I had never watched it before, but the last Bachelor (with that scary Jake Pavelka) coincided with me starting a running routine. So, when half-dead and ready to transition into my day, I would stick it on in the backgound on Hulu while I worked. Lately I’ve really liked dumb TV or Gilmore Girls episodes in the background while working from home. It’s like being a little bit less alone.
Anyways, once I knew that the Bachelorette would be plucky Ali F. from Williamstown, Massachusetts, I had to admit that I knew I’d be watching it. Sure, she seems like a mainstream type interested in fame, but she also has a certain spark on screen - she seems fairly smart for a reality TV girl. Some of her personality traits reminded me of people I know in Massachusetts. I had never seen The Bachelorette before, but it’s so much more fun because a bunch of guys fighting over a girl is sort of odd and wonderful and when you put that in the reality show dynamic it’s different. Sort of like turning the tables.
Then there’s the fact that The Bachelor/ette is structured like an EPIC ROMANTIC FILM with CRAZY dates - a picnic at the Hollywood sign! running around the Museum of Natural History after hours! lots of helicopter rides to exotic locations! - and the vibe is something you don’t get from films anymore, coupled with the, like, original reality TV talking heads and quite transparent editing/plotting. At its basis, the show is so weird and retrograde. And yet - there are occasional moments of these Truman Show people stuck in a mansion and stuck on dates acting like real people in this simulacrum of romance.
One of Ali’s final two, Cape Cod Chris L., is a really interesting case. He’s very Massachusetts, frat boy-ish, and yet there’s something wonderfully manly and decent at his core (even in his slightly Paul Newman-ish handsomeness, often hidden behind frat-boy dress sensibilities). His main plot is that he quit teaching in New York to move back to the Cape to help his family out while his Mom passed away, and the way editing goes, he’s still mired in grief. When Ali visited his family, it was a perfect picture of the occasionally stifling New England family dynamics that come from the area - where you stay provincial. It was interesting to see.
My other reality show obsession, right now, is Work of Art on Bravo. I think because it’s so subjective at its core - I mean, art, you know? You like what you like and some guy could like it differently. The show rattles around in my brain after the fact. No reality show ever does that. The Project Runway setup, and the fact that there’s a wide array of artists in various fields, from oil painting to performance art (gone too soon, Nao!) to multi-media stuff (Miles, the likely winner) - it all comes together to create a bit of a trainwreck. Because the show favors people who are able to game the creative process, to come at it quickly. There’s rumors that Miles had already planned on “redoing” older pieces, I believe it and in this case, it’s a smart way to play the show. A guy like Abdi, who is clearly coming at each task with a clean slate and a bunch of ideas and goes through a whole trial and error thing, is flailing because he wasn’t prepared in that way. I really hope the show gets another season, and that they retrofit the challenges to work for people - imagine being a photographer, and you can only stick around in the room? What if you do landscapes? What if you don’t rely on photoshop trickery?