When “The Bachelor” debuted last spring, it became a modest hit, a sole bright spot in ABC’s depleted lineup. This season, it detracted the number of viewers from NBC’s “The West Wing” by over 30 percent. For those of us who can’t wait a few months until a new batch of ABC’s wildly popular reality/dating show returns, viewers will have to settle for two “new” series about the same thing; one, FOX’s “Joe Millionaire,” is a complete retread and the other, ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” though justifiable as a “Bachelor” spin-off, is just as inexcusable.

Those who watched the first installment of “The Bachelor” will be familiar with both the rules and the contestant of “The Bachelorette,” which takes over the old “Bachelor” timeslot Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Last April, more than 18 million viewers watched Trista Rehn get to the final round before being dumped by Alex Michel when he decided to continue dating another women. This time, Rehn, a 29 year-old physical therapist and former Miami Heat cheerleader, gets to turn the tables and have 25 men vie for her affection. For those not familiar with the original “Bachelor” series, it is quite simple. “The Bachelorette” follows the same format, as Trista is introduced to 25 attractive and successful men and has to whittle them down week-by-week to a single few – and then eventually, to a final one. In a slight change, the men who accept the roses offered by Trista as a pass to the next round will then move into the Los Angeles ‘bachelorette pad’ with her.

“Joe Millionaire,” which debuts tonight at 9 p.m. on FOX, also takes the original formula of “The Bachelor,” having a slew of women compete over a man they know nothing about, except the fact he recently inherited $50 million. But for those who aren’t satisfied by this simple pseudo-reality concept, the producers of the show have cooked up quite a little twist. The titular Joe is no millionaire, but in fact 28-year old Evan Marriott, a construction worker whose annual salary is a piddling $19,000.

As the series opens, the 20 women competing for the prize are whisked off to a chateau in the French Riviera where Evan has just undergone a makeover and received intensive training in order to camouflage himself as a denizen of the upper-class (i.e. wine-tasting, horseback-riding). Each episode follows Evan as he ‘courts’ the various women, and tries to maintain a rich man’s facade, ending with a “Bachelor”-style elimination. But the true test comes after he narrows the field down to one woman, when he must then reveal his true identity to her.

Though “Joe Millionaire laughably attempts to disguise itself as a satire of reality shows wrapped in an age-old morality tale, at least the concept only allows it to happen one time. And while nothing can be as hideous as hearing one more “the most dramatic rose ceremony yet,” it will be interesting to see if Trista can find true love in what will surely be a real frat-fest. As long as “The Bachelorette” and “Joe Millionaire” don’t take themselves as seriously as “The Bachelor” did, we’re in for quite a television treat this new year.

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