The 23rd season of "The Bachelor" is a derivative embarrassment

by Elizabeth Garrison | 1/15/19 2:10am

On paper, Colton Underwood was the obvious choice for the 23rd Bachelor. He fits the mold of the generic pretty boy, was a former professional football player and runs a non-profit for kids with cystic fibrosis. Oh wait, and he’s a virgin too. For the first time in bachelor history, reality TV’s knight in shining armor has more than just his dignity to lose. On the season premiere which aired last Monday, the 30 women vying for Underwood’s heart were just so baffled by how someone who looks “sooo good” could possibly be a 26-year-old virgin. Quite frankly, no one really cares why Underwood is a virgin or not, because no one knows who he even is. The only interesting thing about Underwood is his virginity, and the producers of “The Bachelor” clearly know it.

The whopping three-hour-long episode consisted of an endless stream of gags and cringy conversations. It was painful to watch when Demi, the first contestant to step out of the limo, blurted out “The last time I was with a virgin was when I was 12 years old, but I’ll give it a shot.” She didn’t even give the guy a chance to say hello.

However, she was clearly not the only contestant to fail Human Decency 101. One girl performed a magic trick where she took his “v-card” and yet another handed him a red balloon, popped it, then said, “Well I guess I popped your cherry.” It is certainly not unusual for reality TV shows to drag out a contrived bit, but this was too obnoxious for even the most seasoned Bachelor veterans to endure.

The episode’s saving moment was when animal enthusiast Alex D. came out of the limo dressed as a sloth and said, “I heard you like to take things slow.” She proceeded to spend the rest of the night moving and speaking in slow motion, climbing trees and driving the other women bonkers — by far the most entertaining moment of the night. Obviously, if the show needs “sloth girl” to save the day, it’s missing something: a compelling star.

What Underwood lacks in sexual experience he certainly doesn’t make up for with originality. Throughout the course of the episode, he kept repeating “Wow, she’s gorgeous” with almost every woman who stepped out of the limo and walked into the mansion. Maybe his shortage of charisma is the true reason why he hasn’t been so lucky. When host Chris Harrison asked him why he was on “The Bachelor” he replied, “I’m doing this for me.” Not exactly the most compelling answer.

Underwood’s chats with the contestants weren’t any more revealing. He stuck to vague and uninteresting comments about how he was close to his family and loved his dog. It was more exciting hearing about his dog than hearing about him.

The only topic discussed to any level of detail was Underwood’s virginity. Underwood explained that he never made the conscious decision to stay a virgin. He isn’t waiting until marriage, he simply was too focused on his career and never met the right person until he went on season 14 of “The Bachelorette” and fell in love with Becca Kufrin, to whom Underwood claimed he was ready to lose his virginity in the fantasy suite. Unfortunately, Kufrin ended up dumping Underwood because she was friends with Underwood’s former flame, Tia Booth, who confessed to still have feelings for him. Then, he went on to get back together with Booth on “Bachelor in Paradise” but eventually dumped her because he was ostensibly still in love with Kufrin.

Now Underwood claims to have the perspective and emotional clarity to meet the woman of his dreams. He says he is hopeful that the process will work for him because he developed real feelings for Kufrin on “The Bachelorette.” It is hard to believe that this is true; he didn’t seem to have a genuine connection with either Kufrin or Booth, and even if he did, it was so obvious that the producers fabricated the whole storyline for the drama. It is already apparent that the whole season will revolve around whether or not Underwood will have sex in the fantasy suite, not his quest to find love. At best, he’s a naïve idiot completely oblivious of the fact that he is being manipulated and degraded for ratings. At worse, he’s a shallow fame seeker.

On tonight’s episode, it is likely the contestants will continue to bombard him with personal questions or try to conquer him like some kind of sexual challenge. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. Wash-board abs? Check. Complicated dating history? Check. A sliver of personality? Eh, not so much. Underwood Underwood is a dud, and no amount of editing can change that.