Ok. Onto bigger and better news: I got to be in the Bachelor in Paradise studio audience this weekend.
Yes, that means exactly what you think it means.
Let me back up: on Thursday of last week I got a text from my friend Shannon, who had seen a post from a friend on Facebook, saying something like, “We need people in the audience for a Bachelor in Paradise special, email this person if you wanna go!” I didn’t even finish reading Shannon’s email, I just IMMEDIATELY reached out to the email address and was like, “I WANT TO GO GET ME THERE.” Carolyn was out of town for the weekend and could NOT join me, so I was flying solo. I signed (what I’m sure was) an iron clad Non Disclosure Agreement (TLDR), so I won’t be giving anything away, but just stay with me, here. So we get to this holding room where we sign all the papers and they give us some Subway sandwiches. Then they start calling us by group to go into the studio. (As in: group that you got tickets through – ABC, Next Entertainment, etc) I knew that I wasn’t in a big group (obviously) and would be called at the end, which meant a crappy seat in the back and I could NOT HANDLE that, so when they said “Disney Group” and called everyone’s name in the group, I just stood up and walked over to the group of people. Completely bluffing, pretending I was a part of that group. I knew they wouldn’t be checking names once we were in the door. So I started talking to two girls and when we got into the studio and the coordinator asked “How many in your group?” still bluffing, I answered, “Three.” And when they showed us to our seats (which were great) I turned to the girls and said “Ok, sorry, I was totally lying, I am NOT a part of this group, I forced myself into it and I’m sorry.” They laughed and agreed that I’d made the right choice. So then a producer comes over and says “Ok, I’m gonna need you guys to spread out and each sit on two chairs, so we can make it look like this row is full. After the cast gets offstage you’ll slide over because THEY’RE GOING TO COME SIT OVER HERE.” Yes, you read that right: I was sitting next to the cast. For literally HOURS. Imagine a 14 year old at a Justin Bieber concert because THAT WAS ME, for six hours straight. NO. CHILL. Other memorable moments include but are not limited to: the SIX times I yelled “WE LOVE YOU CHRIS HARRISON!” during the silences. He finally said “I love you too.” And now I think we’re dating. I will GLADLY ghost write all of his future romance novels.
So the gist of it is: a) it was the best day of my life b) I was in the same room as Chris Harrison and was so close that I could have thrown a Frisbee and hit him in the face and c) I will be watching the BIP after show, COMBING THE SCREEN FOR MY FACE like a kid who was featured on the news in the ensemble of a homecoming pep rally dance. As they say in Hamilton “If I could see half of my hair, that would be enough.” (Totally kidding. They don’t say that first part in Hamilton. But you get it.) So during the second and third week of BIP, there will be an after show with a studio audience –THAT was the thing I was in and seriously, even my own wedding day won’t compare to that day.
So Carolyn and I still don't have a TV. I have watched highlights of last night. It looks like it kind of played out the way I said it would play out, and without further ado, I now present guest host, Claudia Crook's thoughts:
(Actually let me give a very brief preface and say that she and I were talking last night about reality TV (or "Unscripted TV," as we say) and I was kind of explaining why I think things went down the way they did and how they ended up going down the way that they did... Which ended up totally ruining the show for a one Claudia Crook. And for that I am deeply apologetic. No one should be ruined on this show. Everyone should believe in TV Magic and True Love!)
CLAUDIA:Ok, so honestly, our brief conversation about the possibilities of how the ending of the show was manipulated by the producers has completely changed my outlook on the whole thing.
I’ve seen UnReal. I know the production process is manipulative. But the show became enjoyable for me to watch with the presumption that the contestants were willing and conscious participators; that they knew it was a game and how the game was played and were co-conspirators in a way. We the audience were being duped, but to a certain degree the contestants were in on the joke, or at least the lead was. This kind of lead/franchise relationship is exemplified to me in the pep talks with Chris Harrison, the strategy meetings of sorts. I also knew the show that we saw was manipulated in editing – picking and choosing the best stories based on the footage available (exhibit A, the ridiculous teasers that made it looks like a) Kenny and lee got in a fight and b) Peter made Rachel cry back before hometowns). But I guess I had thought the action actually unfolded relatively organically, with the knowledge that the casting was made for specific reasons and the dates are grueling and unusual and the isolation process is stressful. What I may have seen tonight, though, is depressing and disturbing in that, if what Grace has suggested is correct, even Rachel is a pawn of the system. And I also had fun imagining the show as a kind of modern match-making process. Even though it’s not really what the brand of the show advertises and sells, which is the fairytale romance that I assumed the less critical consumers of the show just buy into wholeheartedly, I had suspected and really saw in Rachel’s use of the show and the “process/journey” that the show could be much more practical – just like the Indian community using biodata and their parents and aunts and uncles expertise to find a mate for them and then quickly agreeing to it re: Meet the Patels, why not use the whole force of a highly trained ABC production team to sort through thousands of applications of men who want to date you and then have a bunch of really elaborate dates and also stressful situations to find someone you work well with and then just go with that? Maybe not romantic in the traditional sense, but a hell of a lot of fun, and practical! I thought that was the decision Rachel was going to make with Bryan vs Peter.
To say that I feel Red Wedding level betrayed by the finale of the 13th season of The Bachelorette would be a fair comparison.
