Television

The Reanimated Corpse Of 'The Bachelor'

Bride and groom figurines from a wedding cake

hide captionThe Bachelor: They may not be going to the chapel or going to get married, but more people are paying attention than usual.

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I told you a while ago that The Bachelor wasn't as horrible as it had been in the past; remember that? I admitted to watching it; remember that?

As it turns out, I am not alone.

In a development that just hardly ever happens in television, The Bachelor is up in the ratings almost 40 percent — a huge increase in current broadcast TV terms — over its last installment. It's a show I used to forget was still on that I now hear people chatter about fairly frequently. Call it better production, call it recession fatigue leading to a taste for light fare; you'll be wrong, but call it whatever you want.

I am convinced I know exactly why the surge happened, and it's the same reason I was sucked in myself: the guy is not a jerk. Nobody cares whether a guy who's obviously a flake winds up with Annoying Potential Girlfriend A or Annoying Potential Girlfriend B. It's only interesting if everybody isn't an idiot, because if I want to see mating dances between idiots, I can watch VH1. (Yeah, I said it.)

It's a lesson that popcorn-y reality television frequently forgets: your awful, "evil" contestants may look like they're getting all the attention, but they're only interesting if they're battling people who are likable. The Apprentice was an enormous phenomenon in its first season, and the famous Omarosa was its most talked-about contestant, but when it turned into a conference table of 18 Omarosas, nobody cared anymore, and it faded very quickly from the public eye. Every major reality show has struggled with this same problem: the deflation of a season when everyone left is either boring or loathsome.

But no one listens to me. (And more's the pity, right?) What they will listen to is a 40 percent increase in ratings, so here's hoping that this lesson finally gets learned: those of us who watch this stuff may shamefacedly embrace a good fight, but only if we have a rooting interest.

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