So I finally remembered about 9 Jump In and took a look at the first episode of The Bachelor before picking up the commentary tonight. While I didn’t expect to miss that much in the opener (after all, when they parade 113 girls in front of the bloke before he eliminates all but 20 of them you don’t get to see the total crazy on that first night), but somewhere in the pixelated mess that was the 9 Life transmission last week, I did think I caught a glimpse of a woman wearing a giant rose on her head, and another one with a miniature horse (by her side, not on her head) and knew it would be remiss of me not to go back and have a look.
And so we learn about Ben. He’s not a stranger to the American TV viewer; as is often the case he was rejected by the Bachelorette. He’s as small town America as they come. He even has a basketball hoop attached to the side of red barn. That’s grassroots right there. Ben is so wholesome and good that fawns emerge from the underbrush as he walks by. And if that’s not enough, he looks like a grown up Peter Brady, and let’s face it, he was always the pick of the bunch.
His home town is Warsaw, Indiana. No-one famous has ever hailed from Warsaw, Indiana, so there is much excitement that Ben is going to be on the tellie. So much excitement that Ben has been invited back to be the Grand Marshall of the homecoming parade, which seems to mean he gets to ride in a fire truck and get lots of selfies taken with teenage girls. But of course the main reason we are in Warsaw, Indiana is to meet the folks. He sits down to have a chat with Mom and Dad about love and his mother starts crying when she recounts how she has been with the one man for thirty-two years. I know, you get less time for murder, right? Anyhow, Ben says he wants the same thing as his parents have – a big house on a lake with two boats moored at the pontoon. Who wouldn’t?
Having got the advice from the parents, Ben seeks the counsel of three former Bachelors. Thank goodness Ben happened along, because it looks like the producers had a few lean years there, especially in Jason’s season (who admits to being the “shortest and oldest bachelor in history”). He gets some great advice, like kiss ALL the girls ALL the time (from the only one of the three who is still not married).
Armed with all their tips, Ben gives them all a manly hug, taking care to avoid their sweat patches.
And then it’s vignette time, where some of the girls are singled out for us to learn their back stories. One stand out is Mandi. The first shot of Mandi sees her standing in front of a sign emblazoned with “Keep Portland Weird” while a flame-throwing bag piper unicycles around her. Having never been to Portland, I am unable to make judgement about the degree of weirdness. For all I know flame-throwing, unicycling, kilt wearing pipers are a dime a dozen.
Mandi’s a dentist (so there’s that old “we can’t show you the face on television” myth busted), like the female equivalent of Steve Martin’s character in Little Shop of Horrors. She says she would never date someone with gingivitis, so it’s lucky that Ben’s not a redhead. Thankfully, Ben looks like he has a pretty decent set of chompers, so he might pass muster. I do so love these crazies, but they tend to get eliminated pretty quickly, much to my chagrin.
Of the others, Jubilee the Iraqi veteran who speaks solely in war metaphors looks like she could have just enough shades of nutcase to provide a bit of a spark.
And there’s a set of identical twins, Haley and Emily who speak in sing-song unison. What a great idea! Nothing would do more to foster the sisterly bond than to have them compete for the same man.
But my early favourite is Tiara, the chicken enthusiast. On the surface, she looks like a pretty, twenty-seven year old and you wonder why she hasn’t got a man. And then we see her reading in bed with a chicken beside her, brushing her teeth with a chicken perched on her shoulder and you can begin to understand why any relationship with her would be a cock-up.
She weirdly has this little shrine set up in her house, with a framed picture of Ben in the middle, surrounded by framed pictures of her favourite feathered friends. It’s been a hard choice for Tiara to make because she’s never been away from her chickens for more than ten days before. Well at least she’s confident about surviving the first cut. Or maybe she’s counting her chickens before they are hatched? (Boom!)
Finally, the host, Chris Harrison appears. “It’s hard to imagine, but in just a few minutes the girls will be arriving in limousines.”
Ah…no. It’s not, Chris. This is the twentieth season of The Bachelor and there have been girls chugging down champagne in limos since the day dot. What is hard to imagine is the lengths the girls will go to make a first impression. Let the train wreck commence.
It starts off sedately enough. Lauren the flight attendant presents Ben with a pair of wings before dropping the “ j” word for the first time (“journey” for those not well-versed in reality lingo), before Caila the software designer launches herself at him like a little sequined meteorite. Then there is a gaggle of girls with names starting with J, then the single mum , Amanda, and a girl named Lace who has petulant cow written all over her (I’m wringing my hands in glee!)
Next up is Laura, a Maths teacher from Texas who blurts out about how she has been stalking him on social media for the last two months. Ben looks like he is imagining one of those rooms on Criminal Minds where the murderer has her room plastered with pictures of her victims with the eyes gouged out. She tells Ben she has a couple of things she wants to show him later, like locks of his hair she snipped when she snuck into his room while he was sleeping and photos of the dungeon where she has his parents shackled.
I remember reading a blurb for a Dan Brown novel where one of the characters was described as one of the most brilliant and beautiful female mathematicians in the world. I remember casting my mind over any mathematician of either gender I had ever encountered and determined that this must have been a fairly shallow pool. Well, knock me over with a feather if the next girl out of the limo is ANOTHER mathematician! Her name is Shushanna and she is indeed beautiful, and then she proceeds to speaks to Ben in some European tongue (and not a pleasant sounding one like French) which he clearly can’t understand.
