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The ‘Bachelor’ Universe Is Officially Limitless

Over the past two weeks, the spin-off ‘Winter Games’ has proved that the guilty-pleasure reality show can be adapted to literally any setting

Getty Images/ABC/Ringer illustration

How many things can be Bachelor-ed? Should there be a bracket-style Bachelor Madness every March? Should this summer bring about the International Bachelor Cup? Maybe we can find contestants from all 50 states for Bachelor President every four years. When ABC doesn’t have the rights to a big awards show, why not air The Bachies?

These are the questions I kept pondering while watching ABC’s Bachelor Winter Games, whose two-week, four-episode run conveniently synced up with the Winter Olympics. (Surely this is a coincidence, since the actual Olympics are never mentioned by name during Winter Games.) The premise of the show, which airs its last episode Thursday night, is that a bunch of well-known contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are dropped into a Vermont ski lodge along with contestants from the many international editions of The Bachelor. Occasionally, they are asked to participate in Olympic events for the right to take their fellow lodgemates on dates. But for the most part, it is a bunch of hot people sitting in a hot tub with makeout sessions, weeping sessions, and poor relationship decisions interspersed.

Winter Games is delightful. On the nights it’s aired, I’ve found myself changing the channel to it from the Olympics — and I love the Olympics! It’s literally my job to watch the Olympics! But someone at ABC realized that watching Bachelor contestants fail at Olympic events would be about as entertaining as the real biathlon. And by creating this holy matrimony, the network has kicked open a door to unceasing possibility. Winter Games proves the Bachelor franchise may be endlessly replicable. Here’s why.

Bachelor Humor Reigns Supreme

The competitions on Winter Games are pointless — in the second episode, the speedskating competition is rendered meaningless when, after the race is easily won by a Canadian contestant named Kevin, Chris Harrison announces that the slowest skaters will be awarded date cards. (If only this happened at the real Olympics, where apparently Norway is much better at every winter sport than the United States.) Despite that, the competitions are possibly the most entertaining part of the show.

There is an Olympic meme about how it would be really funny to watch average humans attempt Olympic events. ABC saw people tweet that and made it into a television show. It realized the humor that would come from forcing warm-weather dolts into doing the slalom.

My favorite Winter Games moment was when Ally from New Zealand was asked to speedskate and just walked around the course on ice skates.

(Yes, Chris Harrison was joined in sportscasting duties by legitimate sports journalist Hannah Storm, who was billed in the credits as “Sports Broadcasting Legend.”)

And here is Yuki from Japan, who just screamed and teetered directionlessly down a downhill skiing course until her eventual crash:

The show kicked off with an opening ceremony that was rife with mild stereotyping — the Great Britain “team” was led in by someone wearing a sash saying “Queen” while Chris Harrison exclaimed, “And there’s the Queen of England!”; Canada was joined by a moose mascot. The procession concluded with the Bachelor Winter Games anthem:

Bachelor Winter Games gets how dumb all this is, and celebrates it.

We Don’t Even Really Need Bachelor People

I thought the reason I tuned into various Bachelor spinoffs was because of my connections to the recurring characters. Like Ashley, who is on her fourth Bachelor show — the real deal, two seasons of Bachelor in Paradise, and now this. It’s comforting to witness her annual appearances on television, knowing that she will fixate on one guy who isn’t into her, weep heavily, and reference her still-maintained virginity. It helps me mark the passing of time — the first snowfall of the year, the first robin of spring, the first day I can comfortably wear shorts, the first time I hear Ashley say, “Why does this always happen to me?!?” on national television.

But watching Winter Games, I was surprised to find that the best characters were people I’ve never seen before — the contestants from non-American editions of The Bachelor. Watching them was like taking a mini crash course in how reality show contestants from around the world feel it’s acceptable to act on TV. Some of the non-Americans actually seemed like they didn’t realize the main point of these shows is to pick up Instagram followers.

I enjoyed watching Christian, the German contestant, and his extremely German dating tactics, like permanently refusing to forgive potential love interest Clare for a misunderstanding about a hot-tub meet-up. I’m a little bit put off by the way the show mocked Yuki, the Japanese contestant, for her inability to speak English, even though she seemed to understand English pretty well and nobody tried to speak back to her in Japanese — it’s 2018, somebody type words into Google Translate and show them to her! — but I was constantly captivated by Yuki’s ability to enjoy being in a house with people who never legitimately tried to communicate with her.

It was eye-opening to learn that The Bachelor is a monolithic content machine that isn’t dependent on its recyclable resources — that it actually becomes stronger with the injection of new parts.

And the Format Doesn’t Matter

Through three episodes of Bachelor Winter Games, there have been three different methods of eliminating contestants. (Wait — why do we even need to eliminate contestants in the first place? They’re in a house that isn’t shrinking. Why not just let people stay and see who ends up hooking up?)

Anyway, in the first episode, contestants were eliminated by popular vote. The housemates were asked to eliminate whoever they felt was not there for “the right reasons.” FINALLY. After years of Bachelor people aimlessly condemning others for not possessing “the right reasons,” with no system in place to penalize such offenses, Winter Games contestants were finally able to punish those who had the wrongest reasons for being on the show. They wrote the names of their fellow competitors on cards and dropped them into a bin, à la Survivor. Eric from Rachel’s season, who spent his brief stay on Winter Games shouting the phrase “Miracle season!,” was eliminated.

In the second episode, men gave roses to women they wanted to be in a relationship with. This turned out to be kinda boring — there were no men interested in two women, and several men uninterested in relationships just gave roses to random women so they could stay on the show — but still. The show’s format changed and, honestly, none of the contestants seemed to care even a little bit.

In the third episode, the remaining couples were asked to participate in a kissing contest, judged by Arie from The Bachelor and JoJo and Rachel from The Bachelorette. (They were judging the kissing of people they have already kissed, but let’s not focus too much on that.) Josiah from Rachel’s season and Ally from Bachelor: New Zealand were eliminated when Ally began spontaneously vomiting before her kiss with Josiah. Fair enough.

The main point is that none of this matters. We don’t care whether the people on the real Bachelor or Bachelorette get married after their television proposal — last I counted, one Bachelor has married the winner of The Bachelor in 21 seasons. We certainly don’t expect any of the international couples who form on Winter Games to stay together: I do not think Texas-based aspiring country musician Luke is going to wind up moving to Sweden for Stassi after two weeks of snow-induced hookups. This feels less important than The Bachelor, and that’s fine. It’s ideal, actually.

I generally find myself more entertained by Bachelor spinoffs than The Bachelor and Bachelorette themselves. Shocker: If you put a roughly equal amount of attractive men and attractive women in the same house (and all of those people have the personality of someone who would sign up to be on reality TV), a lot more interesting things are going to happen than when just one straight person tries to date 30 straight people of the opposite gender.

The Bachelor is easy to make fun of, but it’s undeniable that the people involved in producing the franchise have a preposterous knack for filming a bunch of people for an extended period of time and emerging with one unit of entertaining television. What Winter Games has proved is that there are no limits to how The Bachelor formula can be employed. Honestly, I’m not even sure it’s a formula — Winter Games proves that you can change the premise and the location and the people and somehow it’ll still feel like The Bachelor.

They made a Bachelor Olympics, and it was good. Give them a gold medal.