Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Bachelor: History's worst monster, or just a run-of-the-mill jerk?

God help me, I watched "The Bachelor" last night. Well, technically, I watched "The Bachelor: After the Final Rose" (not to be confused with tonight's "The Bachelor: After After the Final Rose"). I did it because I've been unable to go anywhere for the last couple of weeks without people I know (technically, women I know) asking me about who Jason was gonna choose, or about the spoilers floating out about what went down -- spoilers that turned out to be 100% accurate, by the way -- and there comes a point where I need to set my personal tastes aside and at least take a peek at something that the culture's buzzing about.

So here's my question, which we can discuss more thoroughly after the jump: While Jason is clearly a massive tool, why is he any worse than any of the other massive tools that have been on this show?

So, to sum up really briefly for those of you who are lucky enough to not watch this show: Jason Mesnick, hunky single dad, was a runner-up on a previous season of "The Bachelorette." He comes back, as previous fan favorites have, to be the star of his own season, and public interest suddenly rises over what seems to be the first Bachelor in franchise history to not seem like an insufferable d-bag. He gets down to two women, Melissa and Molly, and winds up proposing to Melissa. Cut to six weeks later, and he's changed his mind, and dumps Melissa on-camera for a shot at Molly.

Now, some people, like Kristen Baldwin at Entertainment Weekly, have already dubbed Jason the biggest cad the show's ever featured. And, admittedly, I come to this from a position of extreme ignorance, having watched maybe two or three hours combined over 13 seasons, but I still don't understand what makes Jason so much worse than his predecessors.

Every "Bachelor" relationship falls apart. Every single one. The only apparent difference here is that this one fell apart quickly enough for the break-up to happen in front of the cameras. And based on stories about how little some of the previous couples liked each other, I doubt even that's true; this is just the first time the Bachelor decided he didn't even want to keep up the pretense for the reunion show. That may be because he's also the first Bachelor who needed a mulligan on a previous woman he dumped, but regardless, most of these "relationships" end pretty damn quickly; all Jason did was make plain what everyone watching the show already understands, even if they didn't want to acknowledge it.

Some of the outrage seems to be over the fact that Melissa got dumped on-camera. Again, I'm coming to this as somebody who doesn't watch the show much, but don't you basically agree to the possibility -- no, the probability -- of that happening as soon as you sign on for the show? Likely public humiliation is part and parcel of the franchise; as Linda Holmes asks, Melissa "would have been dumped in public if he'd picked Molly originally; why was she entitled to be dumped in private now?"

This may be one of those cultural blind spots I can't overcome, like the popularity of "The Hills," so if any of our regular readers wants to cop to watching/liking this show (I promise no judgment, from me or anyone else) and explain what I'm missing here, feel free.

30 comments:

polkadotoes said...

The only full season of The Bachelor I have watched was the Andre Firestone one. I think that was 8 years ago or something!

I had heard that Jason was supposed to be a stand up guy and that we were going to get a "true love story" out of this season so I decided to check in. I probably watched half of the episodes, more like a commercial break in between HIMYM and the like.

When I heard what was going to go down I tuned out. I didn't want to see someone so humiliated on TV. I am in the camp that Jason had been seeing Molly behind Melissa's back during the break from the show. That to me is not cool and totally smarmy. Also, if he was so conflicted during the proposal why not just wait and then propose to one of them on the ATFR? I don't know, I see the dumping on ATFR to be much more in taste of going on Jerry Springer.

Granted I am not that invested in the show either, but it takes and incredible jerk to plan with the producers how to lead people on and then break them down on TV just to get better ratings.

Myles said...

I caught the final five minutes of the "reunion" of sorts, but when I went into the TV lounge the gaggle of females who were there had scattered - only one remained. The rest, it seems, had just been too disgusted.

There's a lot of power in that pretense, I think. When someone gets dumped within the "game," they know it's coming: it's out there as a possibility, and he is contractually obligated to eliminate one of them.

But in this instance, the inevitable (that they wouldn't stay together) was played out as part of the show itself, Melissa subjected to humiliation outside of the show's norm. This wasn't just "I've chosen someone else," it was an attempt at a mulligan, breaking down the mirage that this was a search for true love and robbing them of that moment where he was in romantic New Zealand with his wife to be and replacing it with a cheesy TV studio.

