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Love's Labours Lost
Gordon Pepper

Believe it or not, there was a theme going on in the reality shows on Monday. We had the couple of Ryan Sutter and Trista Rehn on Fear Factor, who hung out with the couple of Jenna and Ethan. A few weeks ago, we had the renewal of vows between Dean and Ashley as they won a million dollars - and last season, Fear Factor was at the wedding of the other million dollar couples - Jackson and Monica. After Fear Factor was the end of the Bachelorette 3, as Jen Schefft wound up saying "I don't" to everyone. While I was watching this, I came to a realization...

There have been more marriages and romance on Fear Factor than on any of the Bachelor series combined.

Think about this for a second. There have been 9 Bachelor series. Only two (Trista & Ryan and Byron Velvick & Mary Delgado) couples are still together. That's a terrible record to be hanging your hat on. In addition, the ratings have been sinking faster than Martha Stewart's prison soufflé.

There's a reason for this, of course. To say that the Bachelor series is a shell of it's former self is being incredibly kind. The Bachelor series evolved
from people actually looking for love to people desperate to be seen on television. The show has been focusing more on trying to get the viewer to watch because of the crazy people more than what the original intent of the show is - to watch someone try to select the person of their dreams. This past season, which should not be described as anything less than a farce, you had a woman who clearly was not over her breakup wade through 25 people that she had no chemistry with - including one person that the show spent a lot of time on, yet had no shot at the girl because he was gay.

Have the producers learned their lessons from this past season? Apparently not, because the next bachelor is Charlie O'Connell, who is related to actor Jerry O'Connell. This has to be their way to get the ratings (instead of actually getting someone who wants to find love) as Jerry is ALREADY SEEING SOMEONE. But then again, when you look at some of the people who have been the Bachelor (the tycoon-related Andrew Firestone, the limelight starved Bob Guiney, and the ex-giant and not close to being a starting quarterback Jesse Palmer), you have to realize that this selection is pretty much down the line with the other selections that they have made.

Is it time to kiss the Bachelor series good-bye?

No, but the show has to change with the times. For starters, the format has to change. You get more time on Survivor (39 days) together than the Bachelor (21 days). Big Brother keeps you together for over 3 months - there are the shows that get the relationships, and when you look at it, it makes sense. There's no reason why you couldn't keep the people longer, extend the episodes of the series (as you only have anywhere from 7 to 10 episodes - 13 episodes would not be a stretch) and tape the show closer to the airing time and not 6 months in advance - If you have a relationship show and then keep the people apart for 6 months afterwards, how in the world are you going to foster a relationship?

To get the audience, we need to care about the people. It worked with Trista, as we saw her backstory. One of my biggest complaints about the series is that the only time we get to know the suitors is when they are about to get their walking papers. The focus HAS to be on the relationship of the final 4 who will be around - not on the 21 looneys who won't. Don't make them all cookie cutter - show us why each person is special or unique and give us a reason to care about them. You used to be able to do that - you need to get back to it.

Finally, the show takes itself too seriously. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to turn the show into another Big Man on Campus, but I've seen on those shows that you don't learn as much as you think when you are guarded on a one on one date or at a party - and many of the Bachelors have accused their potential spouses of being too guarded. The best way to deal with this? Give them activities to get them off their guard. Who Wants To Marry My Dad may be silly summer fare, but by putting the women through the activities that they do, both you and the dad learn much more about the people than what you would ever learn in the Bachelor. Even Love Cruise (shudder) had the right idea with the wacky ice breakers - not only do the people learn more about each other, but you do too, which makes the show far more entertaining to watch.

The Bachelor, like it's rose, is starting to wilt a little, but if it gets some changes, then it can rebloom to how the petals used to be. The show will have at least one more chance in the spring, but if we keep getting the same old bouquet and if the audience rejects its advances, then ABC may not be offering the show it's own version of a rose - another primetime slot. That would be the biggest rejection of all.

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