Five ways to improve The Bachelor-verse

When it comes to entertainment tastes, my wife and I rarely see eye to eye. But, we have bonded over exactly two things – murder documentaries and trashy dating shows. Between three seasons of The Bachelorette (beginning with the unprecedented Claire/Tayshia double season), a season of Bachelor in Paradise, and now into our second season of The Bachelor, I feel I’ve gotten a decent handle on the workings of the shows and what to expect. But, like anything in life, there are ways to make it better. Well, when it comes to The Bachelor-verse, not necessarily better, but more entertaining.

So how do you improve the show? Here are five ideas.

1. The Instant Replay

My research has been unable to prove my theory, but I assume that cast members sign some kind of NDL about the testimonials and one-on-one interviews, meaning that the Bachelor (I will use this for the entire post just because I’m too lazy to put Bachelor/Bachelorette) does not have access to the tapes before shows air. My guess is that producers feel that contestants would not open up on camera if they knew that their potential love interest could go back and see the tapes. Granted, this ups the drama because vapid or downright sociopathic contestants (I’m looking at you Shanae) will do/say things on camera and then lie to the Bachelor’s face. Often they don’t go for the lies, but some do. While it does create drama, I feel we are missing an opportunity.

Enter the Instant Replay. I propose that every Bachelor get two “Challenge Flags” per season. Whenever drama arises, or there is a controversial incident in the house, the Bachelor is allowed to throw his Challenge Flag and investigate, BUT, he must state his chosen position before going to the tapes. If he is right about the particular person, they sent home immediately – no rose ceremony. If he is wrong, the accused gets an immunity rose for that week AND a guaranteed one-on-one date the next week.

Imagine how this raises the stakes:

  1. Contestants knowing in the back of their minds that anything they say and do can be used against them will either keep them on their best behavior, or embolden others to risk early exits if they’re attempting to turn their appearance on the show into a bigger opportunity.
  2. If the Bachelor is WRONG on his challenge, having to then face that person on a date the very next week creates fascinating opportunities – how do they deal with disagreements and conflict? How does he approach his mistake? How does she handle it? Plus, there will be awkwardness, which is always incredibly entertaining.

2. More “Normal” People

I know the Bachelor shows are meant to be a form of fantasy fulfillment, but no one is buying that the “process” is actually that successful. The fact that current host Carson Palmer said “I was the Bachelor, but now I’m a happily married man,” when the woman he’s married to wasn’t a contestant on the show doesn’t help. For him to say “…so many men and women have met their soulmates right here…” when only one of the first 24 Bachelors are actually still with the person they picked at the end of their season is downright comical. Like wrestling, being in on the joke is part of the fun – no one genuinely believes this is the best way to fall in love. So let us steer into that.

Bring on some people who don’t have six-packs or bodies that look like they came off a runway. On Katie’s season of the Bachelorette, widower Michael lamented about having a “dad bod” in relation to the other guys (he really didn’t). Why can’t we have more variety? People are into different things and different types of people – this will allow different personalities to bounce off each other and it could create interesting TV.

If you really want this show to be a fantasy, invite some of us into it to be a part of it.

3. Red Cards/Time Outs

A seemingly constant problem with these shows is one contestant interrupting another contestant’s time with the Bachelor. Yes, this is often used to create opportunities for drama (I have no doubt this is kind of behavior is encouraged by the producers), but so many people seem to take these interruptions without much resistance. The Bachelor often accepts these interruptions as an attempt to be accomidating, but this can be deflating for the contestant he is with at the time.

A great way to combat this is with a soccer-style card system. If a contestant comes to interrupt and the Bachelor holds up a yellow card, that contestant is sent into “Time Out” where they will be forced to wait out the rest of the cocktail party alone until the rose ceremony or the night ends (because ending cocktail parties without a rose ceremony has become more common). If a contestant gets two yellow cards in a season, they are sent home. If the Bachelor DOESN’T hold up a yellow card, then that contestant is allowed to interrupt, but with a wrinkle: each contestant gets one yellow card for the season that can veto an interruption. Once it’s played, it’s gone for the rest of the season, so use it wisely.

