Reality Bites

Reality Bites: The Bachelor

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

For all my other TV-related flaws, I considered it a point of pride that -- until this week -- I'd never seen an episode of ABC's The Bachelor.

Not like the network has made in inaccessible or anything. Since 2002, there have been 16 seasons, resulting in an impressive 128 episodes (three more than All in the Family, for those yet to meet their RDA for righteous indignation). Granted, longevity =/= quality programming, but clearly *someone* is watching this show. Monday's 17th season premiere seemed like a good opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

Two hours of my life later, I'm still not sure. This is possibly because my cerebral cortex shut down out of self-preservation roughly 45 minutes in.

To start with: this trend of letting these shows run two (or even three) hours completely baffles me. Actually, I take that back. A 120-minute running time isn't the problem, it's that so many of you choose to sit through them in real time.

6.81 million people watched the Bachelor premiere Monday night, less than the number for NBC's The Biggest Loser -- the show that ostensibly allows America to cheer as the morbidly obese shed pounds but in reality just satisfies a darker need we all have to watch fitness trainers yell at people who can't do a single pull-up (see also: Full Metal Jacket). This is encouraging in the same vein as finding out you don't have inoperable bowel cancer, just regular bowel cancer.

Admittedly, I skipped some of the spectacle. My grandfather, the first man I ever knew who muted TV commercials, never lived to see DVR technology, but I like to think he would've been proud of seeing his grandson mercilessly fast-forwarding through lingering shots of 29-year old Dallasite Sean Lowe posing thoughtfully on the beach, or wistfully on a hilltop. Sean loves family and shirtlessness, and also had his heart broken on The Bachelorette, so naturally he's out to mete out cruel vengeance to as many unsuspecting women as possible.

Ha ha, no. We do get an excruciating rundown of his post-Bachelorette days, with only his thriving career, loving family and rock hard abs to see him through. He believes his "great love" is out there. "Out there" being a location whose parameters are defined by exactly 25 26 women. Seems a bit limiting.

Before the ladies show up, Sean gets a visit from Arie Luyendyk, Jr., runner-up of the same season of The Bachelorette Sean was on (fun fact: Emily from that season was a previous winner of The Bachelor, and several of the premiere's contestants were on something called Bachelor Pad, lots of ... cross-pollination on these shows). Arie offers some questionable advice, punctuated with a lot of "dudes." I could've done without the Indy 500 scion giving Sean kissing pointers.

All he wants is *love*, people. Can't you let him love?

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar