We are in the middle of yet another frustrating season of The Bachelor that nobody can stop watching. The Bachelor, in case you’re unaware, is a show in which a man dates 30 women and chooses one to be his wife. If the men were any good at this process, the show would be unwatchable: No one wants to see a rational person make adult decisions. Luckily, most Bachelors are awful: This is the 24th season, and only one of the previous 23 Bachelors is married to the person they chose as their season’s winner. (Somehow, there are more Bachelors married to women they eliminated during the season than Bachelors married to season-winners.)
This season, however, may be a historically awful Bachelor performance. Peter Weber, a 28-year-old pilot, seems to have no idea what type of relationship he’s looking for; he routinely flip-flops on decisions and can be talked into or out of anything; he is on the record as preferring relationships that are difficult (!!!) and he eliminated one woman because their relationship was “all fun”; he seems not to care about the impact of his choices on the women he’s dating; and he routinely chooses to spend his time privately deliberating his (bad) decisions rather than actually hanging out with the women he’s deciding between. To be fair, Peter wasn’t exactly given a great group to work with—the dearth of charismatic women on Peter’s season is so grave that ABC is turning to the runner-up from 2014 to be the next lead—but Peter is partially responsible for that bad behavior and overall, he has a knack for picking the most unlikable women on his season. His relationships with the remaining women—Madison, Hannah Ann, and Victoria F.—seem so weak and superficial that a popular conspiracy theory says the season ends with Peter dumping every remaining woman and eloping with one of the show’s producers. Perhaps this would be forgiven if Peter came across as particularly charismatic, but his no. 1 personality trait is apparently “being a pilot.”
And yet, this season is captivating as hell. Watching Peter squirm, screw up, and incite mutinies among the angry women dealing with his foibles is easily more enjoyable than if Peter made wise decisions and efficiently chose a suitable partner. For example: If Peter were to actually choose a producer as winner of The Bachelor, it would be the grandest failure in the history of the show—he dragged 30 women across the globe, forced them to undergo humiliating tasks, and then picked a person who was not even a contestant?!?!?—and probably the most memorable thing to happen in the show’s history. People often ask me whether I think The Bachelor is scripted, and I honestly don’t believe it is. I do, however, believe that if the Bachelor wants to get rid of somebody the producers want to keep for the purposes of drama, the producers can say, “Hey, can you keep the awful one in?” On these annual quests for love, the drama always supersedes the show’s actual plot—and that’s exactly how we want it.
Despite its 1-in-23 success rate, the show that touts itself as being a “journey of love” has become a behemoth, dominating Monday night TV ratings and inspiring a slew of spinoffs. (Of course there’s The Bachelorette, and the annual summer hit Bachelor in Paradise, but this year will also bring Olympic-themed novelty show Bachelor Summer Games and a dating show for musicians called The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart, while plans are underway to film a version of The Bachelor for seniors tentatively called Golden Years.) And in spite of Peter’s total lack of skills, this season of The Bachelor is gaining viewers rather than losing them, reaching a season high two weeks ago and breaking it last week. This season, The Bachelor has been the highest-rated show on TV every night it has aired, except when it aired against the college football national championship game.
So what exactly does it mean to be “good” at being the Bachelor—and how often does that align with what we, the viewing public, actually want to see? Here’s an analysis of four traits good Bachelors would have—as well as how Peter stacks up.
1. Picking a Suitable Life Partner
What would a “good” Bachelor do? The point of the show is (hypothetically) to help one guy find love. So, a “good” Bachelor would succeed at this task. Whether it means homing in one woman from day one or efficiently exploring a variety of different relationships to find what suits him, the end result for a “good” Bachelor would be him finding his wife. (Example: Colton excelled at this trait, to the extent that he was willing to jump over a fence to be with the person he felt was right for him; he and Cassie Randolph are still together.)
What would an enjoyable Bachelor do? We don’t really care whether the marriage works out or not, or even whether it happens in the first place. What really matters is the drama, the baffling behavior, and the amount of opportunities given to us, the viewer, to scream at the television. Basically everybody acknowledges that the worst person to ever be the Bachelor was Juan Pablo Galavis, a shallow, rude jerk who refused to propose to any women on his season, and who is the only Bachelor to be dumped by a contestant during Fantasy Suites week—and yet last week, when our Netflix queue was empty, my girlfriend suggested we find a way to rewatch his season. On the other hand, the one season of The Bachelor that ended with a guy successfully picking his wife—Season 17 starring Sean Lowe—was ranked 27th on Juliet Litman’s ranking of all 38 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
What has Peter done? Obviously, we don’t know yet whether Peter gets engaged, or whether his engagement turns into a marriage, or whether that marriage lasts—but I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the 23rd out of 24 Bachelors to fail at finding love. His most solid relationship is with Madison, and in last week’s episode, he blatantly ignored her request to stop having sex with other women. Another prime contender is Victoria, who is famous in her hometown for breaking up her friends’ marriages. Even if the season does wrap up with a romantic bow, check Us Weekly in roughly October for an exclusive interview explaining why things just didn’t work out.