I'm with you, Alan, that there isn't anything fundamentally different from this and the rest of the show, but when formula is this established (and, quite oddly, more successful this year than ever before) it seems its viewers are averse to anything that undermines its false sense of watching love blossom. Showing it wilt within the same context just isn't something they had in mind, clearly.

Oh, right - plus the guy has a kid. We musn't forget the Helen Lovejoy factor.

Linda said...

Aha! See, this is my whole theory, is that the entire reason people are SO MAD is that they liked him before. If you showed up and saw just this, then it looks like typical Bachelor d-baggery, but if you watched the whole season, then he really seemed kind of cool, and he really seemed to like Melissa, so you feel fooled, which makes people really angry. And I say that as someone who had that very reaction.

Think of the difference between meeting a person you immediately know is a jerk, so you move on, versus meeting someone you kind of like at first who later turns out to be a jerk. The second one will make you more mad. This is like a weird, TV-fied variation on that.

GiromiDe said...

To my knowledge, only one couple from the first "Bachelorette" has remained intact -- Trista and Ryan. They have been married for a few years and have two kids. Rumors of divorce surfaced last year, but nothing came of it. There might be one couple from a recent "Bachelor" that has survived, but I have hardly watched any of it since the first couple of seasons.

I happen to know of a contestant indirectly. From my recollection, women are holed up for a couple of weeks before the show even begins taping. During the course of taping, all external stimuli are suppressed. Food is scarce. Alcohol is plentiful. Rose ceremonies are often held in the wee hours of the morning. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion are not uncommon. (At least one contestant seems to have a fainting spell each season, which is itself a ratings ploy.)

In short, the show is a psychological experiment with an advertising income. I had hoped ABC would have dumped this dinosaur once they had rebuilt their dramatic offerings several seasons ago, but they keep at it.

tabernacle said...

So is the show (any season, not this one necessarily) worth watching? Barring any very enthusiastic recommendation by Linda, Alan, or a fellow poster, I shall continue to mock it from a position of complete ignorance.

OT: Off of Alan's "I say thee nay!": I just caught the "Hulk vs. Wolverine" and "Hulk vs. Thor" animated mini-movies(?) that Lionsgate produced. The Wolverine one is better, since the Thor one gets all Asgard on us and stuff, but I was surprised by the non-G-ness of it: some blood, some violence.

J said...

I think the established rule is that anyone who volunteers to go on a reality show deserves everything they get.

Nicole said...

I think I watched the first Bachelor, and the Bachelorette with Trista, but outside of that, I can just never get into the show because it tires me seeing these women make total asses of themselves for a guy who is trying them all out... who wants that? So I think the relationship is set up to fail from the outset, unless there is a guy who actually doesn't make out with a whole bunch of them.

I don't recall Trista having been quite as handsy with the guys, but then it's been a while, so I could be wrong.

Give me a reality show with some level of skill involved any day over this.

Linda said...

tab: It was pretty entertaining this season, I have to tell you. I enjoyed it, in a weird sort of way. The finale was kind of agonizing and cheap, but during the season, it was fun. The thing is: it TOTALLY depends on the people involved. Most of the recent seasons have held no interest for me whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

If you drink enough champagne half-naked at a 5-star resort, you'll quickly develop feelings for somebody.
Maybe next we'll see Bachelor Jason confess his true love for Host Chris Harrison.

kathy said...

I haven't watched any of the previous Bachelor/ettes shows so I went in cold to this -- I read about what was going to happen, it seemed like it was going to be a pretty awesome trainwreck so while I was waiting for the Nyquil to kick in last night, I turned this on.

Again, with no prior knowledge, I think what irked me about this guy most was that he wanted so badly to be Honest Heartfelt Sincere Good Guy Single Dad dude -- he was desperate to be seen as a "nice" guy and have the right ending. And he isn't a nice guy and he did a shitty, shitty thing and there may be many valid reasons for what he did but the bottom line is, when you dump a woman 6 weeks after you say how much you love her and put a ring on her finger, you're not the injured party, you're not a good guy and you don't get to talk about how hard it is for you. You get to suck it up and be the bad guy. Cause you are.

I have no problem with him doing it on camera, it's a TV SHOW. If the woman who got dumped objected to it being done on the show, she's a loon.

renton said...

Not a 'Bachelor' fan - never seen it once, but isn't dumping someone after it's all over kind of the same as Jeff Probst telling the Survivor winner that everybody revoted and someone else won?

Alan Sepinwall said...

For a further glimpse at the people who are really, really, really mad about this, you should read the comments on the NJ.com version of this post.

tabernacle said...

