06/22/2012 10:32 am ET

What Is Wrong with The Bachelorette ?

I came to the current season of The Bachelorette with the zeal of the newly converted. I'd belatedly fallen in love with the venerable reality series during its previous iteration, which starred Ashley Hebert, the relentlessly upbeat dental student from Madawaska, Maine. The producers had stocked her season with a delightful cast of narcissists, cheese balls, gym-rats, crazies, sweethearts, and over-the-top villains, and Ashley was captivatingly bad at sorting what wheat there was from the ample chaff.

The current season promised even greater drama: Emily Maynard, its star, had won Season 15 of The Bachelor, only to have the engagement broken off by Brad Womack, who spoke of having "dodged a bullet" by not going through with the wedding. The slight seems to have rolled off Emily's back, however-perhaps because such tabloid fodder could not compare to the very real tragedy she's suffered: Before meeting Brad, she was engaged to Ricky Hendrick, a stock car driver (and son of Nascar mogul Rick Hendrick) who died in a plane crash in 2004. Only after Hendrick's death did Emily learn that she was pregnant with his child-a daughter, Ricki, now 6.

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