptly told him to “get the ---- out.”
“Get the ---- out,” by most measures, was the season’s dramatic highlight. Otherwise, Emily has seemed – gasp – human. Not a monster or a cartoon, not a witch or a brat.
When someone does something nice for her, she smothers the person with gratitude. When someone needs their self-esteem built up, she throws on her coveralls and reaches for bricklaying tools. And when she seems to be in a true state of bliss, she also looks slightly uncomfortable.
She looks like she wants the cameras to go away.
Hotheads, miscreants and posers who can’t get enough of the cameras; these are the archetypes that drive reality shows, whether it’s trash like Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise or more-reputable fare like “Survivor.” We thrive on guys getting drinks thrown in their faces, on girls coming to blows, on karma being a bitch.
Instead, the “drama” in recent weeks on “The Bachelorette” has been limited to Emily’s breakdowns. Rejecting Chris seemed to torment her deeply, and then dumping Sean two Mondays ago appeared to emotionally cripple her. Teasers for the finale suggest that the weight of her final decision is too much to bear.
My sense is that she’s not acting. (My sense is that she probably can’t.) My sense is also that she didn’t fully know it was going to be this hard when she signed up. Being a reality TV star must sound great when you strike a (reported) $250,000 deal. It must sound less-great when you can’t stop crying and the cameras won’t stop rolling.
More and more, Emily looks like someone who is eager to be done with all this. She’s not the only one.