“Tonight, everything changes,” begins host Osher Günsberg in a voice-over, starting the first episode of The Bachelors. With a sultry backing track and cinematic panning shots of the Gold Coast, it’s plain to see that this season is a far cry from the twinkling lights of The Bachelor’s previous mansions.
For the 10th season of The Bachelor Australia, things are getting a shake-up. A much-needed shake-up, in fact, as 2021’s seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette marked the franchise’s lowest ratings of all time. In 2022, there were no seasons at all.
“There will be dates. There will be roses… Who knows where this may land? It's gonna look and feel very, very different this season,” Günsberg continues. With a whopping three bachelors (who can only be described as “stale, male and pale”), the format for this season is breaking all prior rules.
I don't want to watch the Bachelors because it's another slice of white bread basicness but also god I love the drama of reality dating shows. #TheBachelorsAU— Daryl (@xwickedmindx) January 9, 2023
With Jed McIntosh, a Gen Z drummer bad boy from the country; Felix Von Hofe, a former pro basketballer; and Thomas Malucelli, an Italian health and wellness guru as this year’s bachelors, it’s clear that Channel 10 is trying to spice up the decade-old show that was quickly haemorrhaging fans.
The men share a ‘Bach Pad’ penthouse together, while the women contestants are in a slick new $14.5 million four-bedroom mansion. Both properties have a telescope, giving clear access to the opposing premises.
A departure from the traditional arrivals that see women strutting from car to bachelor, this season begins with dozens of ‘mini blind dates’ set up by the women hoping to catch the attention of their matched bachelor. Each of the men is given 10 roses, and the successful women who accept the roses then enter the Instagrammable mansion.
Before the hullabaloo even begins, Günsberg wheels out three engagement rings. The men chuckle awkwardly, one lets out a “wow”. It’s already been revealed that there will be two proposals by the end of the season, an exhibition by the show that proves that the roots of this romance television series haven’t strayed too far.
But on the other hand, the producers want you to know that this season is very, very different. “I feel like this season is gonna be fresh, it's gonna be sexy, it’s gonna excite a lot of people,” one contestant says. Off camera, a producer remarks that she should do the show’s PR.
Showing the interactions between contestants and the show’s producers is a new touch. We see contestants and Bachelors seeking advice, receiving counselling, chatting with crew, and even looking directly down the barrel of the camera.
The show isn’t taking itself as seriously as it has done in the past. It laughs at itself, it’s cheeky and it’s unafraid of veering into sexy territory. It’s the first year Australia has loosened up its “sex rules” to this degree, where contestants “have the option” of getting it on.
In the first episode, we see an array of steamy first dates. Von Hofe goes on a body painting date that ends in a close-up of his boner and an intense make-out sesh in barely-clad clothing. Malucelli is treated to a life drawing class that sees his date stripping down to her underwear, and McIntosh partakes in a tantric yoga class with his suitor.
The tables have turned; The Bachelor wants you to know that women have more power in this season. “These women have a choice. There are three bachelors, after all. But with more choice comes more of a voice,” says Günsberg, somewhat cryptically.
But should this be applauded? Are women really in the driver's seat, and if they are, what type of woman is handed the keys? “I’m hoping the bachelor looks outside the box. I'm hoping we're not going for the typical blonde. We're not doing it anymore. We're bored. So, we're gonna spice things up,” 26-year-old contestant Krystal, a Black women from Essex, says.
Krystal: “we’re doing things differently”— mel 🕊 (@melodamn) January 9, 2023
The Bachelors: *another white man*
With 30-odd women starting out inside the Bachelor mansion, it’s dizzying to see that the number of women of colour can be counted on one hand.
No matter how many curveballs are thrown this season’s way (one of the contestants is in an open relationship), the cringe factor of The Bachelor hasn’t shifted at all.
Cheesy lines, overly-earnest deliveries and a habit for theatrics are what makes The Bachelor, The Bachelorette (and now, The Bachelors). At times, it’s hard to sit through. There are too-long kisses, awkward conversations and dramatic soundtracks.
But I won’t lie. Towards the end of the first episode, I found myself getting invested in these plot lines. When Malucelli and his date teared up, I teared up. When McIntosh used the ‘L’ word and said, “I would rather be on thin ice with her, than on solid ground with anyone else,” I bought into it.
The cringe is still there, but perhaps this season is so ridiculous that it actually works.