Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Girl You Know It's True (Bachelor 13 round of 3)

What does “Girl You Know It’s True have to do with the Bachelor? In case you missed the early nineties, it was Milli Vanilli’s biggest hit. For those of you who don’t remember, Milli Vanilli won a 1990 Grammy as best new artists until a mishap at a concert exposed the fact that Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan didn’t actually sing on their own album. Apparently, they were performing at a concert and a technical glitch caused the tape to keep playing the same lyric over and over. The audience didn’t notice and the performers didn’t really change their act. A couple journalists did notice though and Milli Vanilli rapidly faded from the public eye because the public felt “betrayed.” They probably weren’t the first pop singers to get “dubbed” and it remains very common to process, splice, and use various effects to enhance a commercial singer’s recorded voice. The really interesting question isn't why did they fake it (oddly both guys could sing a little), but just what put this so much more over the line that the public got genuinely pissed off.

Rob Pilatus overdosed in 1999. Amazingly, Fab Morvan stayed in the music business and made his own album in 2003. Tellingly, the producer Frank Farian kept making music and money with more fakeo groups. I remember Milli Vanilli well because my son, not much younger than Reality Steve, was a fan when he was in 6th grade. One day he listened to the cassette constantly in our car, the next he was smashing it in half with a hammer. The music was the same, but he’d had too much of a glimpse of what’s behind the curtain in the pop music industry and he felt like he’d been taken.

For the last couple weeks, Reality Steve (probably the most read Bachelor blogger- I doubt that I’m in the top ten, how pitiful is that?) has been teasing his readers with a major revelation about the Jason Mesnick Season. Several thousand comments later, Steve posted his revelation on Youtube and it comes down to his claim that this season’s “dramatic” ending was essentially scripted so that Jason would choose one woman, Melissa, then realize after the final rose that he was truly in love with another, Molly. Rather than deny it, ABC/Mike Fleiss productions has lent credibility to Reality Steve by starting to play up their dramatic finale and by adding a second After the Final Rose show. Those who follow the show and post about it on the various Bachelor message boards appear to believe Reality Steve for the most part or they're sure acting like it.

In the fifties, there was a huge scandal about the “reality” of early tv game shows. It turned out that the 64,000 Dollar Question’s star contestant , Charles Van Doren, was being briefed on the type of questions he was likely to be asked on the show as he moved closer to the big prize. Just before the emergence of “Reality TV”, Robert Redford made a very good movie about the scandal, Quiz Show.

I don’t think any sane viewer has ever sincerely believed that Reality Television is “real”. Heck, we know wrestling and Jerry Springer are fake, and some of us still find it fun (not me). We’ve come to expect a certain level of manipulation, editing, and planting of contestants and for those of us who follows the shows closely that’s honestly always been part of the fun. We ferret it out, howl at it, and pat ourselves on the back for picking out what standard definition tv America either misses or ignores. Favorite Bachelor questions include things like was Matt Grant told that he could only choose Shayne? – Did they reshoot the ending during Deanna’s season? – Was Travis Stork interested at all in his final two choices? Still, even when Bachelor fans know perfectly well how far the show goes to edit and manipulate, a lot of us (me included believe it or not) dream of the real thing. We insist that the ultimate installment of the Bachelor is when you really get to see romance unfold on the show. We also believe (I’d argue rightly) that such an event would be the ultimate ratings winner. There’s a similar thing with American Idol, hardcore fans frequently talk about the Messiah, an actual contestant who is iconic enough to be the next Sinatra, Streisand, Mick Jagger, or Aretha. Actually, they’d settle for Freddie Mercury (no disrespect to Queen fans intended). When it comes to Bachelor, we'll put up with a lot as long as the choosing itself is vaguely real (fwiw we get it if the Bachelor just isn't into anyone and more or less fakes the final choice) and there is some actual possibility of romance every third installment or so.

So in the midst of learning that Alex Rodriguez did steroids and that our banks lent trillions of dollars to individuals who really didn’t have the means to pay it back, Reality Steve has shouted “Enough, this season is Molly Vanilli!”

It’s not that surprising that someone would do this. There’s a whole sub-hobby in spoiling the show or gossiping about how far they’ll go to get TV moments or statements from the contestants. The fascinating thing is that so many people are paying so much attention. In fact, no one’s talking about anything else and many of the bloggers have stopped even recapping the show. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the producers of the Bachelor decided that cliffhangers bring in more viewers than romance. The Bachelor’s always been part game show and part soap opera. In the end, all successful soap operas get increasingly ridiculous until they become parody. Between the third and fourth season of any show, all of the characters have had romantic flirtations with each other, had three or four life threatening diseases or discovered some lost relative. By the time the show plays out, the original viewers are just saying “This is stupid!”

