Why I Couldn’t Even Make It Through the First Commercial Break of The Bachelor Pre-Show

Buzzfeed listicle with puppies. Buzzfeed listicle with gifs. #PrinceFarming. Engagement. Engagement. Thoughtcatalog article on relationships. #PrinceFarming.  Thoughtcatalog article on being in your twenties. Thoughtcatalog article on having the best twenties EVER. Thoughtcatalog article on not worrying if you suck at your twenties and eat ramen for every meal because it will get better. Bill Cosby article. New Baby. #PrinceFarming… The rest I had seen a million times, but who was this “Prince Farming” plaguing my newsfeed?

A quick search revealed that Prince Farming was not in fact a username on FarmersOnly.com (tagline: “City Folks just don’t get it”) chosen by a guy who messages things like “If you think I’m sexy, wait ‘til you see my tractor” and “Wanna help me germinate my seeds? ;)” – it was the nickname of the newest Bachelor, Chris Soules, whose season had premiered the night before. Now the way The Bachelor works is that once upon a time, a man – the OB, original bachelor – dated 25 women at the same time, got rid of one every week by not giving her a rose at the Rose Ceremony, made out with a few, and then proposed to one. The most recently dumped candidate then got her own show, The Bachelorette, in which the whole process was repeated in another season.

The rules of the show have been violated. For example, Brad from Season 11 chose neither of his final 2 women and now owns a couple of bars in Texas with his twin brother (Thank you, Wikipedia), and Jason from Season 13 broke off his engagement with his chosen lady during After the Final Rose and married his first runner-up instead during a two-hour special called The Bachelor: Jason and Molly’s Wedding.

So I start watching the premier online, and Chris Harrison (the host of every single season) immediately promises a Bachelor premier like I’ve never seen before. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s the strangest Rose Ceremony we’ve ever seen and that’s just the beginning. “We’ve got it all,” Chris Harrison vows. “A virgin who spends the night in the Fantasy Suite! A wholesome girl with an x-rated past!” You got your virgins, you got your ex porn-stars, yep that pretty much covers it. And it all starts right NOW!

Which is not true at all, because it’s at this point that I realize I’ve been duped into watching the hour-long pre-show.

I resist the urge to exit the screen and forge on – after all, I haven’t even met the Bachelor yet. Chris Soules from Arlington, Iowa, America’s Prince Farming, believes that love is a lot like farming. “You plant a seed, hope it grows, weather isn’t always on your side, but with a little bit of luck, something beautiful can come from it.” And he’s really good at picking up and putting down hay bales.

The problem is that there just aren’t enough women in Arlington, Iowa (Idea for new reality show: Bring together the almost all-male population of Arlington, Iowa, with the almost all-female population of Fool’s Gold, California – not making this up – and make them live together for 6 months. Couples are sure to ensue!), and Chris thinks that The Bachelor is “the best way to find love.” I’m guessing no one told him that out of the 18 Bachelor seasons and 10 Bachelorette seasons (18 potential couples), only 5 couples are still together (3 of which are married, one of which is Jason from Season 13 who changed his mind during the after-show special). Do with that what you will.

And yet: “This is the first time I’ve missed harvest,” Chris says, while sitting on his motorcycle staring wistfully across a cornfield as epic music plays. Pre-commercial tease:

“If you wanna talk to him, you’ve gotta steal him,” a no-doubt hot blonde or brunette says as footage of a ball gown-clad grown-ass woman hump-backedly sneaks around the Bachelor Mansion. “And then: something goes terribly wrong at the Rose Ceremony,” Chris Harrison says, as Prince Farming walks away from the table of roses, a contestant mouths “OH MY GOD,” and countless blondes make surprised faces with mouths open and eyes wide very similar to the ones they undoubtedly make when they’re putting on mascara.

CLICK.

 

Grade: C

Don’t watch unless you’re my mother and her friends and need something to talk about when you meet for your monthly walk around the gym racetrack.

