Once there were 25 and now there is only one. Aaron Buerge, a 28-year-old banker from Springfield, Mo., poses with his new fiancee Helene in this undated handout photo. Buerge chose Helene, the grade-school psychologist from New Jersey, over Brooke, a student at the University of Alabama, in the series finale of ABC's 'The Bachelor,' which aired Wednesday evening, Nov. 20, 2002. The finale of ABCs 'The Bachelor' was challenged by a rival harem as CBS aired 'The Victorias Secret Fashion Show' in a battle of tacky TV.
`The Bachelor' Chooses Helene
Nov 21, 7:48 AM (ET)
By FRAZIER MOORE
NEW YORK (AP) - Brooke got the kiss-off, then Helene got the ring on "The Bachelor" finale Wednesday night.
Dropping to one knee, Aaron Buerge chose Helene Eksterowicz in the closing moments of this romance-reality series.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Yes, I will," she replied. "Without a doubt."
"Without a doubt," he echoed.
By then, the runner-up was already history.
"It breaks my heart to have to do this," Buerge had told Brooke Smith moments earlier.
"It's fine," she said bravely, then broke up in the limousine as it whisked her away. "Why didn't he know I was the one for him?"
It was a battle to the finish. But in a larger clash of tacky TV, the ladies of ABC's "The Bachelor" were challenged by a harem in skivvies as CBS aired "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show."
Along with lots of supermodels, the Victoria's Secret special boasted pop singers (including Phil Collins and Marc Anthony), consumer tips (when shopping for lingerie, consider speed of access), and 34 racks of bras and panties waiting for the runway.
Meanwhile, on "The Bachelor," Buerge, a 28-year-old banker from Springfield, Mo., was wrestling with "one of the toughest decisions I've ever made."
Having whittled a field of 25 candidates, he was torn between brunette Helene (a 27-year-old grade-school psychologist from New Jersey) and blond Brooke (a 22-year-old senior at the University of Alabama).
To help him seal the deal, he took each finalist home to meet his family.
"Do you work when you're not having a good time?" Grandma asked Helene.
The next day, Buerge's dad warmly greeted Brooke. "A pretty name for a very pretty girl," he said.
"THANG-kewww!" she drawled.
Then Buerge had one last, laid-back date with each contender.
"You want mushroom?" he asked Helene, offering her pizza.
"What are you, reading my mind?" she chirped.
But so far there had been no reading Buerge's mind.
"I'm still on the fence," he kept telling the camera until he popped the question.
The two-hour "Bachelor" concluded an eight-episode odyssey by Buerge to test-drive would-be partners while the nation looked on. Though blasted by critics as a glorified escort service, the series had lots of viewers wedded to it (16.7 million just last week), enough to put a dent in NBC's hit drama "The West Wing."
But as airtime approached, many "Bachelor" fans doubted whether there would even be a bride. In the first edition of "The Bachelor" last spring, Harvard-educated management consultant Alex Michel picked his favorite bachelorette, but held on to the ring and his bachelor status.
So what? More than 18 million viewers tuned in to see him duck the issue.
There was no such timidity when the Victoria's Secret fashion show aired last year on ABC, to high ratings. That telecast was sufficiently provocative to prompt an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, which eventually ruled the show did not violate decency standards.
Unassuaged, several women's groups and media watchdog organizations this year asked CBS not to air the show, calling it a "soft-core porn infomercial" that degrades women.
But like the "fashions" being "modeled," the broadcast had one undeniable virtue: brevity. Lasting just an hour, it allowed its audience to switch to ABC and join "The Bachelor" midway. After all, why should a viewer be married to just one tacky show?