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Bachelor in Paradise makes itself the victim in a self-aggrandizing infomercial

Bachelor in Paradise makes itself the victim in a self-aggrandizing infomercial
Chris Harrison, host of Bachelor in Paradise season 4 (Photo by Bob D'Amico/ABC)

The Bachelor franchise excels at overpromising and under-deliving, and that was certainly the case with the two-night Bachelor in Paradise premiere, a nauseating display of the show turning itself into a victim while failing to add any insight at all to the allegations of misconduct that caused production to shut down.

Why  that those four hours would reveal something we already knew, you were disappointed. Even if you trust the investigation that Warner Bros. conducted, there’s still a big gap: Why was what happened between DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios so disturbing that it caused two separate people to file formal complaints?

Instead of addressing that, Bachelor in Paradise found every opportunity to build itself up.

The show also demonstrated that it’s absolutely unequipped to handle anything of substance, from race to consent, and also thinks so poorly of its viewers that it expects them to trust Chris Harrison as a neutral arbiter of truth—a man who looked into a camera and said “no cast, no crew in sight.” While being filmed.

Chris Harrison did climb atop Disingenuous Mountain in search of sympathy. “It was brutal, it was really rough,” he said, “easily the most emotional time that we’ve ever been through as far as a show.” He referred to “the shutdown, the scandal, the accusations we’ve all endured”—meaning himself, and the cast, and the crew.

Is making sure someone didn’t sexually assaulted really that inconvenient and devastating? Isn’t a little hardship worth finding out that the cast you claim to love so much was actually okay, and that nothing inappropriate or illegal took place?

That’s the kind of content we got from Bachelor in Paradise instead of transparency—plus the cast circling the wagons around the crew, blaming the media, while ABC ultimately refused to actually show us anything or really explain anything more than we already knew.

No new footage, no nothing

Monday’s two-hour premiere did include Corinne and DeMario, but did not add any information.

It did, however, set DeMario up for further judgment. He was introduced by Raven saying, “DeMario is a grade-A, cheater, douchebag asshole. As of right now.” She was, of course, referring to the impression that she and other viewers have of him he was set up to be a bad guy on The Bachelorette.

The editing wasn’t DeMario’s friend, either, and I’m not just talking about his damn whistle. He introduced himself on Bachelor in Paradise by saying, “I’m here for DeMario to try to find his next Mrs. Jackson.” Cut immediately to Corinne walking in with a glass of champagne in both hands.

There was also some foreshadowing with things she said: “This is going to be really different than my last season … because now I’m in charge.”

There was some flirting—”Are you getting engaged to DeMario?” someone asked Corinne while he was literally holding her in his arms, and she said “that is unknown at the moment”)—but footage of them pretty quickly moved to them getting into a pool behind Alex.

Alex was filming an interview, and told the camera, “They are having a one-on-one Top Gun moment in the pool.” As he said that, a camera crew was visible in the background filming Corinne and DeMario. (At one point there was a shot of that crew, plus the crew filming Alex, meaning there was a third camera filming the other two cameras—and this was before anything questionable occurred. Is that usual practice, filming other crews that are filming?)

The moment was over so fast that someone who did not know anything going into this episode would have had no idea that was the start to the interaction that caused concern.

After that, there was a lot of normal Bachelor in Paradise footage, which bored me and surprised me only with how terrible and low-rent it looks (The Bachelor and Bachelorette have their problems, but always have extremely high production values).

The episode’s first hint that something was wrong—I mean, besides all of the endless teasing that something was going to happen—was a producer pulling DeMario away: “I hate to do this, but I need him. I gotta talk to him in private.”

Cut to ominous shots of empty spaces and a classic Bachelor cliffhanger.

When you can make your audience wait for two hours to see if someone was sexually assaulted or not, why not wait until the next evening’s episode to resolve it?

Mr. Harrison leads the class in telling him what he wants to hear

Instead, however,Tuesday’s episode started with Carly and Evan’s wedding, a clever way of establishing goodwill with viewers, an illustration that the show is only about finding true love, not a drunken, drama-producing mess that just last year brought Chad back to, as E! News put it, “get belligerently drunk, threaten violence, and offend every cast member, especially Sarah, calling her a ‘one armed bitch.'”

While we saw only a brief moment of Corinne and DeMario’s interaction, and saw only teases of the production being shut down, Bachelor in Paradise did finally spend about 15 minutes addressing it, by assembling the cast in front of Chris Harrison.

That’s where:

  • producers used their cast to insist that the producers don’t use the cast.
  • there was no talk of an alcohol limit, nor any hint of the cast fighting back against the alcohol limit, which the show’s executive producer told me about.
  • every cast member—who’d already decided to return—said on camera that they wanted to return.
  • Chris Harrison asked, “Did you honestly ever think this was going to happen?” not referring to allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • we learned some of the cast members, including Taylor, don’t drink, which is apparently all the evidence that we needed that alcohol isn’t used as a tool. Actual consumption of alcohol wasn’t addressed, nor did they discuss whether or not those who do drink do so excessively.
  • Chris Harrison told the people who were parroting everything he was saying, “you guys aren’t mindless robots.”
  • the cast analyzed Corinne’s statement that she was “a victim” in order to argue that she wasn’t a victim.
  • everyone repeatedly blamed the media. For example: “There was a lot of slut-shaming that went on in the press,” Chris Harrison said.
  • Chris Harrison asked “Do you think race played a part in this?” There was silence, which would have been a more powerful answer than the ones that followed. An attempt to acknowledge the stereotype of black men being sexual aggressors was all tangled up in Raven’s rambling about interracial relationships, and did nothing but prove how much everyone associated with this show fails to understand its contents.
  • The music swelled and the show was done with anything of substance.

The discussion about consent that we were promised was not a discussion, but a high school class parroting what the teacher wanted them to say.

What was a “tone deaf and dangerous” attempt at a discussion of sexual assault ended with Chris Harrison saying: “But for while you’re here, please keep consent issues in mind—and actually, that goes for forever, but, you know, it’s definitely it should be something we all talk about and something we all think about.”

That sentence is awkward, bumbling, maddening, juvenile, and insufficient, and just like Bachelor in Paradise’s attempt to deal with what happened.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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