'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover

'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover
Matt James' historic season of "The Bachelor" has been overshadowed by drama that has plagued the franchise for years.Craig Sjodin via Getty Images
  • Matt James' historic season as the first Black "Bachelor" lead has been overshadowed by drama.
  • It's caused me to rexamine the show, which needs a major revamp.
  • "The Bachelor" needs to do away with bullying, problematic contestants, and even proposals.

The year is 2002.

Everything I know about love up until this point I have learned from repeated viewings of "Legally Blonde." I believe the pinnacle of hotness is an Abercrombie & Fitch model and the most romantic song in the world is "2 Become 1" by the Spice Girls.

My 11-year-old self was about to start watching "The Bachelor," a journey I never could have predicted would continue, on and off, for the next 18 years.
Advertisement
Being a card-carrying member of Bachelor Nation has long come with highs and lows, but lately there's been far more of the latter. Especially after the series once again mishandled how to deal with problematic contestants and its ongoing diversity issues - this time so badly that the show's longtime host, Chris Harrison, "stepped aside" temporarily.

The discussion now surrounds who might take Harrison's place. But the "Bachelor" franchise doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover.

'The Bachelor' needs to stop casting problematic contestants

'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover
Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell on this season of "The Bachelor."Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images
Here's a brief summary for those of you who haven't been watching the "Bachelor" drama unfold: Photos emerged of Rachael Kirkconnell, the front-runner of Matt James' historic season as the first Black "Bachelor" lead, at a plantation-themed fraternity party in 2018.
Advertisement

Harrison sat down for an interview with the former "Bachelorette" star Rachel Lindsay - the first Black lead of the franchise - and asked for fans to give Kirkconnell "grace," claiming that the "woke police is out there" and that the 24-year-old graphic designer had been "thrown to the lions."

The outcry was swift, and, despite an apology, Harrison stepped down. Kirkconnell eventually apologized too, saying her "ignorance was racist."But even within its own universe, this isn't the first time "The Bachelor" has dealt with race-based scandals among its contestants.
Advertisement

On Lindsay's season in 2017, the contestant Lee Garrett had a history of racist tweets. In 2020, during Peter Weber's season of "The Bachelor," Cosmopolitan magazine pulled a digital cover for the contestant Victoria Fuller after it was revealed she previously did a photo shoot in support of "White Lives Matter."

'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover
Kufrin and Yrigoyen shortly after their engagement was announced.Mireya Acierto/WireImage
And before her season of "The Bachelorette" even aired in May 2018, Becca Kufrin's winner and now-former fiancé, Garrett Yrigoyen, made headlines after it was revealed he had liked Instagram posts that mocked transgender people, immigrant children, and a school-shooting victim.

Just last week, Lindsay said she believed Garrett was cast on her season to purposely stir up controversy.

"There was a time where I truly wanted to believe that Lee slipped through the cracks, but I now know better," she wrote during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything." "I really think Lee was casted to add controversy and they also knew I would not pick him."
Advertisement

While Lindsay said she believed Kirkconnell genuinely slipped through the cracks, the "Bachelorette" star told me back in January that she didn't understand how this continued to happen in the age of social media.

"Why is Reddit figuring out what the show can't?" she added. "Forget having a necessarily good storyline. Tighten up who you're choosing on the show because these are the people who are going out and representing the show."

And while the franchise has made some belated strides when it comes to giving "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" far more diverse casts in the past two seasons, it hasn't exactly translated into more screen time.
Advertisement
'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover
James and contestants on this season of "The Bachelor."ABC
Three of the women in James' top four are women of color. But the audience has barely gotten the chance to know them because of the season's heavy focus on drama between contestants, including Victoria Larson, Katie Thurston, MJ Snyder, and Heather Martin - all white women.

"I get that there has to be drama shown, but we need to be showcasing more of these women of color," Lindsay told me. "It's great that you're saying we have the most diverse cast ever, but what does that mean when you don't see that diversity?"

She added: "We're not hearing from them, we're not learning from them, we're not getting to know them. They're just there."
Advertisement

'The Bachelor' needs to stop focusing so much on bullying

'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover
Much of this season's drama on "The Bachelor" focused on Victoria Larson (left).ABC

Casting isn't the franchise's only pain point.

