Somehow, I only recently discovered "Burning Love," a hilarious, star-packed parody of "The Bachelor." Produced by Ben Stiller, the Yahoo web series makes spot-on digs at the show, some outrageous and some impressively subtle. The series currently has clueless fireman Mark Orlando (Ken Marino) down to two women, just as the sweet n' sanitized Emily Maynard has only two men left on the current season of "The Bachelorette."
It's funny to look back on my own journey with "The Bachelor" franchise. When the original show premiered in 2002, I was a 16-year-old high school student who swooned simply at the notion of a pre-planned date. It didn't register with me that the show's anti-monogamist premise was inherently flawed. When Andrew Firestone got down on one knee and told Jen Schefft that it had always been her (you know, all six weeks), I screamed at my TV: "That's true love!"
It wasn't. More than 20 seasons later, "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" have spawned only two legitimate marriages, one of which is between a Bachelor and the girl he kicked off on the finale. A girl for whom he publicly ditched his fiancé. And then married in a televised wedding special. Classy.
But let's be real: Despite its absurdity, I've been glued to the show for a decade now, fascinated by its exposure of human flaws, patterns and weaknesses. And I'm not the only one; says "Burning Love" creator and star Marino, "I know how ridiculous it is, but I can't help but watch."
Don't I know it. Here are a few things I've learned from the series over the years:
5. The Fantasy Suite is the show's secret weapon, a perfect manipulation of emotions and circumstance that causes (most) girls to succumb and allows guys to get exactly what they signed up for - sometimes three times over.
4. It's easy to fall in love in the most exotic places in the world. No, really. Send me to Curaçao, hook me up with an intimate dinner on the beach (or just have Dolly Parton serenade me - what?), and I, too, will consider letting a near stranger put a ring on it.
3. Nice girls finish last. Dating is tricky enough without being given a menu of personalities and, ahem, assets from which to choose. Should we really be surprised that, twice now, the Bachelor's picked the most villainous (read: enticing) girl on the show?
2. Not only has the show failed to create lasting relationships, it's also failed to create the stars that contestants have increasingly aspired to be. Know who Vienna Girardi, Jake Pavelka or Courtney Robertson is? Didn't think so. Consider yourself lucky.
1. "Bachelor Pad" is an even more ludicrous show, a self-aware, trippy sociological experiment of sorts. The upcoming season looks promising, with the brilliant decision to toss "super fans" into the mix. Highest of fives, ABC.
Check out the latest episode of "Burning Love" below, and this deliciously funny episode from earlier in the season. And, of course, to see the beginning of the next relationship's demise, tune in on Sunday, July 22, for "The Bachelorette" season finale.