Welcome back to the beach, betches! KIDDING. This season of Bachelor in Paradise is over and done with as of last week. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not having an almost Pavlovian response to a Monday night where I’m not watching grown adults turn their dates into human-sized burritos for the sake of foreplay. I thought when this season was over I’d have my life back. I could go to happy hour! I could do my laundry! I could watch that episode of SVU where Stabler and Benson almost kiss! Time would be my own again. Now I’m half watching that episode of SVU as I constantly refresh Jill and Jacob’s IG accounts to see if there are any updates on their budding romance. Alas, we all have our crosses to bear.
If you’re wondering where the finale part 2 recap was, well, just know that I couldn’t write it because I was doing something equally painstaking: interacting with family and loved ones. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of thoughts about this past season. Mostly, those thoughts are Why god why? and Does the Playa Escondida Hotel sit on a Hellmouth? As most of you know, I’ve been recapping all things Bachelor for the last five years. In that time, I’ve seen BiP go from my favorite thing to come out of Mike Fleiss’ diseased brain, to a thing I endure for 7-9 weeks, not unlike my seasonal depression.
This season of BiP has felt particularly tedious to get through. For one thing, it was significantly longer than past seasons. By its end, there were nine weeks of four-hour episodes. That’s almost triple the amount of time it took to film the damn thing, and just about matches in length a full season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Not to mention that’s nine too many weeks of seeing Serene’s bikini-clad, near-perfect body during a time when I am also downing Halloween candy by the fistful. It’s like the producers want to hurt me.
And let’s not forget the worst offense of this season: making me sympathize with men. I can’t even tell you the toll this has taken on my psyche. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be rooting, with every sliver of my cold, dead heart, for the success and happiness of a man from Florida who looks like he would dump me and then Venmo me for breakup compensation. But here we are. It seems like every other episode, the men were being bulldozed by some girl with the BMI of a Polly Pocket doll. And not, like, in a fun way. Listening to Rodney hold back tears as he whispered to the cameras “This is embarrassing” after Eliza dumped him will be something they torture me with in The Bad Place. Congratulations, Paradise, you broke me.
Even though this season felt like a wash, I still have hope that Bachelor in Paradise can be saved. Specifically by me, a loyal hostage of ABC. Welcome to my TedTalk, people. Here’s my three-point plan for how to save Bachelor in Paradise:
Less Is More
One of my biggest issues with the season was how overproduced it felt. ABC, I say this with love, but sometimes you just need to let Jesus take the wheel already! In past seasons, producer manipulation felt seamless. We knew it was happening, but the influence was subtle. For example, Colton jumping that fence during his season of The Bachelor. That’s a moment I’ll never forget. Chris Harrison whispering “Where the fuck is he going?” as the cameras pan to ABC production vans scouring the streets of Mexico looking for their lead. That was a magic moment in Bachelor history, because it was incredibly watchable and extremely entertaining. It was also, I’m sure, highly produced. But it didn’t feel that way. Clayton really did seem that unhinged. Chris Harrison really did seem that frustrated. The timing, the editing—everything lined up to make us feel like we were watching a story unfold naturally.
Let’s contrast that with this season of Paradise, where production’s influence felt the most heavy-handed. Three moments that were especially egregious to me: Michael being miraculously saved from elimination by the “surprise” appearance of Danielle, Lace walking mechanically down the beach to tell the girls she just “found” Sally’s luggage, and literally any time Genevieve and Aaron fought. There were so many Genevieve/Aaron fights that even didn’t make sense because they were started during off-screen moments with producers. You could see production practically poking the contestants with sticks to get them into position.
ALSO ABC: I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian ‘cause I careeee!
Is it still technically considered “cryptic” and “Machiavellian” if they directly staged every social media “spotting” of Greg and Victoria? Asking for a friend.
But this illustrates the point that I’m getting at here, which is that ABC’s influence is as present in an episode as Jesse Palmer’s spray tan. Take the Johnny/Victoria/Greg drama, which was practically its own subplot happening alongside the season in real time. There is no reality where Mike Fleiss would publicize spoilers like this unless he was already in control of the narrative. Until their season airs, these contestants are practically held in a secret underground bunker in the bowels of an ABC studio. I think ABC, and Mike Fleiss particularly, knew they had a snooze season on their hands, and drummed up the Victoria/Greg affair for finale ratings. Fine. The finale was one of the more watchable episodes of the season. But I wouldn’t count this as a success by any means.
