From left to right, Romeo, Jeremy Bloom, Jason Cook and...

From left to right, Romeo, Jeremy Bloom, Jason Cook and DJ Pauly D vie for love on 'The Choice,' the new celebrity dating game show with a twist. Credit: FOX

THE SHOW "The Choice"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox/5

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Pretty simple rip-off . . . er, concept, at work here -- a mash-up of "The Voice" and "The Dating Game," though no singing, and thank heavens for that. In fact, the stage is a dead ringer -- or as close to a ringer as possible without courting a lawsuit -- to "The Voice's."

Four celebrity bachelors sit in high swivel chairs with their backs to a (noncelebrity) bachelorette, who saunters out onstage to convince them they should want to date her. Each pulls his "love handle" when he decides upon a lucky lady, and the chair swings around ("I'm a cutie with a booty" and "I have brains and booty" were lines that for some reason instantly got the dudes to reach for the handle.) The guys pick three women, followed by "lightning" rounds in which questions are asked to determine compatibility. And . . . a date is secured. Tonight's bachelors: Rapper Romeo, actor Jason Cook ("General Hospital," "Days of Our Lives"), champion skier Jeremy Bloom, and "Jersey Shore's" Pauly D.

MY SAY You've got a busy day, so let's get down to business. "The Choice" is awful. In fact, "awful" doesn't begin to do "The Choice" justice, not that it deserves justice. It is dreadful -- delectably, deliciously, damnably dreadful. And yet . . . and yet . . . Oh, wait. There is no "and yet," unless you care to give host Cat Deeley benefit of the doubt. (Hey, a paycheck's a paycheck.)

To overcome -- or at least make viewers forget about -- the brazen larceny that is taking place here, "The Choice" needed to make some relatively minor adjustments, most notably the addition of wit and irony. Bring viewers in on the joke, and what a great joke this could have been. Taking Chuck Barris' moldy "Dating Game" out of mothballs and hitching it to "The Voice" promised almost a Grand Guignol of game shows, or maybe a game show version of Frankenstein in a tutu. You'd laugh just to behold it. But with "The Choice," you wince and weep for the future of the medium.

BOTTOM LINE The worst new show of summer so far, and -- sob, sigh -- it's likely to stay there, even though summer hasn't started yet.


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