'Bachelor': No regrets on romance, reality TV
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Reality television has taken over the airwaves, and millions of Americans can't wait to tune in each week to find out the latest trials and tribulations of "Joe Millionaire" or Trista on "The Bachelorette."
Could television viewers soon overdose on reality TV shows, or are they here to stay?
Alex Michel of "The Bachelor" joined "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to weigh in on the phenomenon of TV romances.
CARLSON: Let's get right to the motive. Why did you do it? ... The people on "Jerry Springer" probably have a lot of free time on their hands. You, by contrast, went to Harvard and Stanford and had a paying job. Producers approach you and say, "Would you like your love life on camera?" And you said, "Yes." What were you thinking when you said that?
MICHEL: I thought it would be a great adventure. I thought there was a good chance that I would find love, although [it would be] in a strange way. People have met in stranger ways, and I thought that women who had the same sense of adventure might be people that I had something in common with.
CARLSON: You get up there with Amanda [Marsh], and you make this agreement not simply between the two of you but really between all of the TV world [and] every viewer watching, and you say, "I'm going marry her," but you don't.
MICHEL: I didn't say I was going to marry her.
CARLSON: But you implied it. "I like you a lot."
MICHEL: I did say I like you a lot.
CARLSON: Are you still in contact with her?
MICHEL: I am.
CARLSON: But you're not getting married, are you?
MICHEL: I'm not going to discuss my personal life.
BEGALA: Oh no, wait a minute! Wait a minute! Guys, did all of you see this guy's personal life on national television? Come on, Alex!
MICHEL: I feel that I've already been extremely generous with everyone in TV land with my personal life. I invited them in for a six-week process, but at a certain point I've got to cut them off and live in private. ...
BEGALA: What would you not do on TV?
MICHEL: There is a lot that I would not do on TV, but it does seem that, you know, many people would do almost anything. ...
CARLSON: Well, people get pushed into all sorts of things. We work in television. We know how diabolical producers are. Tell us about your producers. What did they push you to do when you were on the show?
MICHEL: Not much actually. They really were trying as hard as they could to have a real romance come out of it. They thought that too much meddling would sort of jeopardize that. They didn't tell me who to pick, and they didn't tell me what to say.
CARLSON: The metaphysical question though is how real can the romance be if it is on camera?
MICHEL: Well, it certainly puts a strain on it, a certain unreality. But actually I felt like I had my hands full as it was, and I didn't have enough mental space to worry about the cameras. I was worried about the women.
BEGALA: Well, I can imagine [that] with 25 women surrounding you. By the way, did you keep the ring? Do you still have the ring?
MICHEL: I can't tell you about that either.
BEGALA: Oh, come on! OK, let me ask about a different show. It is apparently a popular one as well -- "Joe Millionaire."
MICHEL: Apparently popular. You've been watching it?
BEGALA: OK, I'm living for it, man. And it's apparently, like all dates, based on a lie. Right? The women think that he's rich. ... Is that just a more grandiose lie than all the rest of us schleps tell?
MICHEL: Yes, well, I don't necessarily approve of that show. I mean, I think it is a lot of fun for the viewer, but I'm sure it can't be that much fun for the women or the guy. He seems a little tortured, though he should have thought about that beforehand. And I don't think they're going to be too happy when they find out.
But everyone says that reality TV is sort of the end of Western civilization, and my feeling is we have been hearing this for years. I mean "The Gong Show" was the end of Western civilization. [So was] "Family Feud."
And my feeling is, compared to another sitcom about a frazzled employee in a working situation with a canned laugh track, reality TV has something in common with documentary films. Not a lot but something, and people are finding it compelling to watch real people they can relate to go through intimate and real emotions [so] that they call each other the next day, they talk about it around the water cooler. "That's just like what my boyfriend did and blah, blah, blah."
CARLSON: Well, if I can just correct you, actually "The Gong Show" was the end of Western civilization. But Trista, who was the woman you didn't pick -- I've heard -- went on to get her own show, "The Bachelorette."
Do you regret in light of that you didn't pick her? You would be a real powerhouse in reality television if you did that.
MICHEL: No. I think I made the right choice for me.
CARLSON: Would you do it again? Would you go on another reality show?
MICHEL: I wouldn't go on another one, but if I were back in that same spot again, I would have done it. I mean there were definitely pros and cons, but overall, it was an incredible life experience that I learned a lot from.