26 September 2012

I Love The Bachelor Franchise

  In many ways it appears television has progressed leaps and bounds over the last decade. Shows come to mind like The Wire. This show impressed me in the way it built on complex story lines that intertwined over the seasons. There was also a strong development of an array of nuanced characters you become attached to and that I dreamt about. Really amazing, moving and engrossing work. And then there is reality T.V. The house wife shows, the shows about Pawn shop owners, child pageants, lets face it, anything at all. My personal guilty pleasure is The Bachelor franchise. It is built from the foundations of all great reality T.V, that is:  Ego's, Alcohol and relationships. Throw a bunch of people together in a house, make it a competition to find love, ply everyone with copious amounts of booze and what you get is very entertaining.
  It is an hour or two of escapist entertainment to be a fly on the wall and watch the craziness of people who want to find love on T.V. You gotta be a bit crazy to go for that proposal, no pun intended, in the first place. I think reality T.V, or whatever it is that is slightly unsophisticated but wonderfully entertaining you like to watch, is healthy. Its fun to judge, lets face it,
  The producers and the editors do a fantastic job in creating the stories. "Reality" television is anything but of course. There is a suspension of disbelief required. You have to turn a blind eye to conversations that have been edited together from a variety of situations and you have to go along with the narrative the producers are hustling. You have run with the story and not ask hard questions about the context of certain clips. There is gonna be a villain, there is gonna be conflict and there is gonna be some surprises. Like I said, this show is well produced and edited and often I am surprised by who gets the rose. Its fun to pick favorites from the beginning and then watch how the "reality" unfolds.
  When you put people together and let them compete for the affections of one individual it creates a really interesting dynamic in terms of group psychology. Everyone seems to get caught up in this "I'm totally in love" frenzy. All the contestants seem to get swept up in the mentality of wild infatuation. Sure this may be in most cases rather delusional, and indeed very few relationships survive post post-production, but the emotions along the way are very real, intense and most importantly amusing.
  Now, I know I have been a little dismissive so far as to the intrinsic value of this show beyond light entertainment. But, first and foremost, this show is about relationships and relationships are always so fascinating. In the last season of The Bachelorette we journeyed with Emily Maynard whose engagement to previous repressed rage-aholic Brad Womack unsurprisingly didn't work out. Emily is a single mother with an emotional backstory; her former fiancee and babies daddy died in a plane crash just as she found out she was pregnant with his child. But more then just a backstory with gravitas, Emily has a maturity that perhaps is born, no pun intended,  from being a young single mother. I certainly didn't have her grounded way of dealing with relationships with any semblance of rational or logic in my twenties and this lady handled awkward situations really, really well and with a fair dollop of kindness too. I loved watching the way she let boys down, asked direct question and was a stand up example of dealing with the dating game. Was I taken by surprise she didn't choose Ari a race-car driver over Jef a former Mormon? Of course, I was shocked and nearly choked on my cheese and crackers. Thats right, The Bachelor is a wine and cheese affair with me and my girl.
  At the moment I am enjoying Bachelor Pad, a spinoff of the Bachelor franchise. This is where they take the rejects, the "villains", the alcoholics and generally the least mentality stable of contestants from past Bachelor and Bachelorette shows and get them to compete for money. It is a far more fun and carefree affair, no pun intended, then The Bachelor proper, where certain contestants are actually genuinely interested in finding a lasting relationship.  Oh yes and the kitchen area in the house resembles a well stocked bar. That is not to say that the producers don't bust their butt to ensure real embarrassment on the contestants for our benefit. On the last season, Michael Stagliano was love struck by his old fiancee Holly and spent most of the season pining and in a state of deep feeling hoping that he could recapture their lost flame. Enter the producers who know a nice raw set of emotions can be highly entertaining. They set up an excruciatingly awkward surprise for Michael Stagliano by announcing on live T.V that Holly was just recently engaged to be married to Blake, a slightly sleazy dentist and nemisis to Michael and his attempts at winning back Holly on The Bachelor Pad. To see a man crushed is good T.V. That probably makes me a bad person on some level, but hey, none of us our perfect.
Watching someones dreams being decimated. Great T.V.
  People aren't perfect, but people who are prepared to display their imperfections on the camera are a gift. Its not the most sophisticated or spiritual in television but we do get to watch real emotions and real interactions and that is always compelling. Chris Harrison does what a great host does; take the relationships and the shows premise seriously and treat the contestants with respect. The guy is into it and his enthusiasm brings me as a viewer, closer the the story. Bachelor Pad is a much looser and less earnest show of course, but the way Harrison treats the contestants on Bachelor and Bachelorette allows us to get swept up in the drama and begin to cross our fingers for certain couples that I think might just work.
 Depak Chopra insists we should not judge people. But if Depak watched reality T.V odds are he could not help himself. Reality T.V provides a safe place, a barrier between fiction and real life where we can judge to our hearts content. Indeed, many of the people we see on reality T.V aren't what us regular folk would consider stand up individuals. The more mentality unstable, the less morally reputable, the more entertaining is a pretty accurate summary I'd say. Take the ending to the last Bachelor Pad where no personality personal trainer Nick, in a badly justified and clearly greedy and despicable move, chose to keep the $250,000 dollar prize money rather then split it with his partner (both partners must secretly make a decision to keep or share the money, if both choose to keep, neither of them get it, if both choose share they split the pot but if one chooses keep and one share, the person who chose keep gets its all). He had told her he would choose to share it with her. He had no right to keep it having not played any game, but, his lack of character and lack of any moral fiber sure made for some controversy. He maintained that his strategy was to "keep a low profile" and insisted he had played "an amazing game". I think he was stupid enough to believe these inadequate justifications. They were complete sentences which was an achievement in itself for this dolt. No, you are not a mastermind manipulator Mr Nick, you are a greedy, stupid, opportunistic liar and I judge you for it. Thank you.
  These shows don't have a high percentage of home runs in terms of successful relationships and many of the engagements fizzle out in the real world, but that is not a concern for me. I like to just have a great story, something that is a little sensational, a nice slice of reality pie to tune out to once a week. Whats your guilty pleasure? have you got a favorite reality T.V show? Come down to my level and start watching all things The Bachelor. You'll fall in love with reality T.V all over again.