Bachelor’s Prince Charming Falls Off His Horse

By Josie Brown

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Ellen DeGeneres was blown away. The View’s Elizabeth Hasselbeck, watching in her wedding dress, was miffed, and made no bones about it. And a legion of devoted viewers were beside themselves Tuesday night, when the star of  the TV reality show The Bachelor, Jason Mesnick, backed out of his proposal to winner Melissa Rycroft on national television–only to ask for a second chance with the runner up, Molly Malaney.

Okay, everyone, calm down. Yes, the way he did it – in front of millions of viewers – royally sucked. And his excuse (“There were things I needed to tell her in person and I was not allowed to see her. That was part of the deal. I signed up for it in my contract…”) is plain out lame.

You’re going to be breaking some poor girl’s heart. Seriously, dude: Don’t you know how that will make her feel?

Sure you do. Because IT HAPPENED TO YOU LAST SEASON.

How soon they forget.

So yeah, if anything proves that Mesnick is more by-the-book nerd than Prince Charming, that douchey move was certainly it.

Still, let’s cut him some slack. Because in the end, it’s not how he did it that counts, but why.

And if you’re to believe him (of course, many of you don’t anymore) he had something much more at stake than her immediate feelings and his on-air rep:

Like, say, the rest of his life.

Even those of us who don’t make love on national television have had an occasion or two to make a mistake in public. But isn’t it better to call off an engagement than go through with a marriage you question so early in the game?

There are many reasons why only one marriage has taken place during The Bachelor’s many seasons:

Like the fact that people tend to watch what they do and say when a camera is rolling. (Unless you’re in The Office, where it seems as if that camera catches every time someone winces or puts their foot in their mouth. But since it’s a scripted show, that has more to do with the wonderful writing and acting);

Or, say, the amount of time Mesnick had with the contestants was less than that between newlyweds in a third world country arranged marriage;

Or maybe it’s a matter of “be careful what you wish for.” A woman is more apt to turn up the heat when she’s in a showdown with 23 other ladies–then be more herself after the glass slipper is hers, and the cameras go away. Call it Scarlett O’Hara fever.

In any event, Mesnick did the right thing for him and his son.

And quite frankly, for Melissa, too.

As for Molly, well, only time will tell. Hopefully it will be a long engagement. Here’s hoping they spend at least an hour a week of it with an audience of one: a good couples counselor.

If The Bachelor’s producers want to better their odds and their ratings, they’ll need to rethink their formula. My suggestion: do away with the heartbreaking and demeaning cattle call. In its place they should consider a docudrama of a real couple who have been sitting on the fence, for whatever the reason. Be it the trauma of past relationships, the fear of making parents’ mistakes, or misperceptions of love, the real issues between two people who strive to share their hearts is vastly more enthralling than a competition.

And it will still have the ladies of The View watching.

Hopefully not in their wedding dresses.

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Josie Brown is a novelist, and the Relationships Channel Editor for SingleMindedWomen.com. Along with her husband, Martin, she is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right [September 2009]