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'The Proposal' review: Nicely diverse cast, but it's just another trite, backward dating show

Jesse Palmer hosts ABC's "The Proposal."

Jesse Palmer hosts ABC's "The Proposal." Credit: ABC/Byron Cohen

THE SERIES "The Proposal"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC/7

WHAT IT'S ABOUT  A single man or woman hidden behind a screen evaluates 10 potential mates, winnowing their number through various rounds of questions and comments, including a bathing-suit segment, "dealbreaker" queries, and questions by a best friend. The studio audience includes families and friends not averse to holding up signs cheering on their women.

MY SAY Reminiscent of "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" from the same creator, "The Bachelor's" Mike Fleiss, this variation also recalls the classic "The Dating Game." But "The Proposal" is classic only in that it has little class.

That might be considered a harsh assessment, given the producers' admirably chancy choice of a disabled, albeit buff, bachelor — a Bakersfield, California, police officer whose leg was amputated below the knee following a motorcycle accident — as well as an equally commendable array of contestants. They range in age from 25 to 41, aren't all model-pretty as often found on "The Bachelor," and include black, white and Hispanic women with a variety of jobs from executive assistant to neuropsychologist and a span of body types from va-voom to fuller figures. One of them, 25-year-old Morgan Maxwell, is a "brand ambassador" from Massapequa, who according to her LinkedIn page has worked as a wardrobe assistant for NBC Sports Group and as a marketing manager for the hosiery company Panty Fresh.

Also commendable is host Jesse Palmer, the sportscaster, former NFL quarterback and season-five star of "The Bachelor" who manages to project sincerity despite the remarkable premise that someone might genuinely propose marriage after a few minutes of Q&A and a meat-market parade — which he wincingly introduces with the phrase "Now they're about to bare their souls and their bodies … !"

The ensuing swimwear competition — which even the Miss America pageant is dropping — is the show's most questionable choice. The seven women who remain after their opening-round remarks strut out in one-piece suits, bikinis or halter-top and short-shorts combos, wearing high heels or wedge sandals, and talk earnestly about their hopes and dreams.

It seems almost satirical — as does much of the narrator's voice-over: "Her grandfather offered to have her eggs frozen. But when it comes to love, she's hoping to land sunny-side up!" "Kelly's favorite color is pink, she's a vegetarian, and her favorite animal is the sloth!" The worst may be an intro that puns on one woman's name: "And Alona is sick of being alone-a!"

BOTTOM LINE "Married at First Sight" has already broken reality-show ground on perfect strangers marrying, and "The Bachelor" / "The Bachelorette" on proposals after just a few weeks of acquaintanceship. So Palmer's claim that "What you're about to see has never been attempted before on television" rings a little hollow — as do all the participants' insistence that true love is at stake on this nicely diverse but otherwise vapid and regressive show.

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