 

UPDATE: Andi Dorfman and Josh Murray broke up. THREE DAYS after appearing together and apparently in love on the Bachelor Red Carpet Live Premiere. I say “apparently” because I hadn’t lasted ‘til that segment, but I will admit that I was highly intrigued. I like to think I have a sixth sense for break-ups. In the 10th grade I dated this guy Ben for a month and just knew he was about to break up with me, so I beat him to the punch and did it first. He also ended up being gay, which I did not foresee – but hey, I said I had a good breakup detector, not gaydar. So I tuned back in to The Bachelor Pre-Show and put my skills to the test.

But before I got to see pre-breakup Andi and Josh, I had to sit through the introductions of seven of the contestants. A few highlights:

There was the 27-year-old waitress who proclaimed, “I’m going on the show to meet Chris,” as she was sandwich-hugged between what looked like two body builders, while standing on the streets of Hollywood wearing a mini skirt, belly shirt, and holding a FREE HUGS sign. She continued, “He’s such a great guy, like, it couldn’t be anybody better. Just, yeah, I’m just 100 percent. 100 percent.”

There was 25-year-old Jillian who threatened that love is a competition, so watch out girls. Amanda the Ballerina from Illinois who seemed super normal and cute until the producer asked her why she thought she was still single and she said without pause, “Can I say because I’m f*cking crazy?”. She laughed afterwards, but as I looked into her unblinking wild-eyes visible above the blurred lower portion of her censored face, I could believe it. Then she revealed that she still lived with her mother, which was awesome because she hated cooking and cleaning and paying bills. Hear that, Mom? Prepare my old quarters, I too hate all of those things.

The next intro started with a pretty blonde sitting across the table from another pretty blonde saying “Are you ready to make a baby? Alright let’s get started.” Chris Harrison, are we about to witness a pretty blonde lesbian sex scene? No, sillies, contestant Whitney is a fertility nurse! Which is appropriate, because she also seems baby crazy as hell. “Could Chris be your new daddy?! Oh yessss, are you excited??” she asked her white fluffy dog. And be warned, Chris, that dog did look pretty excited.

Then there was a 21-year-old with a baby who is looking for a hot, mature, grown-up male. “And Chris is all of those things, so I’m like, he’s perfect.” Translation: Auditions for Baby-Daddy startttt… NOW. There was a flight attendant from New Jersey who made cheesy airplane puns and a school counselor from Texas whose husband died a year and four months ago.

And then THANK GOD Andi and Josh were up to bat. But oddly enough, it was Chris Harrison who came out swinging. Andi says stuff about random strangers being so supportive and telling her they were glad she chose Josh, when Chris Harrison interrupts to say, “Who was happy you chose him? Really? Anybody? Umm, let’s talk wedding…” which they kind of don’t do, because in retrospect, they probably already knew at that point there wasn’t going to be one. (Though maybe Josh didn’t. He reportedly posted and then almost immediately deleted a photo on Instagram of the silhouette of a man kneeling with one arm raised to the sky. It was captioned: “Lord help me to have faith in your plan.” Can you say #dramaqueen?)

But to the rest of us, they looked so in love. I couldn’t have called it. No one could have, no one did. And that, is the fatal flaw of these “reality” dating shows. They are highly unrealistic. The ability to act in love and portray this beautiful relationship is a time-old skill, but when the movie stops rolling, we’re not legitimately upset that Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling don’t get married in real life (from The Notebook, obviously). So why do we as viewers fail to see the unrealistic nature of reality dating shows, even knowing that only 16% of them work out?

The last interview before I turned The Bachelor off for good was a contestant named Nikki, who had been chosen, and then un-chosen (read: dumped) by Bachelor Juan Pablo. What happened? He was a Miami partyboy and she was a Kansas City nurse – but for those brief six weeks they spent together, love blinded them enough to believe that they could make that work. Not even a stint on vH1’s Couples Therapy (yes that’s a real show) could save them. And then Nikki said something really intelligent. “We really tried to make it work. Like… real-life tried, not TV-tried.” Because – wake up, people – TV love is not real-life love.

