First appeared in The New Yorker, February 3, 2003.
Those of us in the "literary game" often have "guilty pleasures" that we indulge in when not translating Cicero from the Latin into the German and then back into Latin, to see how funny it sounds. My favorite guilty pleasure is watching the new TV series, "The Bachelor: Who Screws the Best?" in which an ugly, poor, middle-aged guy has sex with a series of young women who have misled into believing that he is handsome, young, and rich, after which he decides which of them to propose to, at which time they are notified that he is actually ugly, poor, and middle-aged. I especially loved the moment when Desiree, the series "bad girl" said: "Well, I thought there was a lot of hair on his back, but still, I felt we were really connecting."
Also good is the new series, "The Bachelor: Actually He Is Dead," in which a group of young women attempt to win the favor of a propped-up, moldering corpse they have been told is a young handsome rich guy who is alive. It's still sort of hard for me to believe that none one of them - not the Lawyer, not the Senior Account Rep, not the Homeless Advocate - noticed the team of people behind the bachelor, manipulating his limbs via a system of wires, while a tape recorder on his chest emitted sayings such as, "I guess I'm just looking for someone who'll like me for me, even when parts of me fall off," or "Well, as far as my house goes, all I can say is, it's very small and made of wood."
I am also looking forward to the new series, "The Bachelor: So What If I'm a Racoon?" in which a group of young women live for six months in a mansion in the south of France, with a racoon they have been told is a human being who recently came into a lot of money. The last episode, where the young women all gang up on "Jake," kill him, make a hat out of his fur, and eat him, promises to be a ratings bonanza. Also worthy of note is the new series, "The Hag," in which a very tiny wiry woman who is over one hundred years old is locked in a mansion in the south of France with three thousand muscular young men, who must fight one another with clubs and mallets to see which of them will be allowed to leave the house. When all of the men but one are gone, she reveals that she is actually a beautiful young heiress, at which time he reveals that he is actually a racoon, after which she has sex with him, kills him, then makes a hat out of him and wears it to a day spa.
But if I had to choose, I guess I would have to say that my favorite guilty pleasure is the new series, "How Weird is That?" in which a group of bureaucrats who have never themselves fought in a war are locked in the "Decision House" and allowed to select any country in the world for America to go to war with, for reasons they must invent on the spot. The candid shots of clueless families in the chosen country being blown apart as American bombers pass by overhead, along with the quick cuts back to the Decision House, where a group of young women are deciding which of the bureaucrats to marry (having been told that the bureaucrats are actually leaders of a great nation) make this a real "can't-miss" program.