The next girl, Leah does speak a language Ben understands – football. So she contorts herself in a most unladylike fashion just so she can throw him the ball and deliver her corny punch-line. “I knew you’d be quite the catch.” Ho hum.
The next girl is Joelle (JoJo). There are no words. The picture has to tell the story.
Another couple of girls emerge, including the only red-head, Laura. “But you can call me Red Velvet.” Smooth.
And then, there she is. Mandi the dentist with an enormous rose on her noggin. Of course this would have made more of an impact if the one of her rivals hadn’t stepped out of the car wearing a unicorn mask.
And bold as brass, Mandi marches in to where the other girls are sipping champagne and announces to all assembled that she IS the first impression rose. Lace responds with her best Princess Bitchface glare and causes Caila to observe that there is some whacky shit going down.
Outside, Ben has his hands full with the twins, who seems to have forgotten whatever rehearsed drivel they were supposed to say (Come on girls, surely it would have been something about double trouble?) and resort to the fall back position of inane giggling. The arrival of the twins throws a cat among the pigeons. Luckily Tiara the poultry enthusiast hasn’t arrived yet.
Back outside, two figures emerge from the bushes. While the limo company was happy to transport a unicorn, it drew the line at ponies. “Hi, I’m Maegan. I’m from Texas in case you couldn’t tell.” Because, you know, that’s how you pick a Texan out in a crowded room. They’ll be the one with an equine chaperone. Anyhow, in Texas it might be acceptable to take your horse into the house to meet your friends, but when you do this in The Bachelor mansion, you are sure to label yourself a loony.
But even a horse makes more sense that the next girl, Breanne. She’s rocked up with a basket full of baguettes, spat her hatred of gluten in Ben’s face and then smashed her bread sticks all over the brickwork.
Surely the producers have lined these girls up in order of mental instability (worrying, because Tiara the Chicken fancier still hasn’t arrived), because the next chick has turned up in her pyjamas.”I’m sure I’n the onesie for you,” explains Izzy, disgarding her last shred of human dignity. She is followed by Rachel who arrives on a hoverboard, hiking her dress up over her knees to avoid any Isadora Duncan like mishap.
Inside, Lace is emerging as the queen bitch, but at least she seems to have all her faculties, despite the fact that she must be onto her nineteenth glass of bubbles.
Jessica arrives next, and eventually Tiara who manages to get through her introductions without mentioning poultry once, but she is very breathy, so maybe she is coming down with avian flu. Then there’s Lauren (another one?) and Jackie who all make relatively low key arrivals.
The final girl out of the car is Olivia, a news anchor from Texas. Nothing speaks journalistic integrity quite like tarting yourself out on a reality tv show. She’s wearing a low cut sparkly frock – no floral monstrosity, unicorn mask, pony, footie throws, wedding invitations or pastry mutilation. Just a sparkly frock. And it looks like she has made quite the first impression.
Finally, Ben gets to go and join his bevvy of beauties, and Hughey the horse who is inexplicably still downing cocktails with the ladies. Before Ben can finish his introduction, Mandi has whipped him off for some one-on-one time and a quick dental examination. Olivia performs a quick Mandi extraction to have a lovely chat with Ben and so the roundabout continues.
Meanwhile, sneaky host Chris has snuck out to the carpark where the limo has pulled up and deposited another couple of girls. Apparently these two, Becca and Amber, are well known to devotees of the franchise, but to me they mean nothing, except fireworks when they enter the house and that will do for me. Especially since, one of them, Becca, is a V.I.R.G.I.N still trying to find the”right man”.
It’s all a bit much for Lace, who is well primed on wine, and the more she speaks the less intelligible she becomes, but the gist of it seems to be clear.
“She’s a bitch…and she’s a bitch…and she’s a bitch…and he’s a horse…and she’s a bitch!”
In the middle of the fracas, Chris sneaks in and puts a rose on the table which Hughey promptly eats. Well, no he doesn’t, but he may have saved everybody a lot of grief if he had. Ben ends up giving the first impression rose to Olivia, if for no other reason that her name isn’t Lauren or a derivative of it. Lace is angry. Ben hasn’t even looked her in the eye. Maybe bloodshot doesn’t do it for him, Lace.
Anyway, after what seems like a lifetime, it’s rose ceremony time, and when the petals have settled these girls made the cut: Lauren B, LB, Caila, Amber, Jamie, Jennifer, Jubilee, Amanda, JoJo, Leah, Rachel, Samantha, Jackie, Haley and Emily, Shushanna, Lauren H, Becca, Mandi and Lace.
Sadly, this means Tiara is going home to Sheila and the rest of the flock, and Maegan is riding back to Texas on Hughey.
But crazy isn’t necessarily a one way ticket home. What can we deduce from this?
Girls, if you turn up with a giant rose attached to your head and insist on performing an oral hygiene inspection on your date, it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. BUT bring a man bread and then smash it up in front of him and you are out the door. A real horse is a no-no, but come with a unicorn on your head and you’re in. Hoverboards are cool, but if you’re invited to a cocktail party, don’t wear your jimmy-jam-jams. And if you’re worried about making meaningful conversation, then natter away in Russian or some other language your date can’t understand. Clearly it makes you mysterious.
So Season 20 is underway. The asylum is full and the lunatics are ready to go. Strap yourself in, because I think we’re in for a crazy ride.
And speaking of crazy rides…did anyone actually see Hughey leave?
“The Bachelor US”, Tuesday 8:30 pm, 9 Life (Channel 94)