Here’s what I thought I saw: 1. A great example of the things I loved about this show and the possibilities of reality television, which is real human emotion. Goaded, perhaps, but those eyes are puffy and those noses are snotty and those looks of devastation are genuine and in the moment. The full flex of those 43 facial muscles, that’s what’s gripping about this show. I saw it in Peter and Rachel’s conversation during their last date and I saw it when they met again in the after the final rose segment. 2. Rachel make a decision that is uncommon but perhaps wise – to choose a partner who is perhaps less magnetic at the get-go but has more concrete qualities that you know you can depend on for life; the use of this show as a perhaps antiquated but maybe more mature match-making process that focuses on the actual things that make a long-term relationship work and put more faith in building love and marriage with someone who wants to be there with you instead of focusing on an initial passion/magnetism that almost undoubtedly will fade.
However, both of those sweet tastes of voyeurism turn sour when I think of producers calculating 1) how their image would be hurt if the show came down to black vs white and somehow manipulating Rachel’s decisions so that that wouldn’t happen (though how naïve of them to think that conversation wouldn’t be happening regardless of how it happened – we just already had that conversation; what arrogance/ignorance to think they could skirt around it, particularly considering how they brought a real live racist on the show and then played him off like a normal mid-season villain), and 2) how much better the ratings would be if Peter didn’t win and then whispering into Rachel and Peter’s ears things that would make them break up even though they probably had the best change at an actual relationship, making EVEN RACHEL believe that she made the decision herself! that’s what I saw in the after the final rose segments – she seemed very happy with Bryan, but also the relationship with Peter is still fraught with feelings.
In terms of seeing emotions on screen, it suddenly feels much more exploitative and gross to be watching it go down with that level of manipulation on the table; if the lead is also being handled with so little respect just so the audience can see that kind of lasting effects of psychological trauma play out on television, all for money and ratings, the Roman Colosseum is hardly an inferior ethical comparison. I mean, have you ever had to confront an ex with whom you had a messy break up? Remember how shitty that was and how you lie awake thinking about it, whether you said the right thing, how much you hurt someone/were hurt? Now think about having that broadcast on live national television after having to watch it happen again. And think about the people who put you in that situation for a paycheck. And having to live with putting yourself in that situation for a paycheck! What torture!
And the GOT parallels come in the trickery of it all. The red wedding disappointment is like…I thought Rachel was better; I thought I was better! I saw myself in Rachel and saw Rachel making logical decisions and saying things about relationships that I’ve said about relationships. What I thought I saw was two smart people (Rachel and Peter) getting “around” the show in a sense, and I believed in it. I believed these two could have a real lasting thing in spite of the show, almost in the blatant defiance of the show. OR, I thought I was going to see Rachel make the hard but wise decision to go with the one who wants you, and present the relationship like the practical choice it was. But she didn’t present it that way – instead of , “you have the things I want, you’re there for me where others weren’t, you sold me with your confidence” she came out with the “you’re my best friend, you’re my forever, I can’t imagine my life without you” which we saw absolutely none of on the show. It’s possible it was there, but they chose not to show it. So with the editing of this season, like the Lannisters closing the festival hall doors at the Twins, the producers just pulled the rug out from under us and were like, “Nope, we win, we always win, we’re gonna get our proposal from the guy that we purposefully made out to seem like a used car salesman AND spin it like he was the favorite all along, you think you’re smart but you’re not, and neither is this girl who you loved all season because we can manipulate her too and get our manufactured and completely fictional ‘fairytale’ ending exactly on our terms.” It’s like, I’ve been duped. And that interpretation is still assuming that Rachel was somehow important – it becomes even more disturbing to think that at some point a production meeting happened when someone pitched Peter as the next Bachelor and then they stopped paying attention to Rachel and her process at all and then just started grooming Peter for the next Bachelor story to make them more millions of dollars (and put this whole nasty race issue behind them for good, conveniently!).
So yeah. That darker interpretation has totally colored all of my other more fun and exciting thoughts that I had during and immediately after the show. Just the money in all of it…I don’t know if I’m going to watch anymore! Combined with the way they’ve marketed the situation with Corinne and DeMario and the way they handled the race issue by treating it so disrespectfully (by a) disrespecting Rachel by bringing Lee, a racist, onto the show as a contestant, b) making light of real racial tensions by playing the lee and Kenny rivalry as a typical mid season fight, and c) clearly having the arrogance to think that as long as the final two contestants weren’t one black and one white that the whole race issue would suddenly not be important, and then taking whatever steps were necessary to make sure that Rachel didn’t have black man standing up there as the final two), I just don’t think I’ll find watching the show fun anymore.
I SWEAR NONE OF THAT WAS INTENTIONAL. Everyone should believe in TV love all the time!! This is a strange and dark turn to end the season on, but somehow wildly appropriate. We all know Bryan and Rachel aren't going to last. Maybe I'm also feeling resentful because this season was so dull, in the sense that we knew it was going to come down to Peter and Bryan this whole time, and then three episodes ago we realized that Peter wasn't gonna propose... I do hope against hope that Peter is the next Bachelor, and since he's such a level headed dude, they're gonna get some REAL colorful girls on that season. Oh, and I'll have a TV by then.
Also I should remark that "I walked past your eyelashes for two days" is the new "I WROTE YOU EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR" was the best thing I saw on Twitter last night.
Until next year, IF YOU'RE A BIRD I'M A BIRD.