I cannot believe how many times I’m going to have to type out “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart.” When ABC came up with a version of The Bachelor where the lead was a woman, they called it The Bachelorette—concise, easy to understand. When they invented a show where a bunch of former Bachelor contestants lived in a house together, they called it Bachelor Pad—great name, mixed results on the actual show. When they invented a show that moved that house to a beach, they fancifully called it Bachelor in Paradise—perhaps overselling the location, but still technically accurate. And when they invented Bachelor-themed counterprogramming for the Winter Olympics, they called it The Bachelor Winter Games—makes sense!
But just like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, we have reached the point where the concept can no longer be described in one neat phrase. It’s too divorced from the original product, connected less by familiar faces and content and more in spirit and by production teams. You now need multiple clauses to get the job done; we have reached the Presents Colon Era of The Bachelor.
The Bachelor has become enough of a ratings behemoth that it’s what our TV-ratings-obsessed president brings up as a measuring stick, which is why ABC has been spinning off the original series at such an alarming rate. The latest one, The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart, was meant to be a filler show. After The Bachelor finishes airing in March, the show’s producers pick the most popular female contestant and immediately begin shooting a new season of The Bachelorette—but while that season is being filmed and edited, there are multiple months without Bachelor content. To fill the gap, the franchise’s producers invented this convoluted show based on a premise—overtly based on A Star Is Born, a movie that Disney and ABC do not own the rights to—that people could find their musical partner and lifelong love partner in one fell swoop. Just like Fleetwood Mac! (Just don’t look into what happened to Fleetwood Mac.) But now the B-plot has become the lead story. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the shutdown of production on The Bachelorette—obviously, 30 singles cannot travel the globe in a time of worldwide infectious disease outbreak—which will in turn delay or cancel production of Bachelor in Paradise and Bachelor Summer Games, both of which are fueled by a steady stream of contestants from The Bachelorette. Luckily, The Bachelor already had this other show banked. And that is why I will be repeatedly typing “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart.”
To summarize the experience of watching TBP: L2YH, as I’ll call it for short: They made the whole plane out of Jed Wyatts. Jed, of course, is the Tennessee native who won the last season of The Bachelorette by having a beard and serenading Bachelorette Hannah Brown with an acoustic guitar at literally every possible opportunity. She was swept off her feet, but the relationship fell apart after it became clear that the highlight of his musical career was selling a dog food jingle and that he’d left his real-life girlfriend days before Bachelorette filming started in hopes that an appearance on the show would boost his musical career. And has it ever! His awful song from 2017 now has thousands of downvotes on YouTube!
Every contestant on L2YH is a Jed Wyatt. There are male Jed Wyatts and female Jed Wyatts; there are country Jed Wyatts and indie Jed Wyatts. Everybody’s no. 1 method of wooing members of the opposite gender is singing to them. The highlight of the episode is when Trevor, the show’s most direct Jed replicant (famed for a brief stint on American Idol in which Katy Perry called him hot in front of his then-girlfriend) battles with Ryan, a clean-shaven Jed, over the opportunity to receive a rose from Jamie, a 21-year-old female Jed. Clean-shaven Jed takes 21-year-old female Jed on a date where they rerecord John Mayer’s “Gravity” at Capitol Records in L.A. This puts him in the lead, but then Trevor pulls 21-year-old female Jed aside, whips out an acoustic guitar, plays her “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”—another John Mayer song—and wins her rose.
Who knows what future Jeds will emerge in the weeks to come and what John Mayer songs they will sing? Tune in next week for The Bachelor Presents: The Quest for the Ultimate Jed.
Strangest Trope: A Star Is Born
In the opening minutes of the show, Chris Harrison says “We here at The Bachelor are all big fans of the movie A Star Is Born,” two contestants reference the show’s similarity to A Star Is Born, and we are shown a clip of two other contestants performing “Shallow” from A Star Is Born.
