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Old 04-22-2003, 02:24 PM   #1
Brett Ferino
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Default 'Mr. Personality': Motivational in a Machiavellian Sort of Way

LOS ANGELES ( - The best part of the commercials for FOX's new reality series "Mr. Personality" has to be the line "Hosted by -- Who else? -- Monica Lewinsky." As if she is the natural fit for the preposterous premise of 20 men wearing Mexican wrestler masks attempting to beguile an attractive single woman solely on the basis of their charm.

It's not as though if someone else -- say, Jillian Barberie -- had gotten the job we would have been sitting at home shaking our heads wondering, "What? They couldn't get Monica?"

Face it, Bill Clinton isn't exactly ugly, and being the leader of the free world has been known to turn more than one woman's head. Plus, a friend of ours who met him at a Pro-Choice rally says he's the best-smelling man she's ever encountered.

However, while she does add a certain je ne sais quoi to the proceedings, "Mr. Personality" has more than enough other quirks to recommend it.

On Monday (April 21) night's premiere, we meet Hayley Arp, who is described as "one extraordinary woman." Judging from the facts that she's an associate with an investment firm who has spent the last few years focusing on her career, likes to get together with friends on weekends and really loves to cook, this seems to be a bit of hyperbole. Heck, who among us can't name at least five women just like her off the top of our heads?

In the beginning, Hayley gets all gussied up in a pink ballerina gown and goes downstairs to meet her masked suitors, all of whom are decked out in tuxedos and their formal wear headgear -- black with numbers painted over the left eyebrow. As she puts on her borrowed jewelry and makes her way down the staircase voiceovers from the men are heard, most notably from one who seems to have missed the point of the show and says, "I kept thinking, 'Please be hot.'"

Monica shows up and explains that at the end of the evening Hayley will have to cut the pool in half, but not until they've all played party games.

In what looks like an outtake from "Eyes Wide Shut," Hayley proceeds to dance with each of the men and we get our first dose of No. 17.

Also known as Chris, No. 17 is a motivational speaker who plans to use his powers for evil rather than good.

"Neurolinguistic programming is essentially a way you influence people with different language patterns and by unconscious influence," he tells us. "Eighty percent of the way we influence is really unconscious. With Hayley, that's the way it's going to be effective."

"Every so often, I kept hearing the number '17, 17,'" his unsuspecting target says. "When that dance was over I thought, 'I have got to find out who that No. 17 was."

After the cotillion, Hayley gets gifts, and it's not even her birthday. Proving once again that when it comes to tokens of affection, men almost universally suck, a parade of journals, stuffed animals, photo albums and assorted geegaws are presented in a similar fashion to a four-year-old letting loose a garden snake in his mother's kitchen. At least No. 3 (aka Michael C., a publicist) says he wanted to give her the most special gift a person could give another but "somewhere between high school and this evening my virginity already got lost."

Several of the men obviously watched "The Bachelorette" and took tips from Trista's chosen one, Ryan. Poetry abounds, which leads to an unintentionally funny moment when Monica is shown carefully cataloging each man's gift. After all, she has a penchant for Walt Whitman.

To her credit, when No. 11 (Aaron, a bar manager), presents Hayley with a photo album full of pictures of his dog Buddy, Monica also manages to refrain from blurting out, "You know, I used to be involved with a guy who had a dog named Buddy."

No. 17 makes another impression when he reads a poem, and then whips out a Tiffany's box that contains a monstrosity of a championship ring that he won at some point or another for some sport or another.

"When I'm with Hayley and I ask her, 'Has there ever been a time in your life when you were in love?' and I point to myself her brain goes back to that time, and all of a sudden I become anchored to that emotion of love in her mind," he explains to the camera. "I believe I will use the skills that I know to match Hayley's needs."

For our part, we're completely creeped out, but his actions might as well be rohipnol as far as Hayley is concerned.

"I was totally blown away and his eyes were just captivating. He has my full attention. He whisked me away to this sort of dream land within his presence," she gushes.

"I'm standing out and achieving my goal," is No. 17's smug assessment. "She's thinking what I want her to be thinking."

Following readings of each of the men by an astrologer and a lot of sex talk, Hayley makes her selections of the 10 who are going to be asked to leave. Monica makes hello/goodbye introductions and the men unmask. Other than personal trainer Johnny, whom she thinks is kind of cute, Hayley doesn't appear torn up about any of her choices for dismissal.

Finally, Hayley meets the 10 men she has asked to stay (including that nasty No. 17). They are each given a brightly colored mask of their own as well as names so that she doesn't have to keep referring to them by serial number. While she is kept in the dark as to what lies beneath the latex, the home audience gets a gander at each in turn.

To answer the question that has been floating out there ever since "Mr. Personality" was announced: Exactly how unattractive are some of these guys going to be? Not very. In fact, the cute ones aren't all that either. All in all, the range goes from about a four on a scale of 10 all the way up to a whopping six.

Hayley has probably done both worse and better.
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