Anyway, this season resembles the last episode of the Prisoner. Where Patrick Mcgoohan spent the entire run of the show trying to get a face to face meeting with Number 1 only to find that Number 1 was either a chimpanzee or a fantasy, the Bachelor has been an endless series of ecstatic proclamations in Chris Harrison’s voice about the wonders of finding true love and romance. We come to the end with the guy some believed to be there for the proverbial right reasons and the show reveals that not only is it not interested in romance, it has no heart at all. That nice Jason fellow who had his heart broken is just an actor whose status as such may date back to when he first told Deanna Pappas about Ty. Was the Deanna Pappas trilogy really just a way to write season endings that would build audience for the next installment ad infirosem? Make the thwarted romantic in the last show the star of the next and have that person break someone else’s heart until all of America has been the Bachelor or Bachelorette?

Worst of all, people worry that Melissa Rycroft was led to believe that Jason’s interest in her was on the level when it was really just part of some complex deal to reel in viewers. If you notice, recent Bachelor leads seem to fall in and out of love awfully easily, so much so that Brad Womack, once the most hated Bachelor in the show’s history, has become Bachelor world’s Jose Canseco, the former slugger and steroid user who appears to be the one guy who’s telling the truth about everyone else. Is the show and is Jason so heartless that he would play Melissa Rycroft just for the money, notoriety, etc.?

So what are the ethical limits of reality television? If they exist then this season, if you believe Reality Steve, crossed them all. While we love to make fun of the whackier contestants on the show, this one became some version of the Millgram experiment, where the college professor finds that students will torture someone as long as they’re told that they’re expected to do it. Did we just watch someone kill puppies on national television, albeit one with a great body, in the guise of entertainment?

We’ll all know a lot more in a couple weeks and as interesting as this is, it’s pretty trivial stuff. One of the joys of reality tv is that it’s a much more participatory sport than traditional scripted television. We watch, we chat online, we try to guess the outcome and see all the strings holding up the puppets. If true (and I’m willing to wait and see), this is the biggest Fuck You imaginable from the producers. One of the sadder aspects of it all is that Chris Harrison, maybe the one participant on the show who’s universally popular, got in on the act by more or less covering for the producers.

Since no one else is recapping:

Part way into that hot tub scene with Jillian, I was convinced that I’d tuned into Emmanuelle-New Zealand instead. In several of this year’s episodes, there have been clear signs of Fleiss going the Mary Hartman Mary Hartman route. There was Molly Bair talking about making out with her dog. There was that bizarre home visit with Naomi Crespo’s family. Now, you have Jason (America’s nice guy) making an adult movie with the Bachelorette that he was going to dump in a couple days. Of course, just last week we got to see how her family had survived a serious mental illness. There was something really disturbing about this combination. My sense that someone’s telegraphing some sort of “joke season” was tweaked even further by Jillian’s fantasy of watching little Ty cross dress while cuddled up in connubial bliss with Jason. Did you notice that they took the Canadian lady on two different dates to wineries, eh? Talk about your stereotypes.

Equally weird, Jason never really says anything this episode. He asks a bunch of questions, reads body language, then waits for each of the ladies to tell him how they’re falling love with him. Molly does reverse this some by giving him the world’s dullest quiz (like mother like daughter I guess) after their bungee jumping experience (Chris Harrison tells us, notice how interested Jason is in getting Molly’s approval.) We learn that Jason’s favorite meal is a hamburger, his favorite car is a Mustang, and his favorite singer is Elvis. Wow! My guess is that Jason’s an alien pretending to be a “regular American guy.” Mmmm, maybe that’s the dramatic reveal at the end. So if this really is who he wants, I can’t imagine what’s on the editing room floor given some of the acting he did with Melissa.

With Melissa, I think the big puzzle is that Jason and Melissa are clearly terrible actors, yet they’re doing such a good job of faking actual attraction. You watch the segments and there’s no question that he just wants to get with her even if it has to be a threesome with Winston Churchill’s ghost and Jason in the middle. There is the whole silliness about Melissa’s family that does seem like yet another test of Bachelor fan gullibility. Jason asks “Have you talked to your parents yet?” Melissa shakes her head know then tells him how actually close she is to her family. Why’s it all like a really badly acted and written soap opera? Melissa keeps saying, “I’m always the dumpee” , Molly asks “gee what if you pick the wrong girl and figure it out later?” , Jillian makes a speech about being really really in love while Jason acts more tortured than necessary after her departure. At the end of the second AFTR is Jason going to rip his own head off and reveal that he’s a trained Chimpanzee, the Bachelor’s version of Number One and that Ty is an animatronic puppet?

