Annemarie Quill: Flicking on the 'off button'

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I felt bereft on Monday and Tuesday this week, with no episodes of The Bachelor. I consoled myself with Married at First Sight on Thursday. I've diarised The Real Housewives of Auckland. I can't wait for the Bachelorette.

It is not just the experience of watching the shows - although that is a fun session in itself, which often leaves me and my daughters talking to the television like we are the audience at a pantomime, shouting "choose Kate, choose Kate" instead of "He's behind you, he's behind you."

Or me shouting "A******" to Jono on Married at First Sight when he not only ditches his "wife" but doesn't even give her a hand to walk over the mud in her high heels to the dinner party where they meet the other couples.

"She's too good for you, a******," I found myself shouting at a digital screen in the lounge.

Or with us all loudly gunning for the country guy Mark ("mum, he should get his teeth done and she might like him") who ended up with the gorgeous Sydney babe, Christie, screaming with joy at their first kiss in the hotel pool when she urges him to take it slowly in the water and he hilariously replies, "It is not a compression tank".

Our loudness during viewing makes my partner complain, "Are you guys going to watch it or talk through it because I can't hear a thing."

Busted!

Like so many people who say these programmes are drivel, funny how they always strategically end up in the room when they are on.

It is not just the audience participation factor in reality television during viewing, but this collaboration with the programme lasts after the television has been switched off.

The Bachelor became a cultural phenomenon because the characters' reality seeped into our reality.

Our newsroom might be similar to other offices around the country, where a few of us diehard fans grouped for a debrief the next day to deconstruct and analyse the episode, while others complained that they would rather stick pins in their eyes rather than watch the show.

Gradually the haters got amongst it even if they wouldn't admit it.

Just like Christie had no sexual chemistry with Mark at first sight, and built a pillow fort in their bed, as time went on she warmed to him, saying he was so beautiful inside that she was finding him sexier by the day until he announced to camera, "the wall of Christie has come down". Similarly, I witnessed the cynics in our office like our deputy editor and the production guru Matt, both of whom I had forced to watch The Bachelor one night in the office while we worked and who had complained all the way through, gradually I watched them falling in love with The Bachelor. Well not literally or that would be another juicy twist in the tale.

This week, I overheard Matt saying to the deputy editor, "have you heard the latest on Fleur".

Busted!

The wall of Matt has come down.

Therein lies the success of such reality shows. It is not just the watching of the episodes where you collaborate. It is fodder to talk about. Stuff that bonds you with your family, your friends, your workmates.

The ending of the second season of The Bachelor caused so much media attention that people on Facebook started to complain about the stories and said they were sick of them. Why post on them then?

Busted!

Some said that no one cared about The Bachelor and that media should focus on something that people do care about and that is important, citing climate change, terrorism, world poverty.

Funny then, that the New Zealand Herald's website had its second busiest day ever after The Bachelor finale, surpassed only by the Rugby World Cup.

Busted!

I guess we all loved reading about Jordan's dramatic dumping of Fleur almost as much as reading about Richie McCaw bringing the big one home. I even heard my son talking to his schoolmates about The Bachelor during a Skyped game of Minecraft.

Busted!

Why be ashamed of liking The Bachelor? The way people seem to want to make public declarations that they are not fans, but then go on to comment about it, seems almost cultural snobbery. Is liking The Bachelor any better or worse than liking Shakespeare? Whether your bag is The Bachelor or The Merry Wives of Windsor, love, intrigue, public humiliation, suspense, tragedy, even lietmotivs like, "can I take you away?", or "I think we have a good connection" are all the stuff of great drama, reflect the human condition, and make compelling viewing.

It's not that I don't care about climate change or international terrorism, but at the end of the day when I get home from work in a world of murders, child abuse, family violence, rape, I don't feel like watching someone's theory on the future of the planet, I just want to play drinking games at how many times the word "connection" is mentioned by Jordan and the girls.

At work, when we take a break to have a chat, no one says, hey guys, does anyone know the latest on global warming? No one groups with their buddies for a debrief about deforestation or ocean acidification.

The genre may be named reality television. But we know it is not real and that is its appeal. Mindless escapism with real people we relate to.

It is all a spectacle. Pure entertainment. The Bachelor seemed totally staged. Even the show's aftermath, which caused Fleur to appeal to the public to leave Jordan alone, to my cynical eye is all part of the show. He seemed to recover quickly anyway, posting an Instagram of himself with Erin having a whiskey in Ponsonby.

How do I know that?

Matt our production guy - the guy who complained I had forced him to waste an hour of his life watching The Bachelor - told me.

"Does Jordan like whiskey?"

"Hell yeah, remember he drank it all the time on The Bachelor. Next up, he will be doing a whiskey advert."

And I replied that Spark or Vodafone advertising agencies should move in to capitalise on that "connection".

And then we went back to our work.

The global economy, poverty, hunger, homelessness, lack of drinking water for the world's growing populations, the US elections, house prices, cancer, the huge upheavals and changes in the global media industry, the mortgage, the fridge that needs cleaning, the washing that needs folding, the loss of humanity in the future when an infectious disease wipes us out, or when energy runs out and it all goes black. Our planet explodes.

They are all on my mind. They wake me up in the early hours.

But, right now, I just want to know if Fleur slept with Jordan.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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