Farewell, then, this time, to The Bachelorette. The dating show had its grand finale on Monday night but returned last night for a reunion and man it was weird. Man it was intense. Man it was – more than anything else, and to a degree I don't think I've ever seen on TV – quiet.
We live in surreal times. Great art will be made that defines the time when the world stood still. Picasso made Guernica as a howl of outrage during the Spanish civil war; Gorecki's beautiful Symphony No 3 is seen as a memorial for the victims of the Holocaust. You would not really have anticipated that reality TV junk The Bachelorette could provide any kind of artistic or meaningful response to the lockdown and the crisis of Covid-19 but it was as though last night's show got inside the times we live in, and created an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty and mistrust.
It made for remarkable viewing. Things did not start promisingly or give any indication that the show would have the slightest bit of merit. For about the first 20 to 30 minutes, the final programme of The Bachelorette was like all the most boring moments of the series rolled together into one great big ZZZZZZ sandwich.
Nothing much ever happened on The Bachelorette. A bunch of handsome guys with limited English chased after two eligible women, Hottie Lily and Hottie Lesina. One by one they got rejected. It ended on Monday night when Hottie Lily chose Bachelor Richie, and Hottie Lesina more or less said to her last remaining suitor, Bachelor Aaron, "I wouldn't go with you if were the last man on Earth!" He was a bit put out.
To the reunion, which was filmed before an audience. There was a brick wall. No, wait, that was host Art Green. The bachelors stood in rows, and it was nice to see them again, until they opened their mouths. They hee-hawed and made bro jokes, which are worse than dad jokes. It was all extremely vapid and jolly in a mirthless way but things began to change when Bachelor Glenn's shock dismissal from the show was revisited.
He was reminded that he got thrown out because he wasn't on the show "for the right reasons". In which case he must have been on the show for the wrong reasons, but they were never quite spelled out. I think it was because he wanted to have sex with Lily and Lesina. How terrible. Anyway, he was still clearly upset by his abrupt departure; the reunion show didn't resolve his angst, and left it hanging.
It did the same thing when it dealt with Bachelor Liam's shock departure. Bachelor Aaron had told tales on him which led to his dismissal. "I feel quite comfortable with that," said Aaron, but no one else did. Bachelor Marc swore at him. Aaron hung his head. The first long silence followed.
The show rapidly descended into recriminations and tears and resentments. Bachelor Mike and Bachelor Michael had quit the show rather than put up with Lesina, and the three of them sat together in tense silence on a couch. Michael looked as though he had a total gutsful. Mike made a long, hurt speech directed at Lesina: "I gave so much and you didn't give anything away and you made it impossible."
Art asked Lesina how she really felt about Mike. The camera picked up Aaron, who muttered something under his breath; the caption read, "Just be f****ing honest." Lesina said, "I didn't feel safe with my emotions." There's a golden rule in broadcasting: never allow a moment's silence. It's a stupid rule. The producers of The Bachelorette left a long silence after Lesina spoke, and it was harrowing.
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The longest silence of all came when Lesina and Aaron were brought together to talk about what went wrong. "It crushed me," said Aaron. He looked really crushed. "No one wanted me to leave with someone more than I did," said Lesina, who collapsed into tears. There was no cutaway. There was no filling the silence. There was just grief, and misery.
"We wish her all the best," said Art, and the show ended with applause from the studio audience. The applause didn't last very long. It fell away, and everyone just stood there, quietly, alone with their thoughts, uncertain and afraid, in a kind of self-isolation of confusion and doubt. Great show. Great art. Farewell, The Bachelorette.