Auckland is in lockdown and many may be in the need of some television distractions. Enter The Bachelor.
It's been four years since we last had our Bachelor fix, and this could very well be a disadvantage for the show, only because we have the female-led format to directly compare it to. Are we sick yet of telling ourselves authentic love exists within the produced confines of a reality show? I'm not entirely sure if I am.
When The Bachelor began on TVNZ 2 on Tuesday, it was just one night since we wrapped up The Bachelorette. I'm speaking for myself here, but I needed a break from a dating show.
Instead, TVNZ placed the two formats back to back, so we have double the drama and double Art Green's charismatic hosting duties. I brushed any thoughts of fatigue aside to give it a chance, because I was looking forward to seeing what a version of The Bachelor NZ in 2021 looks like.
I had forgotten what it was like to watch The Bachelor, and the memories of seasons past came rushing back. Remember Jordan Mauger, the one who chose Fleur Verhoeven only to break things off shortly after the media interviews finished? Traumatic. Remember when the contestants started can-I-steal-you-for-a-second-gate? Chaotic.
Somehow, swapping to the Bachelor format dialled up the cringe gauge approximately 10 notches. Immediately when the girls entered the mansion I felt transported back to my days at an all-girls high school - in both situations I felt very intimidated by everyone.
The competition seems all the more fierce when there are 18 women competing for the attention of one man. I think in the past four years we've had the space on New Zealand screens to reckon with that format, and with the international version of The Bachelorette taking off, it made the most sense to give it a go here.
As viewers, we now don't need or expect catfights and power imbalances from our reality shows anymore, and that is where this season in 2021 has an opportunity to set a new standard.
Moses Mackay brings star power and an infectious level of goofiness to the format, only for none of the contestants to recognise him at all until he explained he was a famous singer from Sol3 Mio.
The problem with having a celebrity on the show is that there could be a sizable gap between how entertaining the Bachelor is, and how good the contestants are on screen. Mackay is hilarious whenever he is on camera, navigating reality TV stardom with a "just winging it" attitude. The girls provide their own versions of comedic relief too - pineapple anyone?
During the first two episodes, it was impossible to figure out what he wanted. He dished out roses to most of the brunettes in the first, and held onto the roses for dear life in the second episode, despite seeming to have a nice time with Shivani on the first date (or "hang out" as he put it.)
The group of contestants are an eclectic mix of women, likely thanks to casting directors being able to double-dip from a pool of women who applied to be on The Bachelorette. It's also very refreshing seeing a Bachelor cast that reflects what New Zealand actually looks like. It's a joy to see Mackay's Samoan heritage celebrated, and the ladies seem eager to engage. But I'm sorry Chanel, loving excel spreadsheets isn't the personality trait you think it is, but props to her for being so upfront about her Microsoft Office software of choice. I'm more of a Word girl.
If you decide to tune into The Bachelor next week, I recommend going into the show with an open mind. Don't expect a carbon copy of what we have seen from the Bachelorette, no matter how accustomed you became to Art Green's reassuring comments about how tough being on the show is. Art, you ended up finding love, so sit this one out and validate people's feelings when necessary.
Reality shows have a different role for us during a pandemic. Depending on what alert level we find ourselves in, they can be comforting or confronting. For the target demographic of single women, it gives them the thrill of being a bystander to the dating world chaos without having a hand in the disastrous experiences themselves. It can be an authentic slice of what it's like to date in New Zealand, or a competition to see who can most loudly compete for the Bachelor or the Bachelorette's affection.
I am under the impression so far reality television may not be the right avenue to find love for Mackay. There's a difference between the people who sign up for reality shows and the type of people who can be as down to earth as he needs them to be. It's still a competition, and I'm sure as it goes forward there will be high emotional stakes.
Whether it will pass the threshold between perfectly watchable escapism and high-stakes appointment viewing will remain to be seen. I just hope for Moses' sake the experience is worthwhile.
• The Bachelor New Zealand airs at 7.30pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on TVNZ 2, and tune in to hear Sol3 Mio weekday mornings on Flava's breakfast show.
Can't get enough of The Bachelorette NZ on TVNZ 2?
Catch up with ZM's Carwen Jones and Celia Whitley as they break it all down in the official podcast, Can I Steal You For A Second? After each episode airs, join the girls as they do a recap and dissect what's going on. They're the binge-watching friends you never knew you needed.