Fewer things are more soothing than pouring myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, putting on a face mask, and settling in with reality television. As an avowed fan of the Bachelor franchise, I especially love dating and proposal adjacent reality shows, like Dating Naked and Flavor of Love. Something about seeing people in the throes of love and lust and drama satisfies my very real need for controlled chaos. But even though watching Arie Luyendyk dump Becca Kufrin infuriated an entire nation, I refused to give up on this franchise. “There’s no way that a reality dating show could be any sleazier than this,” I thought, as Kufrin wiped away her tears. But the creators of The Bachelor have a new show coming to ABC, and it gives that breakup a run for its money in terms of well, sleaziness.
The show, called The Proposal, has a premise described as a “soulmate pageant,” host (and Bachelor alum) Jesse Palmer tells Entertainment Tonight. The Proposal is created by Mike Fleiss, who also created the Bachelor, and runs a hype machine Twitter account. Essentially, the male and female contestants will find love through a series of pageant segments, including a talent show, a romantic Q&A, and regrettably, a swimwear round. It’s as if Miss Congeniality met Titanic — right down to that impending feeling of disaster.
The trailer for the show is equally unpromising. A conventionally attractive fellow insists he’s “here for the right reasons” — while shirtless, wearing flip-flops and board shorts. Another says she’s looking for “Mister Rogers and Christian Grey.” The show’s hour-long format doesn’t allow us to get to know any of the contestants, beyond them playing an acoustic guitar in a bikini. All of the pageant contestants are speaking to a mystery panel of judges, attempting to convince them (and us, and maybe themselves) why they should be picked to stay in the soulmate running. Apparently there are proposals at the end. It’s incredibly tawdry, and as someone who loves 90-Day Fiancé, my bar is pretty high.
I’m not sure why Fleiss thought this would be a good idea, other than throwing darts at a board and seeing what sticks. I’m also not sure why ABC green-lighted this show and gave it a primetime slot directly after The Bachelor. If they intend to position themselves as “authentic” and “above” some of the more ridiculous reality show concepts, they have failed spectacularly, at least at first glance. The Proposal seems to travel in the abyss of reality show concepts, with zero self-awareness about itself. At least on Dating Naked, the contestants are just as in on the joke as the rest of us. You can watch the trailer here on ET's site.