Ever since "The Bachelor" ended with a jaw-dropping shocker, hordes of outraged fans have gone off on the show's leading man, Jason Mesnick. But he's getting at least a modicum of support from a former East Bay contestant.
"I give him the benefit of the doubt," says Sheena Stewart, a Walnut Creek native who made it to the final four in ABC's romantic rose bowl two years ago.
That might come as a surprise, considering Stewart experienced her own brand of made-for-TV anguish at the hands of Season 11 harem-keeper Brad Womack. After he cut her loose, the Northgate High grad was last seen being whisked away via limo and tearfully admitting, "My heart feels like it got ripped in half."
So why isn't Stewart ticked off at Mesnick, who first proposed to Melissa Rycroft and then rudely ditched her in favor of Molly Malaney? Because she knows reality TV makes people do strange things.
"You really do get caught up in the show and in the moment," she says. "There's pressure. You're secluded from the outside world. The producers are pushing you to make a decision. You're tugged in different directions. And viewers see only part of what's going on. ...
"I think Jason made both, a genuine mistake, and a genuine decision. And I give him props for ultimately doing what he believed was right for him."
On the other hand, the show's controversial finale made Stewart look back at her own experience and thank her lucky stars over the way it turned out.
"I'm so glad that I didn't fall really, really hard for someone, only to get rejected at the end," she says. "I'm glad I didn't have to get humiliated and crushed and face all that public scrutiny."
Actually, Sheena got over Brad very soon after "returning to reality." She has since relocated to Tucson, Ariz., where she is the public relations manager for the local chapter of the Humane Society. She is also happily living with a man she has dated for two years.
"And we didn't even need a TV show to hook us up," she proudly claims. "It makes it that much more real."
DHARMA & BABE: My former colleague, movie critic and author Mary Pols, admits that she once found the late-'90s sitcom "Dharma & Greg" to be an irresistible guilty pleasure, largely due to the talents of Jenna Elfman as the free-spirited Dharma.
So naturally it was pretty mind-blowing to learn that Elfman will play her (sort of) in "Accidentally On Purpose." It's a CBS sitcom pilot based on Pols' memoir about a one-night stand with a younger man that resulted in a son who turned 5 this week.
"I think she's charming and very warm and sexy," Pols says of the actress. "She seems like someone who actually has a brain in her head and could hold a real job — someone who's not just another pretty face. Plus, she recently became a mother, so she'll be able to contribute that (to the role)."
On the other hand, Mary is justifiably leery over seeing a chunk of her life turned into a sitcom — not only because the genre is largely dopey and unbearable, but the changes Hollywood will inevitably make in her story.
"I have serious control issues and letting go is always tough," she says.
BRINGING IT HOME: Who says there's no locally produced TV programming? All new episodes of three KQED shows — "Quest," "Spark" and "Check, Please!" — roll out next week on Channel 9.
"Quest," the only local science-themed show, launches its third season (7:30 p.m., March 17) with an installment that, in part, looks at the offbeat meals whipped up for critters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and San Francisco Zoo.
Meanwhile, "Spark" (7:30 p.m., March 18) kicks off its seventh season and "Check, Please!" (8:30 p.m., March 20) serves up its fourth. The former program explores the Bay Area art scene in vivid detail and the latter features real-people reviews of Bay Area restaurants.
All three shows have the goods and are well worth a season pass on your DVR.
CHANNEL SURFING: So is George Clooney making a return to "ER" tonight (10 p.m., Channels 3 and 11) or not?
NBC is being coy with the guest list for the episode titled, "Old Times," pointing out that Susan Saradon, Noah Wyle, Eriq LaSalle and Julianna Margulies will all drop by — along with "the doctor Hathaway married." Hmmm.
As of press time, NBC wasn't commenting, but clearly if you're a longtime fan, you don't want to miss one.
The last time Kelly appeared on "Jeopardy!" she nabbed $222,597.