2. Making Crisp Executive Decisions
What would a “good” Bachelor do? A lot of The Bachelor boils down to a Bachelor’s decision-making capabilities: Who will they eliminate each week? Who will they take on dates? Who will they propose to? A “good” Bachelor makes thoughtful and firm choices in these areas.
What would an enjoyable Bachelor do? The maddest I’ve ever been at a person was when a girl dumped me, asked me for a second chance a few months later, and then dumped me again roughly two weeks after that. But that would’ve been great TV.
An enjoyable Bachelor is completely broken by the premise of decision-making. They agonize over their choices for hours; they dump women and immediately yell “WHAT DID I JUST DO”; and they reverse course after the fact. In the finale two seasons ago, Arie proposed to Becca, then lured her to a house filled with cameras so that he could tell her that he had secretly begun dating the season’s runner-up, Lauren. He then dumped Becca, got engaged to Lauren, and infuriated everybody watching. It was one of the best episodes of television of the century.
What has Peter done? Peter’s biggest flaw is easily his complete lack of trust in his own choices. In an early-season disaster, Peter eliminated Alayah after allegations that … I don’t exactly remember, but, like, I think two people had told Peter that they didn’t like her? The next week, she flew to Cleveland to talk to Peter once more, and Peter invited her back on the show. The day after that, a handful of women confronted Peter about his decision to take Alayah back, and he eliminated her again. It seems like there’s nothing Peter can’t be talked out of. Confidence is sexy—and it’s fun to watch a conventionally sexy guy look like a foolish dweeb because he has none.
3. Treating Contestants Fairly
What would a “good” Bachelor do? There are 30 contestants on the show, and a good Bachelor at least appears to give all of them an equal opportunity to win him over. This involves making sure he talks to all of them and evenly distributes one-on-one dates. When one contestant is accused of gaming the system in a certain way (like by doubling and tripling up on conversations before other women have gotten a first conversation), a “good” Bachelor makes sure things are rectified and fair. A “good” Bachelor cannot be won over solely by looks—which is why they want to give each contestant a legitimate shot to spark a connection.
What would an enjoyable Bachelor do? Really, the opposite of this—a Bachelor’s inability to be a game manager sows incredible chaos between contestants. All in all, the equitable distribution of a Bachelor’s time won’t make a difference in how much we enjoy watching the show. (After all, they do edit things down so that only the interesting people show up on our screens.) However, the petty squabbles sparked when a Bachelor treats people unfairly is a primary source of entertaining in-house rivalries.
What has Peter done?: Basically none of this? If Peter’s biggest flaw is his laborious and unwise decision-making, his second biggest is his complete disinterest in tending to the needs of contestants he doesn’t care about. He has routinely spent massive amounts of time dealing with his tumultuous relationships with the contestants he finds most attractive while generally ignoring the rest of the cast. On the opening night of the show, Hannah Ann pulled Peter aside for three separate conversations while other women went completely ignored. Instead of stopping her, Peter gave her the first impression rose. (The following episode, he spent an entire group date with his ex-girlfriend, Hannah Brown.) That sort of thing sets a precedent, and Peter’s indifference toward preventing contestants from “stealing” time has made the competition this season particularly cutthroat.
4. Eliminating Infighting
What would a “good” Bachelor do? Petty squabbling does not help someone find love! A “good” Bachelor steps in when the beef between contestants rises to a level that threatens to derail his journey for love. They are capable of squashing the stupid stuff and keeping the focus on the quest for love—and are willing to eliminate contestants who seem more interested in causing problems than winning his heart.
What would an enjoyable Bachelor do? If you asked Bachelor fans what their favorite part of the show is, a massive majority would highlight the drama between contestants. Luckily, no Bachelor or Bachelorette has ever successfully prevented contestants from yelling at each other.
What has Peter done? This season of The Bachelor has been a five-alarm fire; Peter has been a single bucket, possibly filled with kerosene. In the other categories, he has merely been insufficient—poor at identifying the right traits in a partner; incapable of making smooth decisions; disinterested in treating contestants well. When it comes to squashing drama, Peter actively fails, and in fact acts as if he’s trying to make things blow up. Whether it was Kelsey and Hannah Ann’s champagne fiasco (“finasco,” if we’re being technical), Alayah and Sydney’s beef, Alayah and Victoria P.’s pageant debate, Kelsey and Tammy’s battle of increasing claims of substance abuse, or Tammy and Mykenna’s maturity squabble, Peter never tried to calm things down, but instead stoked each party’s anger in specific but baffling ways. He forced Sydney to publicly air her grievances about Alayah; unable to put his foot down, he let minor drama between Alayah and Sydney turn into a three-week plotline; he allowed Tammy’s accusations to fester, and then rewarded Kelsey in private; and he threw Tammy and Mykenna into a two-on-one, escalating their feud to a boiling point before sending them both home. All season, he’s turned minor disagreements into full-scale donnybrooks.
Peter has failed in so many ways this season—but that’s why we’ve been enthralled by a season otherwise defined by a lackluster cast and dud relationships. He has been the Anti-Bachelor, ditching chivalry and common sense in a chaotic quest that seems doomed to fail. I understand the complaints; I also understand why everybody is still watching in spite of them.