ABC's new reality series tries to out-fox rival

— He may not be a multimillionaire, or a standup comedian, but the star of ABC's new series, "The Bachelor," has an awful lot in common with Rick Rockwell.

Like Rockwell, star of Fox's ill-fated "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire," Alex Michel has every man's fantasy: his pick of beautiful women desperate for attention.

The Bachelor' airs at 8 p.m. Mondays on ABC, Sunflower Broadband channels 9 and 14.

Also like Rockwell, Michel is the star of a television show so cheesy he's doomed to become an instant trivia question.

"The Bachelor," a six-week series that premiered Monday night, is the latest effort by a struggling network to right itself. It's strikingly similar to Fox's reality series of two years ago.

Michel, a 31-year-old management consultant from San Francisco, says he's ready to marry. So ABC set him up in a Malibu beachfront mansion and combed the country for 25 women eager to meet an eligible man. The bachelorettes included two lawyers, a doctor, a Hooters waitress and a Kansas event planner � Amanda Marsh, 23, of Gardner � who said she once bought a trapeze for a date.

He met each one in the show's opening edition, made small talk at a party, then offered 15 a red rose signifying his desire to get to know them better.

"You are totally empowered here," host Chris Harrison told the women. "You don't have to accept."

None of the women refused. A blonde who didn't make the cut cried.

"Who Wants to Be a Multimillionaire" gave Rockwell a bevy of babes to choose from, too. He had to make his choice after a game show-like contest; Michel will be given the luxury of a little more time and a few dates.

"Multimillionaire" triggered debate about its tackiness, then became a laughingstock when Rockwell's chosen bride, Darva Conger, ran off and it was revealed the prospective groom had once threatened an ex-girlfriend.

Yet before it was disgraced, TV executives took note of the astounding interest in the show. Viewership soared to 22.8 million people by the show's end. ABC is hoping some of those same viewers will tune to "The Bachelor."

New York Post critic Linda Stasi awarded the show a minus-four stars in a scathing review Monday.

"You are degrading, debasing, desperate, depressing, dull and dopey," she wrote. "You are a show so ill-conceived and demeaning to women that you make Howard Stern look like a feminist."


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