ABC has opted to go with a familiar (if blandly attractive) face for its 21st season of the hit reality dating series “The Bachelor,” announcing Monday night that Nick Viall would anchor the upcoming season with his — no kidding — fourth stint on the franchise.
While there are typically no winners or losers in love, when your pursuit of love consists primarily of a competitive reality show in which you directly vie for the heart of a single woman alongside dozens of other men while a production crew documents your every move, then there are absolutely winners and losers in love. And Viall is “The Bachelor” franchise’s most lovable/hate-able loser.
Viall, 35, a software sales executive, was runner-up in the 10th and 11th seasons of “The Bachelorette,” where he failed to woo Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristow, respectively. He’s embroiled in a (failed, one assumes) romance with Jen Saviano on “Bachelor in Paradise.” That’s the spinoff series where losers in love from the franchise seek to hook up with all the panicked energy of last call at a dive bar.
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Though ABC opting for a known quantity in Viall seems like an obvious choice, it raises some questions.
New network President Channing Dungey addressed criticisms repeatedly leveled at the franchise about its noted lack of diversity, particularly when it comes to any given season’s Bachelor or Bachelorette. Dungey, at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in August, said they wanted to increase the diversity of the pool of candidates, since so many Bachelors are selected from previous seasons.
While the selection of Viall suggests that it’s perhaps too soon for Dungey’s efforts to bear fruit, it does little to dispel the notion that the franchise has few qualms about rewarding bad behavior by its contestants.
One season of “The Bachelorette” was marred by the violent outbursts of contestant Chad Johnson, resulting in Johnson scoring an invite to “Bachelor in Paradise.” That fueled criticism that the franchise was willing to reward bad behavior in exchange for exposure.
So it’s difficult to overlook Viall’s most memorable televised moment that came not when his marriage proposals were denied twice, but in the aftermath of Season 10, when he publicly shamed a contestant for having sex with him, an act that earned him scorn for his classlessness but also three subsequent invitations to continue participating on “Bachelor” enterprises.
But that ability to be a little unlikable may be exactly what ABC is looking for after relatively bland seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” centered around Ben Higgins and JoJo Fletcher.
Making Viall the Bachelor offers ABC the opportunity to simultaneously shake up its formula a bit, by not simply defaulting to a finalist from a prior season, while also giving Bachelor Nation, its dedicated fan base, a Bachelor that most everyone already has feelings about, be they good or bad.
It could be just the shot in the arm that the long-running series needs. Or it could be a torturous slog, watching a man pursue televised love for the fourth time only to end up heartbroken and alone yet again.
One thing is for certain, however, and that is that ABC won’t rest until Nick Viall, for whatever reason, is happy.
Someone please marry this man.
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