Wednesday, July 16, 2014

COLUMN: The Bachelorette

During the time that I've been fortunate enough to have this little corner of your Monday, I think we've firmly established that I'm a helpless slave to television. Still, I'm trying to justify what compelled me to watch the latest episode of ABC's "The Bachelorette." I'm going with "academic curiosity."

As part of my daily pop culture addiction, I spend at least a few minutes surfing lowbrow websites for celebrity scandal. This allows me to have some truly inane knowledge. For instance, I've never seen a single episode of their presumably ridiculous show, but I can tell you the names of ALL the Kardashians -- though, admittedly, I can't tell you exactly what any of them actually DO, other than keep TMZ in business.

It may have been TMZ where I first read about Eric Hill, one of this year's contestants on "The Bachelorette." Tragically, Hill was killed while paragliding just weeks after filming completed, and I guess the macabre part of me just wanted to see the guy whose fate was unknowingly sealed. I was also curious how ABC would deal with his death. To their credit, it was handled with class, tact, and a dedication at the beginning of the broadcast.

Unfortunately, that's the only time you'll associate the words class and tact with "The Bachelorette." I'm fairly proud to confess that prior to last night, I'd never seen a second of the long-running show. It should have stayed that way. I knew the basic idea. Every season, one lucky bachelorette is thrust into a house full of 25 guys vying for her love. Each week, contestants are eliminated via a kitschy ceremony ("Will you accept... this rose?") until the end, when all that remains is her one true love and they live happily ever after.

Right away, I see problems.

The premise of this show seems to revolve around the notion that if you walk into a room full of 25 people, one of them is destined to be your soulmate. This means every time I go to the grocery store, I've got at least three soulmates in there somewhere. Go to the Pearl Jam concert at the iWi this October and if it sells out, you could have 480 soulmates of varying gender in the crowd. Heck, by that math, there's a 20% chance that your soulmate is IN Pearl Jam.

This season, our bachelorette is Andi. She was a former contestant on "The Bachelor," but she famously dumped Juan Pablo, who was an egotistical jerkface but alright in my book because "Juan Pablo" is fun to say. The episode starts with a montage of Andi's backstory, who is apparantly an important lawyer because we see clips of her looking all important and lawyerish.

This is a great choice. She's a smart cookie, plus she's already dumped a Bachelor, so she knows this show is nonsense. She should bring a level head and some gravitas to the show, right?

Nope. As soon as we learn that she's a successful lawyer who loves her job, she tells us that she's just QUIT her job because she'd rather take her chance on the executives at ABC playing matchmaker. She moves into the mansion, puts on a designer dress, and tells the camera this is her "first step at finding who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with." Then she goes out to the driveway to greet her 25 suitors.

One by one they show up. "Hi, I'm Jason, I'm a doctor." "I'm Rudie, I'm an attorney."

Bullhonky, unless they're doctoring and attorneying on a part time basis during the few brief moments that they leave the gym. Every one of these dudes has an expensive suit, a chiseled jaw, and a flawless physique. Oh, except for the one nerdy guy who we know is nerdy because he has an expensive suit, a chiseled jaw, and a flawless physique, BUT... he's wearing a bow-tie. What a nerd.

They all use pick-up lines that make you cringe to be male. One actually goes, "Hi, I'm Emil -- like 'anal' with an m." Really, dude? You've had 33 years to live with the name Emil and THAT'S your go-to line? Then they all head in the house, have even more awkward small talk about how handsome they all are, and then she has to pick some guys to evict. That's when the roses came out and I finally shut the TV off. I have no idea who got kicked out. I'm hoping it was Anal.

But what would reality be like on this show? What would happen if Andi got all dolled up, walked outside, and I roll up in my Hyundai Elantra and hobble out on my bum ankle in an Oasis t-shirt and wrinkled khakis?

For one, I'm pretty sure I'd trip and fall on my way down that sidewalk. Beautiful girl aside, there's no way I could ignore the camera crew and the knowledge that my every move was being watched by millions. My only thought would be, "You're walking weird. Don't walk weird. Look confident! Wait, how does 'confident' look?" And by then, I'd already be faceplanting and snapping ankles aplenty.

If I was lucky enough to make it down the sidewalk, I certainly wouldn't be able to pull off a pickup line. I'd probably mumble, "Hey I'm Shane" and she'd go, "Lane?" and I'd go "No, Shane" and she'd go "Dwayne?" and I'd probably go, "Close enough. I like video games and cats. Here's a mixtape. Does this house have wi-fi? Oh, and I'm allergic to roses, so I'll be needing Claritin."

MOST importantly, I wouldn't say something like, "I hope you like me." My real thought process would be "I hope I like YOU, because quitting a supposedly successful and fulfilling job to hang out in some phony mansion with a bunch of vapid bo-hunks in hopes of finding some kind of ABC-created love-at-first-sight doesn't say a whole lot about you as a person."

I know, I shouldn't view this show as anything more than ridiculous entertainment. But it's ridiculous entertainment that a LOT of people watch, and that worries me. It's got to be rubbing off on its viewers at least a LITTLE bit. Are shows like this making it THAT much harder for normal schlubs like me to find a date? Are women watching this tripe and starting to equate love with bad pickup lines from Channing Tatum lookalikes?

I might be a romantic at heart, but I'm also a realist. I still believe I've got some soulmates in this crazy world, but I'm not going to find one by grabbing the first 25 girls I see. Still, I'm not going to stop believing in true love. The only thing I'm going to stop doing... is watching this show.

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