DOWN on the French Riviera, 24 girls are competing in “the ultimate dating contest” for “the ultimate prize”.

And whereas last year we had the ultimate prize prat in Gavin Henson, series two’s “catch” was being kept under wraps from Channel 5’s latest bevy of bunny boilers.

For, as The Bachelor’s narrator Hugo Speer teased: “None of the girls have any idea just who they are about to meet.”

Presumably, then, they’d already been told he’s Spencer Matthews, from Made In Chelsea.

So, with quizzical looks all round and whispers of “Who?” we were off and running on the best meatmarket show on British television, beginning with the traditional parade of slap-on make-up emerging one by one from the limo, like the contents of a bottomless Mary Poppins bag, to meet “the ultimate bachelor”.

And quite the varied array of girls we had, too.

There’s London PA Sophia, who’s actually heard of Spencer Matthews; Manchester PA Khloe (Kerry Katona meets Gazza, in a head-on collision); London model Jerri; Buckinghamshire model Renay; Cornwall model Brandy; South Shields dancer Rachel, who said: “If you could get a straight guy to dress like a gay guy but be a man, then that would be perfect,”

and was clearly hoping for David Walliams, and, in quite a departure; model-booker and dancer Chloe, who “gets a lot of attention from raging lesbians”.

Only one, however, is fully equipped to deal with her fellow contestants – Danielle, from Norfolk, who “works in a mediumsecure mental hospital, restraining people”.

She’s certainly got her work cut out in the south of France, not least in the face of the continual behind-their-backs bitching among the girls: “Just WHAT is she WEARING?”

“Come on, ditz.”

“Is she really wearing those shoes?”

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You see, I feared this second series would miss a Gavin Hensonshaped bozo as the main protagonist.

It turns out, though, that the secret winning formula to The Bachelor is one part The Plank, nine parts The Girls.

They’re a vision of hell in high heels and I don’t believe for a second that Matthews isn’t regretting this already.

But, to his credit, he’s playing the game and it makes for great viewing.

He was “looking for a spark right from the start” and if there’s any justice, that spark will be provided near vile Renay sitting on a barrel of TNT. “I’m quite memorable, just because of the way I talk and the way I look and the aura that I give out.”

Keep it in, dear.

It was Rachel, however, who asked Matthews the question on everybody’s lips.

“What do you do?” (a blooming good question).

“I used to work in foreign exchange.”

I’m guessing, then, that he still has nightmare flashbacks whenever he hears the words: “Cashier number four, please.”

Though I suspect those will be replaced forever after with a new mental image.

One limo, an open door and two dozen girls, on the French Riviera.

Sue is court out by her choice of words SUE Barker, right, at Wimbledon: “The ladies’ quarter final draw is now complete and very bottom heavy it is, too.”

That’s no way to talk about Serena Williams, Sue.

This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards:

* Channel 4’s continuity announcer feeling the need to tell us: “Don’t try this at home,” before extreme sports enthusiasts walked across an icy tightrope over a chasm 2,660 metres above sea level in the French Alps, on Daredevils: Life On The Edge.

* Russell Brand disappearing up his own backside on Sky Atlantic’s BrandX.

* ITV1 comparing the phenomenal Spanish football team to “boring”

Steve Davis and Geoffrey Boycott.

* Paddy McGuinness’s Irish dancing at the start and end of yet another panel show we don’t need, ITV1’s Mad Mad World (Michael Flatley’s got a lot to answer for, but not half as much as Dermot O’Leary).

* Krishnan Guru-Murthy ending an interview on Sunday evening’s Channel 4 News by saying: “Jo Pavey, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight.

Sorry, Joyce Pavey.”

“I’m Joice Maduaka.”

* And BBC News misspelling the name of its own new director general on Wednesday lunchtime.

So here’s a bit of career advice to whoever writes the on-screen captions.

‘Entwistle,’ as in George, does not have an ‘H’ in the middle.