It was a busy night Tuesday on prime-time broadcast reality television: America’s Got Talent aired its final performance episode, Bring the Funny concluded its first season, and Bachelor in Paradise ended with a three-hour finale that also included the reveal of The Bachelor season 24’s star.
Peter Weber was selected as the next star of The Bachelor, but you’d know that from reading Reality Steve (the Bachelor in Paradise reunion taped in late August), from seeing Peter being filmed in public, or just from knowing that ABC is always going to choose the bland white guy, even though they had a strong contender for the first black Bachelor in Mike Johnson.
Once ABC started acknowledging problems with its franchise’s diversity, they said that, since the show is an ongoing soap opera, to cast a lead of color would have to come later, once they’d first increased the diversity of the Bachelor and Bachelorette casts.
Three years ago, then-ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said, “we need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning, because part of what ends up happening as we go along is there just aren’t as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next bachelor or bachelorette. So that is something we really want to put some effort and energy towards.”
I think they’ve done a much better job there, and were presented with a perfect opportunity in Mike Johnson, who’s a veteran and, in ABC’s words, “has a lot of swag but is a romantic at heart.”
But they went with Peter, who’s a pretty prototypical Bachelor and certainly fits the mold for a franchise worried about its racist viewers.
Besides all the other drama on the finale and reunion, there was an unnecessary gender reveal: It’s wonderful Carly and Evan are having another baby, but why not just announce that? Why do we need to know what the baby’s genitals look like, except to start treating that baby differently before it’s even born?
Bachelor in Paradise did break with gender norms and shatter its own low, low ceiling by featuring a same-sex relationship this season, and during the finale, Demi proposed to Kristian, who said yes. And then during the reunion, Kristian proposed to Demi. They both very much want to marry each other, and that’s terrific.
Reality Steve and I talked about this on his podcast, but while I give ABC and the franchise some credit for having a same-sex couple, that they had to basically bring in someone from outside the franchise illustrates how choreographed all of the relationships are—and how one-note the casting is. (Ignoring, for a moment, the fact that she already had a relationship with someone, Demi’s only options in Paradise, as a bisexual woman, were straight men, since there were no bisexual or lesbian women.)
Again: It’s a step forward, but I’m not going to give them credit for landing on the moon when all they’ve done is jump on a trampoline. Plus, other shows have done so much more with representation for same-sex couples—stretching back into the 1990s Real World. It’s 2019.
The finales of America’s Got Talent and Bring the Funny
Simon Cowell said, “You have ended, with that performance, the best final I have ever sat on in my life. And that was your best performance by a clear mile.” Howie Mandel echoed that: “This has been the most emotional, inspirational, wonderful talent-filled final that I have ever been part of. What a finale!”
I’ll take their word for it. For some reason, I did not watch much of AGT this summer, though it’s usually a summer staple in my house. I think I grew tired of how over-produced it is, and most of the time I was basically fast-forwarding to non-singing performances.
But of what I did see, Terry Crews was a great addition as host, and Gabrielle Union did well on the judging panel. Julianne Hough did what she does when she judges, and fit in well with a panel full of enthusiasm for most everything.
AGT’s winner will be revealed tonight. After its contestants had their final performances, Bring the Funny aired its finale, and the sketch comedy troupe The Valleyfolk won the $250,000 prize, beating stand-up comedian Tacarra Williams.
The Valleyfolk had one of my favorite performances of the season:
“Your husband is dead”—I lose it every time.
The other three finalists were stand-up Ali Siddiq; the musical comedy group Lewberger; and the duo known as The Chris & Paul Show, who were by far my favorites in the competition, because their acts were so unexpected and consistently hilarious, especially this one:
Last week’s finals, though, had the weakest performance of the season for all five finalists. And the funny wasn’t exactly brought to every episode this season. I think that demonstrates how challenging comedy can be—especially when our expectations are so high from a show that calls itself Bring the Funny.
While Amanda Seales was a terrific host, and the judges could be playful, their actual judging was disappointing, especially during the duel—I mean, “comedy clash”—rounds, because I never really understood why they were choosing one act over the other.
It was nice to have a showcase for comedy back on prime-time TV, though. During the finale, Jeff Ross did a quick roast of the three judges, and ended by saying, “I only roast the ones I love, and I love what this show is doing for comics.” For that reason alone, I hope it gets a second season.