Wow. I think Jo Frost would recommend a timeout--pretty, um, intense fans over there.

But yeah, I watched _Supernanny_ on Linda's recommendation, and it was awesome, so I guess I'm giving _The Bachelor_ a try. Thanks for responding!

Hal Incandenza said...

It gets a lot more interesting if you check out the spoiler thread at TWoP (http://tinyurl.com/bshgpy) after the fact (start around page 30), wherein it's very strong implied that Jason was going to pick Molly from the start (apparently, she blew him away at the Meet and Greet), that Melissa was being groomed to be the next Bachelorette, that Jillian was somehow in on the whole thing, that the producers would only let Jason be with Molly if he proposed to Melissa first (which, admittedly, sounds insane), alleged personal correspondence between Jason and Melissa that transpired after last night's After the Rose show (http://tinyurl.com/c7lb78--very probably fake), and that Jason and Molly were sneaking around by Molly's back this whole time (a virtual certainty, this last one).

Not sure how much of it I buy (though the camera angle they use when Jason runs out to the balcony to sob after sending Molly home, really implies that at least some of this was planned in advance)--but it is bizarrely compelling...and, frankly, any spoiler talk which makes great use of the Montreal Screw Job (http://tinyurl.com/c653bt) is totally fine by me.

Anonymous said...

Alan,
I may have missed you mentioning it, but are you writing a review of Jimmy Fallon's new show? I didn't watch it last night and am seeing mixed reviews elsewhere. Curious if you even bothered to watch it.

Pamela Jaye said...

1. I finally had to look up "tool"

2. I've never watched this show on purpose, and have managed to avoid "the buzz." My friends seem to be into American Idol. Perhaps the fact that Enterprise had to constantly compete with its results turned me off on that. (I tried to watch Fame, because of the original series but... something happened)

3. The one reality show (so titled) that I did watch was that David E Kelley thing. It was just as bad as the others but at least I stuck around long enough to determine the general premise (make people work together, then ask them to talk about each other behind each other's backs)

4. The one show I'm watching now that *should* be titled a "reality" show?
Jon & Kate Plus 8.
This week, Kate didn't bitch at Jon as much as usual, but they also showed some flashbacks in which the two of them seemed happy together. (I figure the only thing worse than being emasculated b your wife on TV, is having to actually watch the reruns till you *realize* it)

5.Extreme Makeover Home is probably okay (though I heard a rumor the St Pete family was having property tax problems), Amazing Race is okay, I hear (I won't watch). One reality show I wandered thru once and actually hung around to watch? SuperNanny. Good show. I like it. Just not enough to look it up and record it. You'll find me watching Untold Stories of the E.R.

I do miss The Weakest Link. I hear they still have that in the UK with the original host. I also loved The Singing Bee (the one with Wayne Brady is as slow and draggy as Millionaire. Light cues! Music Cues! The other one had new and original games all the time. and it was fast. and I didn't notice it had been cancelled... DFTL is clogging my DVR)

I really love scripted TV.
I ever heard the rumors.
If I try, I can almost live in a bubble.
I'm tired of POLLEN (give me a *real* bubble)

Anonymous said...

If anyone saw him on Kimmel he said that Melissa basically knew they were going to break up before the "After the Final Rose" show and they even discussed whether she's wear her engagement ring or not. He claimed he contractually needed to have his relationship be in front of the cameras, but who knows. Kimmel gave him a hard time and made jokes about him swapping his kid for a new one. I, for one, don't think any of it is that big a deal and anyone on the show who thinks its "real life" deserves what they get.

Anonymous said...

I love the way The Bachelor edits it's previews. They show DeAnna Pappas showing up to surprise Jason, then edit to make it look as if she's asking him to change his mind and choose her, then they cut to Jason walking onto the rooftop, doubled over sobbing. Turns out he wasn't "sobbing" about DeAnna, she didn't ask him to change his mind, just offered some sisterly advice....and so it goes. Jason's not a creep, Melissa's not a fool, nor is Molly, Jillian or the others. The real fools are the viewers. The Bachelor show is only trying to give the viewers the fantasy they want so much to believe in. It's all just make-believe.

Evan

Gen said...

No one signs up for a "reality" show in hopes of finding love or anything else of true value. You sign up for such a show in hopes of gaining a bit of fame, preferably the kind that you can drag out for months or years, and turn a profit on along the way. Pictures and an interview in People Magazine. Bachelor reunion shows. Maybe a spot on another reality show, like Celebrity Apprentice! Or something hideous starring a heavy metal has-been.