The Johnny/Victoria/Greg stuff would have made for incredible TV. Why wasn’t this incorporated into the season? It seems like we’re seeing more compelling, non-produced relationships flourish outside of the franchise. There is some organic chemistry happening within Bachelor Nation off-camera, and the franchise can’t seem to catch up with those moments. The result is to overly produce, to try and force those relationships into happening on screen. My advice? Less is more, ABC. Less is more.
The Format Has To Change
I’ve been saying for several seasons that the entire Bachelor franchise needs a format overhaul. To its credit, Paradise did attempt to do that this season. The key word here is attempt. Instead of taking a critical look at what creates compelling storylines and captivates audiences, they chose to copy and paste whatever Love Island was doing. Split Week, the poor man’s Casa Amor, was ABC’s attempt at shaking things up, but it didn’t quite land successfully with audiences.
For one, the cast didn’t have enough time to form connections before Split Week. Brittany and Andrew had shared one kiss before the separation. Lace and Rodney had only been dating for a few days. The stakes weren’t high enough to cause any sort of lasting tension. The couples who had more of a connection, like Genevieve and Aaron or Serene and Brandon, weren’t even pretending to engage with Split Week. They spent the majority of those episodes tanning and crying.
Aside from time, I wonder what the role of the cast crush lists played in Split Week flopping. Usually if you’re going on Paradise, you give production a list of people you’re crushing on or would be interested in dating. Contestants have been known to “hold out” for better options if production tells them someone from their list is coming later on (*cough* Michael and Danielle *cough*). If everyone is waiting for the next best option, of course they aren’t focused on who is right in front of them.
So what format would work for Paradise? I’m proposing a Summer House-type vibe. A bunch of hot singles share a vacation house and throw parties for their friends. Or, god, get a camera crew to follow them around at Stagecoach. This would allow for hookups and relationships to form more naturally. Engagements are not part of any sort of equation. Leave that serious shit for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. No one wants to get married anymore, and they especially don’t want to accept a proposal in a tropical locale while their loved ones are being held at gunpoint off screen.
I mentioned earlier that ABC has a real problem cultivating believable chemistry on their show. I think that’s why so many of the contestants develop relationships with each other after filming ends—the stakes are less intense. If ABC wants to see more successful couples from their franchise, then they need to find a way to soften the stakes and create parameters for building romantic connections that feel more realistic.
Jill Was Doing Everything Right
Finally, and I’m sure this will shock no one, but this season showed that Paradise has a real casting problem. Over the past few seasons, I’ve watched as producers have failed to understand the capabilities—and the watchability—of their talent. Bachelor in Paradise is a different animal than the rest of the franchise. Too put it simply, people who go on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette are the Best in Show of the franchise. They are highly trained and even more highly groomed. The people who go on Bachelor in Paradise are as trained and groomed as a viral dog video on TikTok.
You can’t start with a joke setting and then have super serious storylines play out, and expect the audience to take it seriously. Same goes with the contestants. Genevieve is a great example of this. She was acting like she was at bridal boot camp and not on a free Mexican vacation. She took everything so seriously, including herself, and the result was that she wasn’t fun to watch.
Compare this to Jill and Jacob, my favorite unhinged witch and the man with a compulsion to expose himself. Any time these two were on screen, I was having fun. They’re idiots, don’t get me wrong—they share one brain cell and one banana leaf between them—but they’re incredibly compelling idiots. They have a comedic timing that production tried to replicate with other contestants, but it fell flat. Genevieve, for example, might be reactive and easy to manipulate, but those two things do not equate to comedic timing. I almost changed my bio on IG to read “He sold his couch for cash and I cried over him,” after Jill made them her iconic departing words from this season. In contrast, I developed a nervous tick anytime the words “pain” and “itch” were brought into conversation—the kind of stimulating conversation Genevieve gifted us.
My point is that you can’t replicate the Jills and the Jacobs of the world. They have undeniable star power. Just because someone looks incredibly good in a bikini and can cry on demand doesn’t mean they can carry a show. That ABC can’t recognize that, or doesn’t understand how to capitalize on that, is a big reason why this season fell so flat.
So there you have it, kids. My three-point plan for saving Bachelor in Paradise. AOC has her Green New Deal, I have my Coconut New Deal. Will ABC change anything? Probably not. Will I continue to watch this franchise until my brain eventually melts? Probably yes. Until next season!
Images: ABC/Eric McCandless; Giphy (2); @fleissmeister/Twitter (1)