Why I'm Giving Up The Bachelor For Season 21

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
I think it's fair to say that The Bachelor has put dedicated viewers through a lot over the last 14 years.

As far as fan bases go, I would guess that we are among the most committed: constantly returning for more, no matter what the franchise throws at us. We’ve stayed loyal to the charming Chris Harrison through all manner of questionable casting decisions; kept the faith when leading men offered blinding Neil Lane finger candy to infuriatingly undeserving contestants (I’m looking at you, Jake Pavelka); and jumped on board with the alarmingly sexualized premises of series extensions Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise. And honestly, how many “most dramatic rose ceremonies in Bachelor history” can we be expected to sustain excitement through?

With all that in mind, I’ve recently made a dramatic decision — certainly the most dramatic decision in my personal history with The Bachelor. For the first time since 2002, I will not be tuning into ABC when the show comes back on air for its 21st season in January. Over the last few years, I’ve overlooked other, arguably more significant problems with the show (namely the franchise’s oft-debated lack of diversity) and have been known to rally my fatigued friends to tune in for just one more season when they are ready to give up.

My own self-imposed hiatus, however, is thanks entirely to ABC’s decision to bring Nick Viall in as this year’s headliner. I’ve stuck it out through 20 seasons of Bachelor drama and 12 seasons of Bachelorette heartbreak because when the show gets it right, it gets it so right. During the inaugural season of The Bachelorette in 2003, showrunners had flawless raw material for a love story in Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter (they are widely considered to be the most successful couple in the franchise’s history). But producers also told that story beautifully.

In contrast, the drama-fraught seasons just feel like vehicles for getting us to the next perfect romance. I tolerated Juan Pablo’s general arrogance and pretty much everything Chad Johnson did on the most recent installment of The Bachelorette because the show has ultimately always found a way to restore my faith with a redemptive fairy-tale ending or a second shot at love for a deserving former cast-off.

But the revelation that Viall would lead season 21 at this summer’s Bachelor in Paradise after-show has me (and plenty of others) perplexed. Prior to that announcement, the word on the street was that fan favorite Luke Pell from JoJo Fletcher’s season had gotten the gig. Like most of the Bachelor-loving community, I was psyched about the prospect of a Pell-focused season. It later came out that he had, in fact, been offered the job — an offer which was then rescinded last-minute in favor of Viall. I am the opposite of psyched about that.

Let’s recap Viall's history with the franchise, shall we? He first appeared on Andi Dorfman’s season of The Bachelorette, at the end of which he infamously opened a Pandora’s box of slut-shaming on the woman he had so ardently claimed to love. During the 2014 “After the Final Rose” finale special, a second-place Vial shared with Dorfman (along with millions of us at home) his conviction that she should never have allowed the two of them to get physically intimate if she hadn’t really loved him. His Fantasy Suite bombshell read as offensive to Dorfman herself and judgmental to scores of female viewers — not to mention the fact that it described a double standard within the franchise.

Never in Bachelor history had a male headliner been called out so explicitly for having sex with multiple finalists. But here was Viall, using his and Dorfman's off-camera history to attack her character and set himself up as the victim.

With that disconcerting display behind us, producers made the (questionable, I’d say) decision to bring him back for Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season 11 in 2015. Viall was a late entrant — showing up after the rest of the guys had already emerged from the limos and declaring his love for Bristowe based largely on their Twitter exchanges. He played the role of the jealous dude who “isn’t here to make friends,” instead cultivating plenty of enemies among his fellow contestants and furthering his image as petty and immature. In the end, Viall was once again the first runner-up, after which he took plenty of opportunities to slam Bristowe and fiancé Shawn Booth in the press.

Never a quitter, the Wisconsin native came back for yet more drama on Bachelor in Paradise in 2016. The steamy beach spin-off could have been the perfect venue for the drama-loving Viall and while it seemed he had finally found romance with Jen Saviano, he didn't propose to her at the end of the season...so here we are.

Never in 'Bachelor' history had a male headliner been called out so explicitly for having sex with multiple finalists. But here was Viall, using his and Dorfman's off-camera history to attack her character and set himself up as the victim.

Early on, Viall's seemingly constant appearances on the show read as desperate for many of my fellow fans, but it seems that popular opinion has begun to shift as the season premiere approaches. People are anxious for an ending to his story — and to see if his Bachelorette history can be redeemed with one more shot. After years of controversy, optimistic viewers want to see him win over his haters.

But me? Not so much.

I cannot understand why ABC continues to feed Viall's narrative, which feels like a bad song on loop. Like anyone else who’s managed to stand by this show for over a decade, I’m romantic at heart and I genuinely always root for a good love story. Viall seems a bit more prickly and over-sensitive than previous Bachelor and Bachelorette successes — like most of us, he doesn’t love the idea of his S.O. dating other people and he can be a sore loser in the wake of a painful breakup. While these are valid behaviors for mere non-reality-TV-star mortals, they don’t work as well in the highly charged, highly publicized Bachelor environment.

Why is Viall so unwilling to admit that, perhaps, he falls into the larger group of people: those of us destined to begin our forever love stories at a bar, through a friend, or via a dating app?

Since it’s unfathomable to me that Viall hasn’t at least considered this possibility, it’s plausible that his so-called “perseverance” with the franchise is less indicative of his commitment to finding love — and more a reflection of his growing comfort with being in the spotlight. It’s time to draw the line when the show’s producers start supporting what feels increasingly like a publicity stunt.

If I was ever going to change my mind about tuning into this season, the insider info that’s been released to the press lately has been less than compelling: Reports that contestants have been dropping out because of Viall's alleged diva behavior makes me wonder if he learned anything from the other controversies he’s sparked. Chris Harrison also recently shared a spoiler that Viall experiences an emotional breakdown near the end of the show (a “full Mesnick,” for my fellow fans). It’s hard for me to believe that a super-veteran wouldn’t be prepared to handle himself better — with respect for the contestants and a more level head about choosing his soulmate. Thanks to these spoilers, I’m convinced that Viall's mission with season 21 is more about making “good” television than finally wrapping up his journey to find true love.

Given the opportunity, I’d be more than happy to help Viall find the woman of his dreams. I’m a great wingwoman and I’ve been known to ghostwrite a mean dating profile. My personal issues with the guy extend mainly to the way he treated Dorfman. I know that we all make mistakes.

Everyone should have a happy ending, Nick Viall included. If history is any indication, though, it’s clear that The Bachelor is not the ideal venue for him to find one. Over the years, Bachelor fan favorites are those personalities whose best selves seem to emerge over the course of the show. Viall's inconsistent, often hateful performances on multiple previous seasons haven’t landed him in that category.

That’s why I don’t want to stick around to watch Viall try (and potentially fail) to find love again. Why not give another great Bachelorette cast-off still waiting for their first second chance the spotlight?

My friends and I have perfected our Monday-night ritual over the last few years and I’m really going to miss our wine and take-out routine. Loyal follower that I am, though, I’ll be ready and waiting to come back to the franchise for future seasons, assuming better casting decisions come our way. After all, I’m a Bachelor fan — I always hope for the best.

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