Drama is obviously an important part of reality television. But during the past two seasons, "The Bachelor" has gotten downright vicious.During Weber's season, we saw contestants accuse one another of alcoholism and pill-popping. And this year, there were rumors swirling that one woman worked as an escort, while another contestant called another woman "the dumbest ho I've ever met."
Advertisement

I don't know about you, but watching women argue and call one another awful names for almost two hours every week isn't my idea of a good time, especially during the pandemic. Do we really need to relive middle school? While there's always been tension between the contestants on "The Bachelor" - they are fighting for the same man, after all - this season has been especially hard to watch.

"It's definitely a different level of bullying and just gaslighting people that you live with," Catherine Lowe, who won Sean Lowe's season of "The Bachelor" in 2013, told me in a recent interview. "It's been really cringey to watch and kind of icky to just see."

'The Bachelor' doesn't just need a new host - it needs a total makeover
Tensions have been high on this season of "The Bachelor."ABC
The women at the center of drama tend not to make it into the top five. That's significant because it means bullies have eaten up most of the airtime during the first few episodes and viewers barely get to know the true contenders for the lead's heart.
Advertisement

It's made the final few episodes pretty boring to watch. How can viewers become invested in who James will pick as his future bride if they've barely gotten to know the women he actually likes?

These women have personalities beyond cliché catfights; we get to see it in the bloopers at the end of each episode.

Just last week, the contestant Michelle Young did some push-ups right after a rose ceremony, joking that she wanted to make sure she looked good for the camera. But why aren't these cute, quirky moments actually shown during the episode?
Advertisement
Instead we're forced to sit through Heather Martin's random subplot, detailing how the former contestant from Colton Underwood's season flew to Pennsylvania, rented a minivan, and quarantined for days to meet James in the middle of his season - only to be unceremoniously eliminated on her first night.

I'm not sure why "The Bachelor" doesn't believe you can make great reality TV with just a likeable cast.

The sixth season of "Love Island UK" is the perfect example of this, where almost every contestant was kind to one another and built real friendships as they went on their romantic journeys.
Advertisement

At a time when we've living through a pandemic and our country feels more divided than ever, watching a bunch of hot Brits support one another through the ups and downs of dating felt like cuddling with a heat pad.

'The Bachelor' needs to stop forcing everyone to get engaged at the season's end

A post shared by Love Island (@loveisland)

Anyone who has watched even one episode of any "Bachelor" show knows the endgame is an engagement.The leads seemingly always say they can see their husband or wife in the room. By week three, contestants are saying they could see themselves marrying the lead. We have even seen people on "Bachelor in Paradise" pop the question after only a few weeks in Mexico.
Advertisement

And while the first 10 seasons of "The Bachelor" saw only four proposals, proposals have now become almost a sure thing. In the past 10 seasons, only two leads decided not to go down on one knee.

But as this finale approaches, the show's idea feels more and more dated.

The Census Bureau in 2017 reported a record number of single people in the US - more than 110 million, or about 45% of all Americans older than 18. Plus, after 19 years, only one "Bachelor" is still with the woman he originally chose. It's not exactly a great track record.
Advertisement

The vibe is very different on "Love Island," where the most dramatic display of romance you'll see is a couple deciding to be exclusive. It doesn't sound like much in comparison with a proposal, but it feels so much more organic to dating off-screen.

A post shared by Love Island (@loveisland)

Most people in their 20s have dealt with that dating gray area when you're deep in your feelings but haven't put a label on anything. To make things official in the app age, when someone new is always just a swipe away, it feels like a big deal.

Plus, this strategy of taking it a bit slower is clearly working - five of the original couples from the most recent season of "Love Island UK" are still going strong after a year.
Advertisement
And because "Love Island" focuses so much on the contestants just hanging out day to day, you're actually watching them fall in and out of love in real time.

They go through similar obstacles that real couples face in the world - meeting new people (or, as they would say, "getting your head turned"), being confronted with exes, and going on a wild trip (to Casa Amor) that will really test the strength of your relationship.

From discussions of diversity to the very way that we date, so much has changed since I started watching "The Bachelor" on a tiny TV screen in my parents' bedroom 19 years ago. The franchise is struggling to change with the times, reflecting neither modern America nor modern love.
Advertisement

If "The Bachelor" wants to continue for the next 19 years and beyond, it needs to do both.

{{}}