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The One That Got Away

"The One That Got Away" manages to combine every tedious, contrived stereotype from romance reality shows into one boring mishmash. Generically handsome but inarticulate bachelor? Check. Gaggle of interchangeable, fresh-faced girls? Check. Drawn-out elimination rounds with a lame twist? Check. Project screams of desperation.

“The One That Got Away” manages to combine every tedious, contrived stereotype from romance reality shows into one boring mishmash. Generically handsome but inarticulate bachelor? Check. Gaggle of interchangeable, fresh-faced girls? Check. Drawn-out elimination rounds with a lame twist? Check. NBC’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of “The Bachelor” comes as too little, too late, and screams of desperation in a genre not known for subtlety.

Billed as North Carolina’s “most eligible bachelor” (the Duke basketball team, including the Blue Devil mascot, must be crushed at being overlooked) bartender Skipper Kress is locked on a plantation with seven women he’s previously dated or now wants to date.

The moderately amusing “will they or won’t they?” tension of most romance reality shows is replaced with what little suspense is associated with “OK, they did it a couple of years ago. Now what?”

Little backstory is offered as to why any of these women fell out of favor with “playboy” Skip. Narrative would be much improved by “Dynasty”-esque tales of infidelity, catfights and retribution — but specifics are in short supply. It’s revealed in voiceover that one woman’s relationship with Skip ended when she started seeing another man. Now she’s back for more Skip? Why? Oh wait, because he’s on TV, stupid.

The gimmick of compressing the entire reality romance arc — awkward meet ‘n’ greet, scantily clad first group-date, thinning the herd, scantily clad individual dates with the remaining women, meet the family, final choice — into two hours makes it impossible to relate to any of the contestants, or even keep their names straight. Character development doesn’t extend beyond the flashcard description of the contestants: “Woman who has had a crush on Skip for five years” vs. “Woman who has had a crush on Skip for two years.”

Kress is purty enough on camera but prone to saying loathsome things like: “We should kiss to see if we have chemistry.” Whoa, watch it, Romeo!

Assembled group of contestants seem hyper-aware of the closeness of the camera, positioning themselves just so to capture the perfect angle.

Attempts at interactivity are somewhat clever — viewers are invited to read Skipper’s rejection letters to the ladies on NBC.com — but the entire enterprise seems doomed. Airing at the tail end of Memorial Day weekend, never has a group so desperate to be on TV done so much in a show destined to be seen by so few viewers.

The One That Got Away

NBC, Mon. May 31, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in South Carolina by One Louder Prods. in association with NBC Studios. Executive producers Bob Kusbit, Joe Livecchi; director Brian Smith. 120 MIN.

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