This leads me to believe that nobody involved with this show has ever seen A Star Is Born. The show’s premise is quite different from the main story arc of A Star Is Born—which is specifically about one person’s rise to stardom and one guy’s battle with depression and alcoholism. More notably, I don’t know why anybody would want to compare their love to the end to A Star Is Born. No spoilers, but I’m glad the L2YH house doesn’t seem to have a garage.
Biggest Question Mark: The Format
It’s not quite clear exactly what the point of this show is. Chris Harrison explains that contestants who are not in “committed couples” will be eliminated every week, which is how things work on Bachelor in Paradise and Love Island—new people join every week ensuring that there will always be more contestants of one gender than the other, leading to a frenzied race to snag a partner. On Monday night’s episode, there were 12 men and eight women, leading to the insta-elimination of four guys.
The question, I guess, is how you win this show. Harrison explains that toward the end of the show, the contestants will perform duets with each other on stage. Will the winners be the couple who are best at making music, or the pair who seem like the best couple? That’s unclear. It seems like this show is borrowing from the Love Island rule book of strategically deploying whatever competitive format is necessary to make things most interesting at any given moment.
The question is: When the goal is either “to find true love” or “to make great music with a woman” or maybe “both,” who’s there for the right reasons? Is it the people there to advance their musical careers or the people who are there to find true love? I’ve got to admit, I did not expect to have such deep teleological debates about The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart.
Hottest Spot: Nashville
There are only two types of contestants on this show—the ones who live in Nashville and the ones who live in Los Angeles. However, the show seems to go to great efforts to avoid claiming contestants live in Los Angeles—Rudi says she’s “dated all of L.A. already” but is billed as being from San Antonio, while some contestants are listed as being from Encino, Lawndale, and Sherman Oaks, all of which are in L.A. County.
But what’s funnier to me is the four contestants whose hometown is listed as Nashville—notably, none of them are actually from there. Jamie just moved there after graduating from Berklee in Boston. Savannah is from Dallas, and she says she just moved to Nashville within the last few months. Ex-Marine Brandon seems to be originally from Louisville. Bald Josh once posted “Nashville and country music have my heart but Florida will always be my home!” on Instagram; The Bachelor’s producers apparently disagreed when listing his hometown.
Again, I get it—Nashville signifies music to the world, so a music show obviously wants to trumpet its connection to the city. (The series finale was filmed in Nashville.) But the show used some creative math: Six of the 20 contestants live in L.A., but somehow only two list “Los Angeles, CA” as their hometown, while all four contestants who moved to Nashville are apparently Nashvillians for life, even if they’ve got as much of a connection to the city as the drunk bridesmaids vomming their way through Broadway bachelorette parties.
Worst Performance: Matt
Monogamy is the enemy of dating shows. Even shows like The Bachelor and Bachelorette can be hampered by the fact that 30 contestants have to pretend they’re exclusively interested in one person. The juiciest dating shows are the ones like Bachelor in Paradise and Love Island, where multiple contestants of each gender have multiple options, allowing for perpetual swapping and recoupling.
That’s already happening on L2YH, notably with Matt. We already know Matt will struggle on this show because of his intro: He tells us that he’s never seen The Bachelor, and identifies Chris Harrison as “that guy,” “Chris Hanson,” and “Chris Hemsworth.” Dear goodness, he’s flying blind! You can be the best athlete in the world, but if you’ve never seen a basketball game before, you’re probably going to commit a billion fouls and turn the ball over constantly. Similarly, if you’ve never seen The Bachelor before appearing on The Bachelor, you’re boned. Matt is going to talk in the way you’re supposed to start relationships and not in the peculiar, stunted way you’re supposed to start relationships on reality TV. In real life, you might discuss common interests on a first date. On The Bachelor, you have to bring up the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to you, and then the person you’re on a date with has to say “I’m so glad he opened up to me!” Matt is clueless.
