You’re Watching Reality TV Wrong

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All fans of reality TV competitions tend to make the same two mistakes. (If your immediate response to this is, “Is watching reality TV competitions one of them?”—good one! Also, you’ve had your fun, now leave.)

Alright, where was I? The two mistakes. To be clear, I am not excluding myself from these mistakes. I have made these mistakes in the past. I will probably make these mistakes again in the future. I simply want to pass along what I’ve learned.

The first reality TV mistake is ROOTING FOR YOUR FAVORITE. Wait, what? That’s crazy talk.

Hear me out. Of course, it’s natural to want your favorite to win. You want them to take down all comers, reach the top of the reality TV mountain, get bathed in a victorious sea of confetti. But here’s the rub: With a few notable exceptions, reality TV winners tend to disappear from our TV screens. This is particularly true of the winners of, say, The Bachelor or The Bachelorette series, at least some of whom do annoying things like “get married” and “have children” and “live happily ever after.” As for the losers? Well, after the tears, the regrets, the self-recriminations—the possibilities are endless. They can show up on Bachelor in Paradise! They can appear as a contestant again! They can become The Bachelor or The Bachelorette! (If their name is Nick Viall, they can do all three!) And this is also true on Drag Race (my favorite show), where the winners simply, well, win, whereas the losers—if they are good enough at drag and popular enough—get to come back on All-Stars. One of my favorite queens, Manila Luzon, appeared on Season 3, then All-Stars 1, and then All-Stars 4! She lost all three times! Huzzah! If I like seeing Manila Luzon on my TV screen—and I do! I really do!—why on earth would I want to her to win? (It’s true, I had an absolute cow when Manila was unfairly voted off of All-Stars 4. Sometimes I forget my own rules. I am but a mere mortal—and Naomi Smalls did her dirty.)

The other mistake reality TV competition fans make? WANTING THE VILLAIN TO GO HOME. Villains make for prime entertainment. They annoy viewers, they antagonize fellow contestants, they cause a ruckus. Ruckuses are the best! Have you ever noticed that once reality TV villains get voted off, the shows become less good? The perfect example is the current reality TV boogeyman, Luke P, of The Bachelorette. Luke P is, objectively, the worst. He decided right out of the gate—way too soon—that he was not only in love with Hannah but that he was the clear frontrunner, and he’s been stunned, hurt, and baffled (he’s easily baffled) every time Hannah doesn’t treat him like the king he believes himself to be. He’s downright troglodyte in his opinions about women and sex—he thinks women’s bodies are temples and that they should save themselves for marriage (but he, Luke P, has had sex many, many times, thank you very much). And he’s constantly gaslighting Hannah, insisting he didn’t say the all horrible things he actually said when she calls him out. The WORST. But! Luke also causes confrontations and fights at the cocktail parties, and drives Hannah to (telegenic) tears. Thanks to Luke, the studly Tyler C looks that much better (he called Luke out on his slut shaming) and the otherwise sorta dull Garrett delivered the best line of the season: “Sweet dreams, Luke.” (This was said with a shit-eating grin after Luke begged Garrett not to share certain details of his toxic behavior with Hannah.)

And yet, week after week, people on Twitter get enraged when Hannah saves Luke. Don’t they realize that Luke has MADE this season? Luke is the gift that keeps on giving. Every time Hannah pins a rose on his steroid-enhanced chest, it guarantees another week of beautiful chaos.

In closing, of course, there is something in human nature that compels us to root for our favorite and against the villain. Resist! Go against your instincts! You’ll be a hell of a lot more entertained because of it.

I Thought Nick Viall Was Going To Be the Best Bachelor Ever. Boy Was I Wrong.

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Sad Nick is sad

I am a shameless and unapologetic Nick Viall backer. I think he’s funny and cute and genuinely sweet and I literally never understood the “villain” edit he got. As far as I could tell, the other guys in the house always hated Nick because:

  1. He was a frontrunner on both Andi and Kaityln’s seasons.
  2. He’s exactly the kind of chatty, emotional guy women tend to like more than men.

To me, the whole “if you didn’t love me, why did you make love to me” controversy from Andi’s After the Final Rose show was overblown. Nick is not a slut-shamer. His behavior before and since has more than demonstrated that. To wit, this tweet*:

And here’s why I thought Nick was going to make a great Bachelor. Two-percent body fat and smoldering blue steel aside, he seems like a guy I could actually hang with. Most of the Bachelors are cocky ex jocks or overly polished “entrepreneurs” or shameless opportunists or God squad types who have the unneurotic confidence that comes from thinking that everything happens for a reason. Nick isn’t polished. He mumbles. He overshares. He likes to gossip—as people do! He actually thinks about things. He seems to love women, and not just for the sex stuff! How refreshing it will be, I thought to myself, to have an actual human being as the Bachelor.

Oops, I was dead wrong. Because Nick is actually a terrible Bachelor—so neurotic, so fretful, so self-questioning he’s taken a lot of fun out of the series. He’s so afraid that he’s not going to find love, he’s sabotaging himself, second guessing everything he does, sending contestants home willy-nilly, crying when he feels an iota of tenderness toward a woman, then crying again when that fleeting feeling goes away.

The Bachelor is a show that thrives on artifice. You have to believe in the process, no matter how absurd the process may be. Of course the odds are slim that your future wife and soul mate is among the 25 women randomly selected for a reality TV competition. I mean, it’s possible (oh hai, Ryan and Trista!), but certainly not likely. Then, you have to give yourself fully to the romance of it all—never asking yourself, Do I really feel this way? Or am I being overly seduced by the various perfectly-timed fireworks displays, sunsets on the beach, helicopter rides, candlelit dinners in castles, private concerts from minor recording artists, and other unrealistic dates that the show handily provides?

Nick sees through the artifice. This is literally the worst thing that can happen to a Bachelor. They have to either buy into the artifice or not care. But Nick cares! He cares a lot!

A lot of focus has been placed on the fact that Nick was burnt by the show twice (well, two and a half times, if you include Bachelor in Paradise, which I don’t) and that’s why he’s been so gun shy. Surely that’s part of it. With both Andi and Kaitlyn, he thought he had found true love and was sent packing. (In particularly humiliating fashion by Kaitlyn, who literally let him get down on one knee. That’s cold.) So yeah, he’s understandably cautious. But I think his biggest problem is that he’s too damn smart for his own good. He knows that the odds of this whole thing working out are slim and he also knows that if he doesn’t find love he’ll be seen as a failure, even a laughingstock. He’s so afraid of failing, he fails. (There’s a lesson here, people.)

What’s more, because of his natural over-sharing tendencies, he tends to be honest-to-a-fault with his dates, giving them a lot of “I wanted to will myself to love you, but I just couldn’t” and “I thought I had feelings for you—sadly I was wrong” type confessions. He even broke down in front of the remaining contestants and told them about his anxieties over finding “the one.” What the hell are they supposed to do with that?

Every once in a while, a glimmer of the Bachelor I thought Nick was going to be shines through. I loved his amused insistence that Alexis was really a shark, not a dolphin. I loved when he laughingly told Corinne, “Didn’t expect you to go full third person there,” when she started dropping a lot of “Corinnes” into her sentences. And he was beyond sweet when he tended to Vanessa after she fell ill during a date. (He even kissed her after she puked—now that’s chivalry.)

But mostly, I was wrong about Nick. I thought I wanted a relatable Bachelor. I don’t. I want a slick, polished, made-for-TV Bachelor who’s either in it for the wrong reasons or too dumb to care. Turns out the surest way to kill reality TV? Too much reality.

*I do, however, judge Nick for spelling judgment wrong.