Many many years ago, my parents lectured me about the difference between getting attention and actually making friends. Sure this whole thing is going to attract viewers for the same reason that people rubberneck at five car collisions. Getting my attention, however, is not the same thing as entertaining me. Again, I’m willing to see how this all works out, but right now I’m willing to bet that I had better parents than Mike Fleiss.

P.T. Barnum is often credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Right now, I feel like one of them. Here I thought my silly more or less innocent weekly diversion of a tv dating show was just good fun, instead we’re getting a reminder that American popular entertainment is at heart just one big freak show and a scripted one at that. I now fully expect the final credits to say “No professional cheerleaders were actually injured or abused in any way during the filming of this sad excuse for entertainment.”
Chris Harrison's blog

Buddy TV Bachelor page



At 2/18/2009 07:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!! I, for one, am hoping that RS is all BS...

At 2/18/2009 08:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel sort of robbed but, not because of Reality Steve or even ABC but, by you. I came to your post hoping for a reprieve, an RS free recap of the episode. However, you took your ounce of belief in what RS said and put that anger into your usual sarcastic, well executed pop media referenced recap. Meaning that even you believe RS about what's to happen. I'm not saying I know it's true or it's false but one person believing something gives it a hold. IDK maybe it's my faith in love that wants me to believe i'm not going to be cheated on.. then again i've always been cheated on.

At 2/19/2009 01:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CL, I have to agree with Kate Lynn. I love your blog because it's always fresh and funny, the funniest one out there. I've been depressed for many of the same reasons that you describe in this column, and I understand why you're down on the show, but I came here for that great sense of humor and unique way of seeing things. I really hope you will bounce back and recap future episode like you always have. Thanks.

At 2/19/2009 01:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I do believe that RS knows what he's talking about. I just hope it doesn't kill the franchise like Milli Vanilli. I'd miss your blog.

At 2/19/2009 01:22:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Have we all forgotten that Fleiss produced "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire"? He was almost run out of town (too bad he came back). This man has no respect for women or his audience (which is primarily women). As a mom of two sons, I have been exposed to more than my share of what passes for humor to some immature males and Fleiss is definitely stunted. I just keep envisioning the concept meeting and how all his bros come up with yet "another good one". I hope this is finally the end of his road. Some have referred to this impending finale as "good TV". I am a child of the fifties when television was the center of the universe so I can tell you with much authority, "This is NOT good TV". I thought we had evolved. It is Roman Gladiator voyeurism. Good riddance to lousy trash!!

At 2/19/2009 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I hope he's wrong too, but it's clear that something different is happening with this season regardless.

Kate Lynn,
sorry and I know exactly what you're saying. I don't know if this is like where you find out Santa Claus isn't real and then you get older and you enjoy Christmas anyway because it's still fun, sweet, and a time to appreciate one another and what you have while still thinking about everyone else.

Regardless of the "scandal", I'm having trouble with the story line itself. It's feeling choppy, a bit strange (Molly winning the singing contest when Lauren actually can write songs and sing), the Naomi home visit, the whole odd storyline about Melissa's crummy boyfriends and yet she dated some guy for seven years), and I'm seeing too little spontaneous emotion and too much attempt to build intrigue for its own sake. If I'm supposed to be rooting for Jason, how can he be playing hide the rose with Jillian in the hot tub then saying "We're just friends"?

I wrote at the end of Deanna's season that I would have been okay with just seeing whatever was there with Jesse develop, I didn't need this whole single dad storyline sales pitch if it was just going to be a trick to throw me off. I thought they had it just about right had Jason and Deanna wound up together last season.

If this stuff is right (as I said, I'm willing to find out). That'll be it for me.

thanks, perhaps the show (what we actually see) will find some way to recover. If it turns out that Jason was hired just to act out some script and someone was really duped in the process into thinking that he was serious about her (that seems really extreme to me and not sure any network would allow it), that would be it for me. That's when it stops being entertainment and when I have to stop making jokes about it.

We still have to see what happens here. My take is that Mike Fleiss is Heidi Fleiss's cousin and if this is really what was going on Heidi was the more honorable of the two.

If Steve's accurate and Melissa was led to believe this was all on the level, then yeah we're in the realm of dating shows turning into Gladiator spectacles and that'll be it for me.
In the meantime, we don't know this though and there's no real proof.

At 2/19/2009 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey!, I represents that remark! We Canadians are not known for drinking wine?. Are we?? Now if that nice Canadian lady was in a brewery THAT would be stereotyping! lol!

At 2/19/2009 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

true enough....:} Here I even sat through Strange Brew I would know that.

At 2/19/2009 03:50:00 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Wow, I've been making the rounds because I'm hoping to find something or someone that can prove RS wrong.

