There were signs that the producers of The Bachelor were struggling to find a viable candidate for next season. After they announced Rachel Lindsay as the first black Bachelorette while she was still on The Bachelor, Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette came and went without a successor being named. The “After the Final Rose” special—a prime event that has been used for the announcement in the past—made no mention of who the next Bachelor would be. And Peter Kraus, the handsome, appropriately aged fan favorite, ended his run on Lindsay’s season by being all, “TV shows aren’t a reasonable place to fall in love.” The odds of him flipping around and willfully dating 30 women at once were low.
And that’s how The Bachelor ended up choosing Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Here are some facts about Arie Luyendyk Jr.:
- He was a race car driver
- His dad was a better race car driver
- He once kissed the biggest villain in Bachelor history
- He appeared as a guest on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen in 2011
- He appeared on Wipeout: Bachelors vs. Bachelorettes, but was eliminated quickly
- He made it all the way to the final two on Emily Maynard’s season of The Bachelorette … which was in 2012
It’s been five full years since Luyendyk Jr.—or as I just started calling him, Vaguely More Handsome Tom Cavanagh—was a major player in the Bachelor system. He appeared briefly on Sean Lowe’s season, during the traditional first-episode segment when the suitor gets together with his “friends” to “talk about love and fear and forever”; his name had been floated as a possible Bachelor pick in years past. But in 2017 I’d wager there are just as many Bachelor fans who have never heard his name as ones who remember Maynard rejecting him in the Season 8 finale.
That makes Arie both a risky and exciting pick. On the one hand, The Bachelor franchise relies on continued narratives, stringing the next season of The Bachelor to the previous season of The Bachelorette—and vice versa, on and on until the world ends. This season-to-season connection guarantees that people keep watching out of a need to see how their faves’ “journeys” end. There are probably only a few diehards out there who have been clamoring for half a decade to find out how Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s journey ends. (Need proof? Look at the replies to that Good Morning America tweet.)
But that relative blank slate also makes Luyendyk interesting. With him, The Bachelor is (slightly) hitting the reset button, which it’s desperately needed to do. For the last few years, the franchise has been stuck in the Nick Viall era of self-aware, self-involved guys and girls, and the shows have lost some energy because of it. Seasons have felt like pained slogs, rather than oblivious, melodramatic fun. Rachel Lindsay was quite possibly the best Bachelorette in history, and her season was a dud, bereft of any compelling story lines or magnetic characters. It says a lot that the best choice for Bachelor from Rachel’s season was a guy who openly flouted the show’s fantasy. So now The Bachelor goes with a guy who was pre-Viall, who fully bought into the franchise’s prepackaged concept of love in 2012, and who might be able to restore the show to its rightful form.
You might not know Arie Luyendyk Jr., and he may not have been ABC’s first choice. But he’s generically handsome, he’s a race car driver, and he may shake the series alive again, so just go with it.