As the person in the Variety office who watches unscripted for both work and pleasure, I am often approached by colleagues and asked: "So, are you watching 'The Bachelor' this season?"
Is the sky blue?
Of course I watch "The Bachelor." The dating competition series has, for several seasons, fed the TV viewer in me that loves catty drama paired with champagne and a touch of romance. (I am a Pisces, after all.) I've always enjoyed the franchise, but when I'm asked this season -- the program's seventeenth iteration -- if I am tuning, I've found myself responding with: "Yes, and it's complete farce."
God bless Sean Lowe, this season's bachelor, and all of his well-intentioned smiles. He has been dubbed on Twitter one of the most genuine men to be on the show, and looks like he was birthed from a Bow Flex machine. But, unfortunately for Sean and his yet-to-be-named fiance, ABC has spun this installment of the skein into something that resembles "Survivor," "Fear Factor" and "Big Brother," all rolled up into one show with dating and a few long-stem roses as the anchor point.
The success of last season's "Bachelor" was, arguably, the success of painting season winner, Courtney, as a villain. Viewers loved to hate-watch the femme as she progressed in the competition, and editors did her no favors when cutting the show together. While ratings slipped for the skein compared to past seasons, Courtney and Ben's faces littered the covers of rag mags and gossip sites, bringing the show -- and its characters -- deeper into the American vernacular.
ABC must have taken note, because this season's villain, Tierra, has been editorialized beyond belief. On-air ads for "The Bachelor" no longer focus on burgeoning relationships on the show, but the program's villain and her catchphrase name, "Tierrable." When she exited the skein this week, I couldn't help but wonder: what now, ABC?
Dates have gone off the deep end -- literally -- as well. Each one of Sean's group or one-on-one expeditions seems to involve some sort of repelling, diving, gripping of safety bars and overall wearing of helmets. What ever happened to just dinner and a movie? Why are the girls being asked to drink warm goat's milk in some sort of weird dare? Why are we sending the woman with one arm on a date that she can only complete if she repels down a 30 story building, and then on a group date that is nothing but roller derby? Why are we doing this?
To make matters worse, ABC has introduced on its website the Kiss Leaderboard, a scoreboard that shows how each woman has fared in "pecks," "make outs," and "hot tub kisses" and does everything short of saying it's sponsored by Cosmo.
More importantly, how is the ABC Digital employee faring who has to update this ridiculous thing?
"Bachelor" creator Mike Fleiss made a bit of noise in the reality space last year when he claimed about 70-80% of unscripted programs are fake -- just not his beloved dating show. But Fleiss's skein is finding itself lost in the villains, the smooch graphics and the gags. While he may claim his show is of the truthier variety, "The Bachelor" is still sinking into intolerable quick sand and may be heading towards its final rose.
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