If he's right, then how could Jason live with himself? He's supposedly so protective of his son, but he'll let one woman come and get to know him as his "future wife/mommy" and then confuse him with another "friend" coming to see him on alternate weekends. Way to go, Jason.

Besides that, how was he able to keep from - oh, how to put it delicately - HAVING SEX with his "fiancee" for two months while boinking Molly every other weekend? If he DID get intimate with Melissa, then #1 he's scum and #2 how could Molly abide that behavior and accept his "soiled love"? Additionally, Melissa made it pretty clear that she'd been hurt and dumped however many times (either one major time or lots of times over the years) and was pretty sad about it. If he agreed to hurt her INTENTIONALLY, to lead her on thinking that they would spend their lives together, make her think that she would have to get used to the idea of raising his son, then he's beyond despicable.

If he'd have been any kind of gentleman or any kind of man with principles, he'd have told ABC to kiss his ass because they'd stepped over the line. Drama is one thing, but intentionally going out of your way to hurt, embarrass and devastate a young woman on television beyond what she'd signed on for is shameful. To willingly be the instrument of that pain makes Jason a pu**y.

At 2/19/2009 04:02:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Mom O' Trips...
I don't know if Steve is right, partially right, or completely wrong. I'm just a fan of the show and have no connections at all.

It would be great if someone had definitive proof that this kind of manipulation didn't happen or that if it is a Molly ending that something "nicer" happened. I see people wanting it to be wrong, but I would think the producers would simply say "No, that's not true."

If Steve's version is right (he really didn't cite much proof for the whole script thing), it is awfully hard to explain in any way that leaves everyone looking good.

At 2/19/2009 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Captain Barbarossa said...


Beautifully put...all of it. Funny how even we nasty, snarky bloggers have always held out hope that lightning would strike. True, we all knew huge chunks of this was scripted and that was ok. It was 'the love' that they weren't allowed to monkey with. They touched (and then trampled)the third rail of reality tv rules here.

I am considering retirement from blogging since this show is all I really blog about. There just seems no point now. By the way, I think any sane person does believe Steve, hook, line, and sinker. I also feel lick a schmuck.

At 2/19/2009 06:24:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...


IT's depressing stuff, but I don't think Mrs. Captain or your first wench would be real crazy about your licking schmucks.

I would miss your blogging whether it's about the show or some other topic.

You post about the production changes from back in December pretty much predicted something like this, so in my mind you beat RS to all this.

At 2/20/2009 04:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've quoted your Milli Vanilli/Quiz Show analogy to many people and they think it's right on.
The only thing I ask is that you keep blogging, because you have a gift - I will never, ever forget the Shayne Lamas Show (parents are zombies) column.
The funniest thing I ever read.

At 2/20/2009 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for making my day!

At 2/21/2009 10:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RS allegation of pre-planning & scripting just doesn't seem provable one way or the other. How would we ever know? So when I see so many folks saying "if what RS says is true, I'm done with this show", it makes no sense to me.

Personally, if it does play out with the Melissa/Molly swap, I'll take the simpler explanation-- that Jason did actually just change his mind after picking Mel.

At 2/22/2009 11:55:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I was struck by how many people seemed to think RS's version was true. It looks like there's a bit of a backlash right now and some credible posters are arguing that RS was misinformed.
As you say, it's quite possible that none of us will ever know what happened behind the scenes (the meat of the revelation is not so much that Jason changes his mind (Lorenzo dated Sadie after the Bachelor) it's that the season was fixed from the beginning) and no one will know for sure what happened.

That said, something definitely doesn't feel right about the edit. I can't say that I've seen them force so many odd bits in.
It's a shame, because I actually like the seemingly spontaneous side of the show going all the way back to where it appeared that Alex Michel dumped a woman for not going to the fantasy suite then more or less conned Trista into going to bed with him by saying that he'd give her the final rose. The best moment of this season remains Shannon and the kissing the dog comment, which may have been scripted, but it felt very much out of the blue.

At 2/23/2009 03:46:00 PM, Blogger Captain Barbarossa said...


I think I got lucky but I had been growing more suspicous over the last couple of seasons. Are you going to recap the WTA. I'm not sure I got the energy.

BTW, the Wench Queen would knock my head off for licking schmucks. Typesupremist. Ha!

At 2/23/2009 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Yes, I'll probably recap the WTA at least partly because it might be the show's last "normal" episode. I suspect that we'll have some idea if the fix was in and if anyone was purposely hurt or embarrassed just for ratings next Monday. If so, I then figure out whether I'm still interested in the show.

In the meantime, the WTA likely will be Bachelor business as usual.


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