The Bachelor is a bad franchise because it tries to make content out of things that are inherently boring, like conversations between beautiful people and heterosexuality. No matter how hard Chris Harrison tries, five Laurens, a sponsored trip to a ski lodge and some highly manipulated racial tension does not good TV make. The fact that The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and its newly-straight-edge cousin, Bachelor in Paradise, clearly edit their casts to create villains, plot lines, and ideal outcomes, just makes the whole thing more embarrassing. You sliced and diced hundreds of hours of footage for frankenbites—it’s exactly what it sounds like—and this is the best you could come up with?
Last season, staring down the barrel of a charmless prince charming and the aforementioned four Laurens, The Bachelor producers tried out a new storyline. Instead of sticking with the woman he proposed to, Becca Kufrin, Arie Luyendyk Jr. changed his mind and dumped his newly-minted fiancée for runner-up Lauren Burnham. The on-camera dumping was billed as the most dramatic finale in Bachelor history, and proved just how far the franchise is willing to go to manufacture some excitement.
This season of The Bachelorette is still riding that low, giving the “jilted” Becca Kufrin a second chance to find a man who won’t dump her on national television.
The Bachelor franchise is built on roses and lies, from the fake romances to the made-up jobs, and so naturally Kufrin has to spend a good deal of her premiere playing up how scarred she is by Arie’s 180. Kufrin’s Bachelorette season opens on footage of her sobbing while flipping through Polaroids of her and her ex. Never mind the fact that Kufrin clearly dodged a bullet—instead of moving into a former race car driver’s Scottsdale condo to count down the days until her wedding special, Becca is now the star of her own reality TV show. As Kufrin announces in between getting ready for her Bachelorette debut and doing aerial yoga, “I’m not going to let that past heartbreak stop me from getting what I want. This is my time, my turn, my decision, my choice.” Or as Rachel Lindsay, the best Bachelorette, tells Becca during a “girls’ chat”: “Fuck him. It is all about you.”
After a few months in a mansion being chased by boys with more abs than IQ points, Kufrin will leave with a life partner and a Neil Lane diamond of her own (kind of—technically the ring goes back to ABC if a couple can’t last two years). Plus Becca’s white, so there’s a much lower chance that ABC will not-so-subtly throw a racist into her dating pool.
Speaking of Becca’s dating pool, let’s jump right in—the water is warm and full of semi-professional athletes, sales reps, and a man whose profession is listed as “social media participant.” Apparently, jilted women are expected to take whatever they can get, which in this case is a guy who has downloaded Instagram on his phone—that’s right ladies, he has a phone!
First, we get to know the most interesting/promising men through short videos of them talking, exercising, and playing with children or animals. Clay is a professional football player who wants you to know that he’s more than a football player, but all we learn about him is that he’s a football player. Garrett from Reno loves to have fun. Jordan is a male model whose “brand” is “the pensive gentleman,” a look that consists of strong brows and the mere suggestion of literacy (“he could have a glass of scotch, he could have a book in his hand.”) Joe is a produce guy turned grocery store owner, and Jean Blanc owns over 100 bottles of cologne. Colton started a cystic fibrosis charity and is very good looking.
Next, Becca has to actually meet these guys. The long and arduous arrivals ceremony is always a nadir of the premiere—meeting strangers is hard enough without them making a bunch of corny puns or pledging their undying love. Becca and the guys have fairly uninspired back-and-forths, with Becca occasionally reflecting on the encounters (“he has some fun shoes” and “he smells so good”). Honestly, it’s still a million times better than the creepy way Arie whispered “so beautiful” to himself after meeting every contestant. Speaking of Arie, a bunch of the suitors decide the fastest way to Becca’s heart is to bring up her ex constantly. One guy even carries a cardboard cutout. As the mansion fills up, we get our first look at the only thing that makes this show worth watching: small talk between straight guys. Do all men talk in nonsense sentences when they’re alone and stand weirdly far away from each other? Someone proposes that they arm wrestle over Becca, while someone else takes a moment to compliment the “sparkles” on her dress. Nice banter, dudes.
In the end, it’s not Kamil the social media participant but Jake from Minneapolis who raises the first red flag. According to Becca, they’ve met before, and she seems very confused by his presence at the mansion. Obvious parallels here to that girl from Nick’s past who surprised him on his season, ostensibly just to remind viewers that Nick fucks (like we didn’t already know). Trent rolls up in a hearse because he “literally died” when he heard that Becca was the bachelorette. A venture capitalist named David arrives in a chicken suit. Sales trainer Chris brought a choir, which was kind of cool until he just left Becca alone with them, dancing to gospel music in a dark driveway.
Meanwhile in the man cave, Becca is being lavished with the highest of Bachelor franchise praises: she’s the “ultimate girl next door” and a “total package.” Contestants start to “steal” Becca away on one-on-one’s that seem way more activity-based than in past seasons (clearly the producers regret not giving Arie more props to distract from his personality). Becca and the twenty-plus guys she’s just started dating take up hobbies like sculpting, basketball, and fishing in a pool. She even does the chicken dance with David (the venture capitalist/chicken).
Things take a turn for the awkward when Chris, the sales trainer from Orlando, announces that he has some dirt on Chase, the advertising VP from Orlando. Apparently, according to an ex, Chase isn’t here for the right reasons. Chase dismisses the gossip and the source with a “that’s women” (cute!), but still wants to talk the situation over with Becca.
After having a strange clearing-the-air conversation with this clearly shady dude, Becca realizes that she doesn’t want to deal with any bullshit and pulls her “acquaintance” Jake over a chat. Becca is impressively straightforward, telling Jake that she thinks it’s sus that he never expressed any interest in her before randomly showing up on her TV show. He tries to insist that he’s genuinely interested in her, but Becca doesn’t want to waste his time (and, obviously, hers). After some cringeworthy back and forth, she puts it in the clearest possible terms: they’ve met “multiple times” and “there was nothing.” Naturally, Jake is blindsided by this shocking display of reason, and rages about being sent home despite the fact that he’s “one of the most romantic fucking people there is.”
On a happier note, the first impression rose goes to Garrett, a guy who arrived ready for diaper duty in a decked-out minivan, and he and Becca kiss.
During the rose ceremony, Becca keeps the guy in the chicken suit but passes on one-half of the Orlando feud, sending Chase home. Kamil also has to go, tearing up a little as he leaves the mansion—“I lost to a chicken, man.” All in all, a pretty dull premiere, but a sneak peek seems to promise painful breakups, an emergency room visit, and an adult virgin. Let’s do the damn thing!