Books

Most Dramatic Ever

Suzannah Showler's Most Dramatic Ever examines the history and cultural impact of Reality TV game show The Bachelor.

Suzannah Showler

When it debuted in 2002, The Bachelor raised the stakes of first-wave reality television, offering the ultimate prize — true love. Since then, thrice yearly, dozens of camera-ready young-and-eligibles have vied for affection — and roses — in front of a devoted audience of millions. In this funny, insightful examination of the world's favourite romance factory, Suzannah Showler explores the contradictions that are key to the franchise's genius, longevity and power and parses what this means for both modern love and modern America.

She argues the show is both game show and marriage plot — an improbable combination of competitive effort and kismet and that it's both relic and prophet, a time-traveler from first-gen reality TV that proved to be a harbinger of Tinder. In the modern media-savvy climate, the show cleverly highlights and resists its own artifice, allowing Bachelor Nation to see through the fakery to feel the romance. Taking on issues of sex, race, contestants-as-villains, the controversial spin-offs and more, Most Dramatic Ever is both love letter to and deconstruction of the show that brought us real love in the reality TV era. (From ECW Press)

From the book

It's a swimming pool at the edge of the world. The far lip of the pool juts over a vast coastal panorama as if the steep drop-off to the ocean happens here, maybe right under our feet. Everything is water and light: the up-close, unreal blue of the pool picked up in the ocean, which takes the colour and runs with it, bolting towards the horizon at the speed of a shimmer, colliding with the preposterous, unbroken blue of the sky. It's impossible to say which part — man-made or natural — is the imitation. It all seems like one thing.

This is the first shot of the first episode of The Bachelor. It's brief, just a few moments, but the beauty it shows is willful, boggling, engineered for optical illusion. Even if you've never been to California, you know this is California. The way every element — pool, ocean, sky — flattens with an eager camera-readiness makes you think maybe people build mansions and pools in places like this not to look at the view, but to be inside it. And the mistake of thinking the ground drops out from under us — maybe that's the idea. Maybe it's kind of true. Like there are places where the whole point of beauty, of nature, is to condition us to get something wrong.

It's just a few seconds. The camera swings left, and standing on the pool deck there's a man in a summer suit that looks like millennium-era Gap khakis taking a crack a formalwear. "Hi," he says, "I'm Chris Harrison. And no, I'm not the Bachelor."


From Most Dramatic Ever by Suzannah Showler ©2018. Published by ECW Press.

Interviews

Season 22 of the reality TV series just started. Writer Suzannah Showler talks about what the show tells us about our ideas on dating, romance and North American identity. 10:53