It’s kind of an odd show for me. I’ve never been into reality TV all that much.
I mean sure, I watched some early seasons of The Real World back in the day, and there was a summer where the guy I lived with watched a lot of reality TV (the summer of 2006) so by proxy I saw a lot of Big Brother that summer, and Rock Star (I think that’s what it was called, where people competed to be the lead singer in a band) and some real trashy shows I only vaguely remember. I’ve seen a season or two or three of Survivor and got majorly turned off when there was a contestant with a disability, I think she had a prosthetic leg, and some other girl on the show bullied her and all these people said all these horrible disability tropes like she’s doing it for sympathy and shit like that. I was OUT.
But other than a couple other random shows here and there, none that I remember enough to even know by name, and other than singing shows, I prefer my TV scripted.
And then…enter The Bachelor.
Of course, I’d heard of the show before I ever saw it. I mean, I was alive in the world so I knew of it and was generally not keen on the concept which seemed pretty gross. But one night, the winter I was taking Gen Chem, when TV was a huge source of stress relief in loaded class schedules, I couldn’t figure out what to watch. I was caught up on everything I watched week-to-week and probably had just finished a binge and was feeling the TV void.
I saw The Bachelor on my ABC app and thought, hey, why not check it out. It’ll probably be awful but then I can say I’ve tried it. I was really only looking for background TV anyway.
So I clicked the Bachelor episode on my iPad and watched it. I can still remember the exact episode it was. For some reason, when I start a show in the middle, my memory for exactly where I came in is crystal clear (and I could tell you in detail about my first House and Grey’s episodes to a disturbing degree).
It was Brad Womack’s second season, Week 7, the episode before hometowns. I didn’t know who Brad was, or any of the contestants, or that hometowns were a thing, though by the end of the episode, I’d picked up a lot of the jargon. Hometowns, group dates, one-on-ones, rose ceremonies. And it was compelling TV. In that episode, I fell in love with Brad and Emily as a couple and of course, had to see if they ended up together in the end. And also had to go back and watch the season from the beginning. And also, since the next Bachelorette would be Ashley from Brad’s season, I had to watch that too, and on, and on, and on.
And I loved Ashley’s season. I still remember her first one-on-one with JP, and I’m so happy that, unlike Brad and Emily, they were a couple that lasted (what, coming up on ten years now?) and are still together.
From then on, I watched most things from the franchise, including Bachelor Pad, which was my favorite spin-off show. It was so trashy and didn’t pretend it wasn’t and had the element of the huge cash prize with its prisoners dilemma type ending. The winning couple each had to privately write down if they wanted to keep or share the winnings. If they both said share, the money would be split between both people in the couple. If one said keep and the other said share, the person who said keep got it all. If both said keep, neither of them got it and it would be split between everyone who didn’t win. I would bet money that my MCAT notes from the summer of 2015, when I was learning prisoner’s dilemma and other game theory concepts for the sociology section, make reference to Bachelor Pad and nothing else, like that was my shorthand.
By 2015, Bachelor Pad was gone and replaced with Bachelor in Paradise, and having that to look forward to on Monday and Tuesday nights that late summer helped keep me sane in the final push for MCAT studying. But it was also a shitshow of a season (the whole Joe and Samantha drama) that I haven’t watched BIP since I don’t think.
But I’ve continued, mostly, to watch the main show. At points over the last decade, I went back and watched a couple seasons from before my watching time, especially Jake Pavelka’s (some of the most memorable moments of the show came from that season, and I loved Gia) and Ali’s, which is probably still my favorite season of The Bachelorette, full of so many iconic moments and characters.
There was a time when I thought about not watching anymore, in early 2013. I wasn’t excited about Sean Lowe as The Bachelor. I just thought he was boring (in general, the male leads often tend to be more boring and have less personality than the female leads) but a friend talked me into watching the first episode with her, and on that episode was the rare unicorn, the thing that has only happened once in the show’s almost twenty-year history, there was a contestant with a disability, Sarah Herron.
So I stayed on. It is so extremely rare that I see any representation at all in any media, and usually it’s done horribly in the rare case of any representation (stay tuned mid-month for my Spotlight post, which will spotlight one of the only TV shows I think really did it right). Sarah’s time on Sean’s season of The Bachelor went a lot better than the girl (I think her name was Kelly but that’s reeeeeally stretching the memory and is probably wrong) on Survivor. Sarah said a lot of things in her ITMs (the in-the-moment interviews) that I related to so hard and had never heard anyone say before.
That was when I first wanted to blog about the show, early January 2013, but I didn’t because then Breaking Bad was still on (it was during the break between the two halves of the final season) and my site was so focused on that it felt like it’d be weird to write about The Bachelor in the midst of all the Breaking Bad. Now my blog is much less focused and more scattered. And also, I don’t care.
To take a tiny detour, in the summer of 2014, Sarah was on the first season of Bachelor in Paradise and so much of her story that season resonated with me in a way I’d never seen on TV before. We got to see so much more of her and her story on BIP and it got me thinking. I’d never really related to people on the show before and here I was relating so intensely to someone who shared nothing in common with me except for disability.
It got me thinking about sexuality and dating and disability, and from that I launched what was supposed to be a short essay but which has sprawled into a 500-plus-page behemoth that I have no idea what, if anything, I’ll do with. One of my many unfinished book projects that needs so much work I don’t know where to start in revising it and its beautiful mess. It started with Sarah Herron on BIP 1.
In the years since then, I’ve gone in and out of watching the show. I’ve missed some seasons, on purpose, and come back for others (Rachel Lindsay’s was one I came back into the fold to watch), and left again (sorry Peter but no).
Somewhere in there, and I can’t remember when because this now seems so integral that I can’t remember a time before it, I started listening to Bachelor podcasts. Even when I haven’t watched the season, I’ve waited for the podcast episodes eagerly and listened to them ASAP. I remember how I’d get out of my old clinical volunteering position every Tuesday at 1 and when it was Bachelor season, I’d go to the Starbucks in the hospital once I got out, and sit there eating my snack, drinking my iced green tea and start playing podcasts about the previous night’s episode.
There’s so much I could say about Bachelor podcasts that I think I’m going to make that its own post.
I’m excited for the upcoming season. I’m unspoiled, except I know the big news that everyone knows (that I posted about awhile back) that ABC is for some reason pretending everyone doesn’t know even though it was everywhere. Other than that switcheroo, and why it happens, I don’t know anything. I was already excited for Clare, and now with the switcheroo, even more so.
DON’T READ THE NEXT PARAGRAPH if you somehow don’t know the big news and want to be fully unspoiled.
This is a franchise that has a big problem with diversity of all kinds, so the fact that this season, Clare, who’s 39 and by far the oldest female lead the show has ever had (so I’m thinking and hoping the guys might be more my speed instead of early twentysomethings), leaves the show, which has never been done before, to run off with a Black man (Dale Moss, who is, as they say, a smokeshow (wait, can you call a guy a smokeshow?)) and then gets replaced by a Black woman lead (yeah TAYSHIA), only to lead into the season of Matt James as the first Black Bachelor (filming now in a resort in Pennsylvania, seriously can’t wait for that season to air this winter and hopefully get some good PA fall scenery), and also all of this happens at a resort under quarantine, and oh yeah, like nothing else is back on TV yet, is all amazing (to use one of the most overused Bachelor Nation words) and I am HERE FOR ALL OF IT. Seriously way more excited than I have been in many seasons.
One week from today, baby! Or well, two weeks and a day since I’ll be watching on Hulu the next day.
P.D.: A picture of Brad and Emily on their proposal day.