Why intelligent women (and men) watch The Bachelor
It could be the most dramatic dating reality series ever to grace the airwaves in the U.S., and after 18-plus seasons The Bachelor is still capturing viewers' attention. Through the sloppy cocktail parties, epic hot tub scenes, fantasy suite drama, cat fights and ridiculous rose ceremonies... there's something that keeps us tuning into ABC each and every Monday night.
"It's kind of like a car accident, you just can't turn away!" says longtime news reporter and popular blogger Nicole McGregor.
In its 19th season, The Bachelor has spawned the successful spinoff The Bachelorette, which resulted in the successful marriage of former Miami HEAT dancer Trista Rehn to Ryan Sutter. There's also the summer sizzler The Bachelor Pad, which hosts competitions reminiscent of Big Brother, but in a frat house environment full of salacious hookups.
It's the original show, however, that keeps me highly entertained, though there's not much "real" in this reality show. There are tears, much silliness, tons of booze and 25 beautiful women vying for the attention of one man... who they've never met before. It's pure television gold.
And apparently I'm not the only one that agrees. Though I am teased at work by my male co-broadcasters for live-tweeting during The Bachelor, I'm just one of millions of fans who watch every week. But why do smart women, who know that most (if not all) of the "contestants" on the show are just looking for their five minutes of fame, still indulge?
McGregor says, "For us busy working women and mothers, we all need a little distraction from deadlines, dinners and endless driving. On an occasional weeknight, I want to sit in front of the tube, drink a glass of wine and mindlessly watch crazy drama that stirs an emotion in me. My husband calls it trash, I call it a gift. A gift of escapism."
Ironic that The Bachelor is an escape from reality, when they sell this show as a real search for true love. But most of us, including former teacher Sarah Kostusiak, get that the show's producers influence the outcome. "I understand it's a show and they develop the storylines and edit it to match, but it's still fun... and mindless... like a Harlequin novel on television!"
Ah the romance... the sexy scenes, the multiple make-out sessions, and the roses. Yes, we women love nothing more than a real-life fairy tale, but we aren't the only gender that can't get enough of The Bachelor. Laura Thomas watches each week because she's vested in the lead. "I think we are all hopeless romantics, so to watch someone go through this process to find love makes us happy. My husband watches for the hot girls."
And that is precisely what producers are hoping for. Each season they find 25 gorgeous girls to don bikinis while riding tractors (or other shenanigans), in order to drive ratings and entice a male audience. Dale McLean, In-Stand Host for the Miami HEAT, watches both for the ladies and their tactics. "I love how desperate they seem and how quickly they become attached to him. They are willing to do whatever it takes to one-up the other women. But it's good TV... the promise of finding love and the drunken embarrassment. Maybe we can all learn what not to do when you're looking for that significant other!"
What's most confusing about the show is how quickly the women seem to fall for the lead. Perhaps it's the seclusion coupled with Champagne, or maybe they just want to win, but it seems impossible that so many women could feel a true "connection" to the Bachelor. It's also perplexing that in 2015 there's a complete lack of diversity in the show's casting, not only culturally but in body type as well. (Have you ever seen someone on the show that's not a size zero? Why hasn't there been an African-American bachelor?)
Regardless of the stereotypes, crazy drunks or Chris Harrison's classic time-filling interviews, fans of the show will keep watching for those tearful exit interviews and exotic dates. It's perfectly executed editing, led by brilliant producers' meddling, portrayed by willing, yet (sometimes) clueless participants... and we can't get enough!
And at the end of the season, we all wait with bated breath to find out if the Bachelor finds true love or heartache. The formula and concept is a match made in television heaven, and McLean sums it up perfectly:
"People love fairy-tale endings and people love train wrecks. With the Bachelor you get both every season."
Will Farmer Chris find his perfect match this season? Tune in on Monday nights and tweet me!