Originally created 11/26/03

David chooses Linda, not Cat, on 'Joe Millionaire' finale

NEW YORK -- Avowed rich guy David Smith chose Linda over Cat to be his best girl, then confessed that he wasn't a tycoon after all, as the finale of "Joe Millionaire" aired Monday night.

"Ummm, ummm, I haven't been completely honest with you," Smith stammered to Linda, a pretty brunette from the Czech Republic, as her bright smile faded. "I don't have $80 million."

She was then led away to reflect in private on this revelation.

That was the last the broken-hearted Smith saw of her until he left the Italian villa where the Fox reality dating show took place, and returned home to Texas. There, much to his surprise (if not to the viewers'), Linda was waiting.

"I felt that David was calling for me," she giggled. Clearly, all was forgiven.

Then she was presented $250,000 from the show, while Smith won a 90-acre ranch.

The 24-year-old Smith made his choice from 14 beautiful European women gathered at the villa for the sequel, titled "The Next Joe Millionaire: An International Affair." The twist this time: Smith was masquerading as heir to an oil fortune, when in fact he earned $11,000 a year as a rodeo cowboy.

Earlier in the episode, Smith had made his feelings known to the other finalist.

"I don't mean this bad, but, like, I didn't choose you," he told Cat, a blonde from Germany. "But whoever gets you is a lucky guy."

Fox wasn't so lucky with this series. A top executive of the network acknowledged to reporters Monday afternoon that "we got greedy" in ordering a second edition of "Joe Millionaire."

In nine months, it plunged from being one of TV's most surprising successes to the new season's most spectacular flameout.

"Our instincts told us from the very beginning that 'Joe Millionaire' was a one-time stunt and I think we got greedy," Sandy Grushow, Fox television entertainment chairman, said on Monday.

About 40 million people watched in February when hunky Evan Marriott revealed to the woman he picked that he really wasn't the millionaire. The series as a whole drew an average of nearly 23 million viewers.

Some critics doubted that the show's concept would bear repeating, but Grushow said in February, "we're obviously optimistic that it will perform extremely well when it returns."

But despite moving the show's setting to Europe to find gullible women, audiences have yawned. This season, the series has averaged 6.5 million viewers (ranked No. 85 for the season), with 5.4 million tuning in last week, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"We tried to sneak it by the American public a second time and we got called on it," Grushow said.

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