Everyone has at least one “guilty pleasure.” For some people, it is their beloved velvet painting of Elvis. For me, it’s The Bachelor. I confess, I’ve been addicted to the past few seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I was even one of the hardcore types who closely analyzed the preview screen caps down to the lapels on suits, to try to figure out the bachelor/bachelorette picked at the end of the show.

So, although I’ll probably regret it later, I’ve volunteered to write a recap of The Bachelor each week for the enjoyment of others who share my weakness. This week’s recap will be in two parts. This recap will give an introduction and preview of the show. Then, I’ll write a separate play-by-play recap of the two-hour season premiere.

First off, a valid question would be, “Why would a seemingly intelligent woman be addicted to one of the cheesiest shows on television?” I think the most basic reason is that I like the essential premise of the show. The contestants aren’t competing for money, their “prize” is the man or woman of their dreams.

Never mind that The Bachelor is batting zero when it comes to lasting relationships—not one marriage has resulted from the Bachelor so far. (The closest was Andrew Firestone and Jen Sheff who became engaged, but parted amicably a few months later. In fact, Jen is the next Bachelorette, filming right now.) In contrast, both Bachelorettes are still with the man they chose on the show. Trista and Ryan Sutter had their infamous “pink” wedding on TV, while Meredith Phillips and Ian McKee are still engaged to each other, but plan to marry away from the cameras. (I have theories about why the Bachelorettes are still with the men they met on the show, but none of Bachelors are still with the woman they picked. But, I’ll save those musings for a later time.) In the end, I’m still a hopeless romantic who refuses to completely give up on the fairy tale.

This is also exactly the kind of reality show for a person with some princess tendencies. (Who? Moi?) The bachelorettes live in a gorgeous mansion, and all they are required to do is to sit around the pool and go on “dream dates.” No eating of live worms or having to build shelter. The most physically challenging thing these gals have to do is to walk to the refrigerator to replenish their Evian. Sounds good to me.

Like other ongoing reality shows, the Bachelor has developed some “traditions.” Although these recurring themes are met with groans by seasoned viewers, they also reassure us that some things in the world, however cheesy, remain constant. The Bachelor’s host is Chris Harrison, who appears to have taken lessons on robot hosting from Julie Chen. I have read articles saying that that Chris Harrison is funny and spontaneous in real life—as I suspect Julie Chen is, as well. But the producers have managed to edit out any small traces of personality that Chris may have left.

Like Survivor and Big Brother, The Bachelor also has certain lines that were probably first written by an intern who has since left the entertainment field to become a professional grocery bagger, but which remain to be repeated show after show to haunt and annoy us. One classic is that contestants on The Bachelor continually speak about their experiences on the show as “a journey” And host Chris Harrison dutifully promises us every week that the upcoming rose ceremony will be “the most exciting rose ceremony ever.”

One other factor that causes The Bachelor to stand out in the crowded field of reality shows is that we know going in that the show will be a train wreck. We fully realize that we are going to hate ourselves for getting suckered in, but continue to watch anyway. The way the show is set up, if the bachelor actually finds the woman of his dreams, he is still forced to lie and break the hearts of at least one or two women so that the producers can keep the suspense for the TV viewer. And, if the bachelor doesn’t fall in love with any of the women, he still has to pretend to do so, again to keep the story line moving. We know going in that someone’s heart is going to be broken. There is no “it’s just a game” about The Bachelor. The contestants are playing for love, but the producers have no hesitation about manipulating the contestants and the viewers to extract the maximum emotion.

Despite the fact that the ostensible reason for the show is to try to find true love, the producers set things up so that the participants have minimal time alone with each other, certainly not enough time to decide whether one of the bachelorettes is the truly the right woman. Yet, the bachelors are coached to repeatedly remind the viewers (and the bachelorettes) that the sole reason they are on the show is to find the love of their life (as opposed to having the chance to make intimate contact with as many attractive women as possible in a six-week span). The Bachelor is one of the most heavily edited and least “real” of any “reality” show.

But, there lies one of the main attractions of The Bachelor for true addicts. Throughout the show, we constantly try to read between the lines to figure out how the contestants are really feeling, despite the masterful attempts by the producers to fool us. Is this real love? Or is it manipulation by the producers? At the end of the show, true addicts are analyzing preview clips to compare how the contestants are standing at the final rose ceremony, to try to guess the “lucky” bachelorette who wins the heart of the bachelor.

The last round of The Bachelor was a huge disappointment. The bachelor, NY giants quarterback Jesse Palmer, desperately needed a shot of charisma and tact. In an apparent Bachelor first, several of the bachelorettes asked that Jesse not give them roses because they did not want to continue to date him. This happened after the hapless (and clearly inebriated) Mr. Palmer decided that the best way to impress a group of bachelorettes with his sincerity, was to say that he came on The Bachelor to look for true love because he was tired of waking up in the morning next to strangers. This may be standard behavior for professional football players perhaps, but isn’t most women’s fantasy of their ideal husband.

Jesse and Jessica (the girl he picked—too cute) lasted as a couple only as long as required for the mandatory round of interviews, then broke up over the phone. Jessica went to Hawaii immediately afterwards with Tara, the girl Jesse didn’t pick. When the last two bachelorettes are better friends with each other than with the bachelor, you know there’s a problem.