This means that if a contestant tries to interrupt two different contestants and both show their yellow, that means two contestants can conspire to get another kicked off the show (if they have a habit of interrupting). Alliances and rivalries are a natural by-product of the Bachelor-verse, and this puts tangible strategy into play. Plus, imagine an ESPN-style yellow card status tracker whenever they show a contestant. HOW CAN THIS NOT BE AWESOME?

4. Disaster Bonding

One way you can really tell what a person is made of is how they respond to a crisis, and in the TV world, you can’t let a good crisis go to waste. Every season needs to at least one date where things go horribly (yet safely) wrong. Producers can create these disasters early on or later in the process, but the end goal needs to be the same: force these people to show who they really are and how they deal with one another.

Romantic dune buggy date? Make the buggy run out of gas and have the filming crew’s vehicle “get stuck” in the mud. With the happy couple volunteering to help get people unstuck? Or will they sit idly by and complain?

Have a one-on-one where the Bachelor cooks a meal for his date, but they have to go to the grocery store together. When they get there, half of the key items needed for the recipe are nowhere to be found or located in the wrong place. How do they deal with one another and the frustration?

Hire an ex-girlfriend to show up at the parent’s house on a hometown weekend and interrupt dinner. How does he handle her? How does the contestant handle this? What will their conversations be like after this?

5. Two Tickets to Paradise

In every type of game, whether it is horse racing, poker, basketball, ultimate frisbee, or the Bachelor, there are always going to be losers. This is an inevitable fact of the universe. But, not all loses are total loses. Some turn out to be a springboard to an eventual victory, or at least another opportunity. Which brings me to the NIT of the Bachelor-verse: Bachelor in Paradise.

Paradise a summer-centric version of the Bachelor made up of former Bachelors and Bachelorettes on a beach resort in Mexico. Every week, one group has the roses and has control over who stays and goes. For example, at the end of Week One, the women give roses to the men they would like to get to know better, and then the roles reverse the next week. Any contestant who does not get a rose gets sent home. The couples left at the end of the season can choose to break up, continue dating, or get engaged. It takes all of the drama of the Bachelor and adds extra couples and group dynamics into the mix, which makes for some entertaining drama. The producers also like to add people to the show mid-season to mix up the dynamics and (hopefully) put couples to the test with some additional options.

So why bring up Bachelor in Paradise? This is where the losers from the Bachelor-verse end up. And sometimes when you’re losing and you can see the writing on the wall, you can go with the all-in strategy: tanking for a chance at lottery picks. Two Tickets to Paradise would be the tanking of the Bachelor-verse. Let me explain.

In every season of the Bachelor, there is typically a point where a contestant knows that the gig is up. They may have some good chemistry with their Bachelor, heck they may have even made out a few times (not that that means anything anyway these days – Clayton on the current season kissed like 5 women on the first night), but they know the clock is ticking. When you feel that the walls are closing in and that the next rose ceremony may be the end of your journey, you have two choices: go big to make a big impression and survive another week, or tank for lottery picks. If a contestant feels this isn’t working, they can go to the Bachelor and try to activate Two Tickets to Paradise.

The contestant must state their case about why they want to go to Paradise – they feel it isn’t working, they don’t think they have enough chemistry, they feel their Bachelor has stronger relationships with other contestants and they don’t want to be a distraction, they simply want to extend their time on TV, whatever the reasoning may be. Once a contestant states they feel Paradise is where their future lies, the Bachelor can do two things: agree or reject. If they agree, that contestant can leave the show with their dignitiy intact and have a guaranteed spot on Paradise. If it is rejected, that means the contestant MUST stay into the next rose ceremony (and likely be sent home) AND they have eliminated themselves from contention for Paradise for the next two years. This is the equivalent of a NBA tanking and not ending up with a top 5 lottery pick – your risk did not net you a reward.

This eliminates the ridiculous drama behind an accusation that is made multiple times every season: You’re not here for the right reasons! Come on people – of COURSE the possiblity of getting famous and having more screentime is in the back of every contestant’s mind while they are on the show. Why do you think they signed up for it? Steer into this and stop denying the obvious.

The Bachelor-verse deserves more strategy, more autonomy, more curveballs, and more options/variety in terms of contestants.

Get on it ABC. I will accept either check or direct deposit for the mountains of money you will make when your numbers go up. I’ll take 5%.

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