An Affair to Forget

The Affair knows that it is retreading well-worn ground. Adultery has been covered so extensively across all forms of media that it’s hard to imagine a new TV drama adding much to the conversation. For the first few episodes, though, it seemed like Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi had achieved the massively unlikely. The show actually felt original, with a fresh angle on its main characters and an innovative storytelling style. It’s unfortunate that by the tenth and final episode of the season, that freshness had all but disappeared into the many clichés of infidelity fiction.

The Showtime drama follows Noah Solloway (Dominic West), a high school teacher and novelist who begins an affair with waitress Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson) during a summer in Montauk. Both Noah and Alison are married, but they waste no time—by episode two their romance is already underway. As you would expect, all does not go smoothly. Each member of the couple has their own personal issues to work through, with Noah feeling career pressure from his wife’s wealthy family and Alison still grieving a recent tragedy. On top of that, their respective spouses, Helen (Maura Tierney) and Cole (Joshua Jackson), soon start to notice their other halves seeming more distant than usual.

None of this is new material. The Affair‘s initial appeal came from its structure, rather than its fairly typical content. Each episode is split in two halves, with one told from Noah’s perspective and the other from Alison’s. We see early on that they are recounting the story of their relationship to a detective in an interrogation room, as part of an investigation into a mysterious death. This means that we are constantly seeing not their present tense experiences but their memories of events that transpired (presumably) multiple years ago. Small differences in their recollections therefore take on more significance: even changes in clothing reveal interesting details about the central characters. In Noah’s memory of their first meeting, for example, he sees Alison in a sexy dress, acting like a stereotypical temptress. In Alison’s version, she is wearing an unflattering work apron and no make up, and is certainly not out to seduce anybody.

The central performances are strong, although both lead actors are British and their American accents are far from perfect. West brings a slight sleaziness to Noah that works, and Wilson manages to be both vulnerable and crafty. Tierney and Jackson are also really excellent—if anything, they are underused. When problems develop with The Affair‘s first season, writing and plotting begin to let this cast down.

Lead characters do not have to be likeable to be good, so the fact that Noah and Alison are almost entirely unsympathetic is not really the issue. It’s more that their unpleasantness is paired with uninspiring action. In great dramas like The Sopranos or Mad Men, characters might be flawed and even cruel or violent, but they are usually at least doing interesting things. Noah and Alison, on the other hand, have few redeeming qualities and are shown having what seems like a very typical adulterous relationship. The result is therefore boring and pretty much free of emotional engagement; Tierney succeeds in making me care about Helen, but since she is only ever shown from Noah or Alison’s perspective (neither of which is particularly flattering, for obvious reasons), she doesn’t get much screentime and has little to do. When big emotional moments do come her way she knocks them out of the park, but they are much too few and far between.

Things get even worse when The Affair seems to realise that it’s edging towards being dull. Treem and Levi respond by ramping up the mystery and criminal elements of the show, bringing in ludicrous murder and drugs sideplots that completely negate the apparent initial intention to show the effects of infidelity on pretty ordinary people. Suddenly the show is less about the limitations of memory or the consequences of cheating and more about cocaine dealings, which doesn’t actually solve the boredom problem at all.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that in the season finale there are two musical montages within the first ten minutes of the episode, and they’re so clumsy they may as well have shots of calendar pages being ripped away. I had high hopes for this show, and these segments demonstrated exactly how it disappointed me. What could have been a clever and careful look at cheating became a mess of clichés and lazy melodrama.

Grade: C+

Should have been a miniseries.