They may call this "reality" programming, but there's very little that is real about it. I like scripted drama, and I like quality documentary shows, but stuff like this is just awful.

Castaway said...

I suppose it depends how much of it you believe. If you believe Jason legitimately changed his mind, kept sleeping with both of them and then dumped Melissa on TV, then he's just a run-of-the mill jerk. If you believe, as the current Internet theory that is rapidly piling up evidence goes, that Jason told the producers he was going to pick Molly and then they talked him into picking Melissa and then dumping her on the show televised yesterday so the ratings would be better, and you also believe everyone but Melissa was in on it, I'd say that makes him more than the usual jerk. I personally believe the latter, because if Melissa was fine with it she'd be back as the next Bachelorette and looking to make a buck off her own sadness, and she's not.

It's at least an uncommon level of cruelty for this silly show.

Adam said...

+10 for any reference to the Montreal Screw Job.

I watched last night, because my wife made me, but otherwise have seen nothing of this show in years. What made it fascinating for me was the level of "agony" that Jason was going through; our five-year-old doesn't cry like that.

The only dating show worth watching is Rock of Love.

Linda said...

"current Internet theory that is rapidly piling up evidence goes"

I'd love to hear the evidence; last I heard, there was absolutely none, and the people espousing this theory admitted as much. If there's now evidence that this happened, that would be a development. Because at this point, I think that theory is insane.

Adam said...

Other thing that I loved -- every time Jason spoke to Molly at the reunion, she turned to Chris for a reaction. Why? Because she can't believe a word he's saying, and was, like, are you sh*tting me? Someone, please, confirm this is real.

Sonia said...

Oh please. I am not some reality TV snob...I watch my fair share. But this show is just ridiculous. I've tried to watch it, but it just makes me cringe.

One correction Alan -- there is one bachelor relationship is still going strong -- Trista and that cute fireman (forgot his name). It's actually remarkable b/c the basis for these TV relationships is SO contrived, manipulated and totally unrealistic.

Alan Sepinwall said...

One correction Alan -- there is one bachelor relationship is still going strong -- Trista and that cute fireman (forgot his name).

Technically, that's from "The Bachelorette." All of the seasons with dudes making the choice have failed to produce a long-standing match.

dez said...

Maybe next we'll see Bachelor Jason confess his true love for Host Chris Harrison.

That one demands a live audience. None of this privacy (on national teevee!) crap.

that Jason and Molly were sneaking around by Molly's back this whole time (a virtual certainty, this last one).

I could believe that, based on the few minutes I saw of this show last night when he was asking her for another chance and she kept touching his leg and was holding hands with him shortly thereafter. She didn't seem that surprised to me.

The only other part I caught was the other chick calling him a bastard. That was funny.

EnidV said...

There is one Bachelor relationship that's still going - Charlie O'Connell (as in Jerry O'Connell's brother) and Sara. They were together for a while, then she broke it off because he was drinking too much. He got into rehab and now they're back together. So I'm not sure that should be considered a "long-standing" match, but they are together. (This was all on The Women Tell All special last week.)

Anonymous said...

Alan, I would love it if you would do a blog about VH1's Rock of Love. That show is hilarious. The Bachelor takes itself way too seriously, but no one, and I mean no one, could possibly take Rock of Love seriously. An aging 44-year old rock star, Brett Micheals, claims he is looking for true love in his own bachelor type reality show. Only half the girls competing are strippers. And the show is already in its 3rd season, still with the same guy. Its just good fun entertainment. How could you not love it?

Wholi said...

The only reasons to watch this show are:
-to see how quickly (usually after one night) a bunch of drunk women can 'fall in love' with a man they just met.
-try to guess if Chris Harrison will say, "Coming Up!" or "Up Next" before a commercial break.
-watch Chris Harrison make the most obvious statement that, "ladies, Jason - this is the final rose tonight."

It's so bad, you can't turn away!! :-)

Ebeth said...

I loved the "privacy" Chris Harrison gave Melissa and Jason on ATFR(I)...as if his presence was impeding the process.

That's like earlier in the season when Jason and whomever were on a cliff (if only they had jumped...)and Jason said something about it being amazing (drink!)how they were "completely alone" out there. That's true...if completely alone is defined as including about half a dozen people (minimum)... including a person with a camera and another with a boom mike.