He sparks an early relationship with Rudi, and the two retreat to the mansion’s hot tub. (It should be noted that L2YH is filmed in a different mansion from the regular Bachelor mansion, which inexplicably does not have a hot tub.) There, the two almost kiss. He reacts like a person might react in real life after a person chooses not to kiss them, and starts to believe that Rudi isn’t interested in him. Then, when he receives a date card the next day, he decides to see whether he has a shot with the pink-haired Mel. Their date isn’t really much of a date at all—they attend a Plain White T’s concert, apparently held in a random backyard. (In case you thought the Bachelor tradition of flying in random musicians for faux concerts would stop on a show where everybody was a musician: You thought wrong.)
Stunningly, the Plain White T’s do not perform “Hey There Delilah.” Fun fact: “Hey There Delilah” was written about an actual person named Delilah who had no romantic interest in the guy from the Plain White T’s, who actually had a boyfriend, and who is on the record about being very weirded out by the popular love song written about her by someone she didn’t like. Anyway, Matt Delilahs the hell out of this situation: Mel clearly has no interest in Matt and continues dating Gabe. And when Matt tries to patch things up with Rudi, she’s furious at the way he reneged on an apparent promise to take her on the date.
In summation: The guy has no idea how reality TV works, which is why he ditched a potential relationship to take a girl he has no shot with on a date to watch a third-tier band from 15 years ago perform their fourth-most famous song. What a disaster!
Most Unfortunate Stint: Russell
Earlier, I mentioned that four contestants are eliminated after the first episode. Would it be contestants who failed to establish a musical connection with their potential future partners? In a shocking twist, it was the four least-handsome guys:
Three of these four make some impact on the show. Josh, the bald guy, makes a strong play for Julia, making out with her before the show’s hairiest contestant, Sheridan, swoops in to steal her away, leading to yet another L for the follicularly challenged community. Michael Todd, the bearded guy, is so aggressively awkward that I have to imagine he was planted by producers to creep everyone out—he attempts to kiss Savannah within 15 minutes of meeting her by complimenting her lips, and is later seen complaining about getting shut down to other women. (Women love it when you explain why other women rejected you in the past!) Jack is more or less a background character, but is at least seen hanging with his fellow contestants and singing songs.
The fourth, though, is Russell, a vaguely Steve Buscemian guy in the leather jacket. So far as I can tell, he never removes this leather jacket over the course of his appearance on the show. He speaks a total of three times: He’s shown introducing himself to Michael, and later greeting Matt upon his return from an attempted reconciliation with Rudi—he says “Are you OK?” and “Oh my god!” Then at one point, he walks kind of near a firepit and says, “Damn, this is hot!” I’ve rewatched the episode twice now, and I’m pretty confident he is never shown talking to any women. I believe his presence on the show is only overtly mentioned once, on the first night, when Rudi tells Jamie “I haven’t talked to Russell” and Jamie says “Who’s Russell?” before both start cracking up.
Typically, eliminated Bachelor contestants get a chance to tell the camera why they felt they should’ve gotten a better shot. Not Russell, whose parting shot is a sad glance of him sitting by himself in a leather jacket:
Early MVP: Gabe
When this show says that every contestant is a musician, they seem to mean that every contestant is a singer. There are no bassists or percussionists or flautists—just singers. Maybe a few of them can play guitar or the piano, but mostly they just sing. Like I said, it’s Jeds all the way down.
There’s one notable exception: Gabe, who is shown playing the cello in his preview package! Specifically, he’s shown playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, also known as “The Only Song Anybody Is Ever Allowed to Play to Demonstrate That They Play the Cello.” More importantly, Gabe has the one life experience you must have to be a significant contender on any Bachelor show—he played college football, just like Tyler Cameron and Colton Underwood and Jordan Rodgers and honestly the list is too long at this point. Baker was a safety at Rice and played a school-record 56 games.
We didn’t get a lot of clips of Gabe in Monday night’s episode, but if “musical talent” is a prerequisite for contention on this show, he might be a serious contender. More like the BACHelor, amirite? Because he knows how to play the Bach song? Whatever, it would’ve been a good joke if I was allowed to say it out loud.