One other problem with the last show was that all the participants were too young to be ready for a committed relationship. Then, Jesse managed to send home virtually any women who had any individuality, leaving him with several blonde clones (the “nice girls”) and the uber-bitch Trish (a brunette, of course.) In the end, there was so little real romance between Jesse and any of the bachelorettes that the producers elevated Trish to star of the show, to the point of having her stalk Jesse on one of his final dates and invite him to her hotel room. (Yeah, sure. All female stalkers take camera crews with them and know the ultra-secret location of the final dates.) The last season of The Bachelor was so awful that we addicts swore to ourselves that we’d never watch the show again.

Which brings us to Bachelor 5. The Bachelor may well have “jumped the shark” several bachelors ago, but the producers, trying to keep their spot in the lineup (much like Jesse and the NY Giants) have provided some twists this time around. First, instead of one bachelor, there are two. In the first episode, the women, after getting a chance to briefly meet both bachelors, vote which of the two bachelors will stay on, and which will be sent home immediately.

Also, after the “too young” fiasco in the last Bachelor, the producers have gone for an older group this time around. The two bachelors are both 40. And, the women range in age from the late 20’s to the late 30’s. This season, the bachelor will live in the same mansion as the bachelorettes. (In past shows, they lived separately, seeing each other only for dates and rose ceremonies.) And, Chris Harrison hints in the premiere episode that the bachelor this time around may not be able to get away with the less-than-committed “promise ring” or “hope to get to know you better” finales of previous shows. It appears that the bachelor will be required to propose marriage or send the woman home. (However, the information on this is sketchy at this point—we’ll have to see how it plays out.)

Despite the fact that they are the same age, the two bachelors are very different from each other. Jay Overbye is currently a residential real estate agent in New York, after holding a variety of jobs and entrepreneurial ventures. A native of New Jersey, he comes from a big family but has never been married. He is tall and lean, with short hair and greying temples, and is clearly intended to represent the traditional, responsible husband-to-be.

The other bachelor, Byron Velvick, has been a professional bass fisherman for 13 years. A native of Southern California, he currently lives near Las Vegas, and is divorced. Like Jay, he is muscular and lean, but has blonde hair that curls almost to his shoulders.

My initial reaction to both of the bachelors wasn’t wildly enthusiastic, although they are both attractive. (But, as you’ll see in my upcoming recap of the premiere episode, I warmed up to them both after I saw them in action on TV.) My first thought (that didn’t change when I saw them on TV) was that they both seem more like 50-year olds than 40-year olds. Maybe I just have immature friends, but my single male friends in their early 40’s seem much younger that these two. In Jay’s case, it may be the grey hair and the very traditional look. In Byron’s case, all the time he has spent outdoors has given him more lines on his face than the typical 40-year old.

In the previews, both bachelors also sported a “metrosexual,” highly-groomed look that seemed more suited to a guy in his 20’s than a man of 40. I confess my prejudices here, however. Personally, I’m not attracted to the metrosexual look, popular as it is. Despite my princess tendencies, my “look” is pretty low maintenance, and I don’t want a guy who spends more time getting ready than I do. But again, my opinions on the look of the bachelors softened during the premiere show.

What about the 25 bachelorettes? At this point in the season, I can barely tell them apart, but there was one feature of the women that immediately “stood out.” With one exception, this is a voluptuous bunch, bordering on “plastic surgeons gone wild.” This common “asset” may be explained by the fact that the producers wanted to make up to viewers for giving us “older” women (in Hollywood terms), by making sure that there was plenty of boobage to enjoy. It also appears to reflect the preferences of the bachelors. Internet fans have already found the Web site of one of Byron’s former girlfriends, and to describe her as well-endowed is an understatement. One fun sport this season will be to try to spot the gals that are “real” (if any), versus those that have been surgically enhanced.

For now, here are the names of the 25 women, along with their age and occupation (with the information taken from the official Bachelor Web site at abc.com.)

Abby—Age 30, Acrobat/dancer
Alma—Age 35, Cafe owner
Amanda—Age 27, Cosmetic buyer
Amy—Age 27, Marketing consultant
Andrea—Age 33, Dental hygienist
Ashley—Age 31, Teacher
Carolyn—Age 36, Financial advisor
Cheresse—Age 31, Director of marketing, advertising, PR
Cynthia—Age 37, Charity foundation director
Elizabeth—Age 29, Pharmaceutical sales
Jayne—Age 37, Dog groomer/makeup artist
Jennifer—Age 31, Business account executive
Kelly—Age 34, Model/actress
Kerry—Age 31, Traveling nurse
Kristie—Age 32, Bar/restaurant owner
Kristin—Age 28, Office manager, real estate agent
Krysta—Age 28, Corporate financial analyst
Leina—Age 28, Advertising
Lisa—Age 33, Teacher
Melinda—Age 39, Photographer/songwriter
Natalie—Age 34, Writer
Nicole—Age 28, Recruiting
Susie—Age 32, Insurance broker
Tanya—Age 31, Teacher
Wende—Age 28, Model/real estate agent

With that, we’ll stop. Next up—A play-by-play of the first show.