Big Eyes, Blurred Focus

Big Eyes, Tim Burton’s latest biopic, brings to mind that quote nebulously attributed to Mark Twain: “It is no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” While the life story of artist Margaret Keane is fascinating, and Burton adapts it more accurately than you might expect, the film as a whole doesn’t cohere. Simple chronology plays a larger role than narrative craft in its structure. Big Eyes is far from senseless, but its themes and storylines conflict in ways that are more acceptable in life than art. Continue reading Big Eyes, Blurred Focus

World War Three Will Have To Wait

The Interview has been released on Youtube which means unfortunately that two valuable time-wasting Youtube hours will be squandered on this movie by many unsuspecting folks. Of course this is partially the result of all the hoo-hah that this film has already caused. A hacker group had broken into parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network and threatened terrorist attacks against cinemas that show The Interview before the film was even released. The likely result of all this free publicity however is that most people are going to be vastly disappointed that such a film caused any concern in the first place. Continue reading World War Three Will Have To Wait

The Good Machine of the Last Good War

The marriage of man and machine is a classic trope, and Fury takes it to the next level by bonding multiple men with the ultimate war machine of the Second World War. The result is a complex and original film about the familial bond between soldiers. Brad Pitt is Wardaddy, the hardened veteran commander of his M4A3E8 Sherman tank named Fury and the father figure of his tank crew family. The film’s formal introduction to the gang is through trained typist and new recruit Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), reassigned to be Fury’s assistant driver and bow gunner. He meets gunner “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf), driver “Gordo” (Michael Peña), and loader “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal) after Wardaddy reluctantly but good-humoredly accepts Norman into his command. Continue reading The Good Machine of the Last Good War

A Touch of Crass: The Transcendent Vulgarity of The Eric Andre Show

In 2015, in an era when Office-style cringe comedy is the norm, where the President can appear on Between Two Ferns, and Tim & Eric’s basement public access style has become a Madison avenue fixture, The Eric Andre Show‘s ferocious assault on conventional comedy manages to stand out as something entirely new. Continue reading A Touch of Crass: The Transcendent Vulgarity of The Eric Andre Show

Unbroken? Speak For Yourself

Angelina Jolie’s sophomore feature, Unbroken, is the kind of film that you could probably only sit through once. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, Unbroken tries to give legs to the harrowing true story of a man’s journey from celebrated athlete to Japanese prisoner of war. This film, which Jolie terms her “passion project,” brings together Hollywood heavyweights behind the screen. The Coen Brothers (True Grit), Richard LaGravenese (P.S I Love You), & William Nicholson (Gladiator) join Jolie as screenwriters with Universal Pictures distributing. Jolie commits to an honest account of the brutality inflicted upon Zamperini during the film’s 137-minute runtime, but in doing so forgets that everyone’s tolerance for pain is not quite as limitless.

Continue reading Unbroken? Speak For Yourself

I Sacrificed Three Hours So You Don’t Have To

With Dean’s Date rapidly approaching, I gave up an eighth of a day to watch the Golden Globes and even more to report on them here. I did that for you, readers, so I hope you forgive me if we disagree about any of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s decisions. Unlike the ceremony and Michael Keaton’s speech in particular, I’m going to keep it concise. Here, then, are the noteworthy moments from the 72nd Golden Globes!

Continue reading I Sacrificed Three Hours So You Don’t Have To

Snowpiercer: The Little Engine That Couldn’t

The year is 2031. In a colossally failed attempt to combat global warming, scientists have accidentally launched the world into an inhospitable ice age. All forms of life freeze solid after just minutes of exposure to the murderously bitter cold. Humanity has narrowly escaped total extinction by clambering aboard a glorified choo-choo train. Continue reading Snowpiercer: The Little Engine That Couldn’t

The Perfect Collision of Science and Music

The first person to receive praise for a great film is often an actor. And why not when they are indeed the faces that fill a million billboards and bus stop canopies. A strong case can be made for the director, or if a critic is feeling exceptionally inclusive, perhaps even the screenwriter. Of the hundreds of movies that I’ve watched since my adolescent self knew how to work a VCR, there have been very few times when I’ve thought the shining star was the composer – until I watched The Theory of Everything. Continue reading The Perfect Collision of Science and Music

A Film and Television Review

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