Remember Next? It was one of MTV's mid '00s dating shows. Contestants gathered in an RV to prepare for a blind date with one usually scruffy bachelor. Then, they would each go on a date with the bachelor until they asked for the "next" contestant by saying, "Next!" It was a pre-Tinder dating show that looked a lot like Tinder. Contestants came armed with three wacky facts that chyroned across the screen as they exited the RV. A sample fact: In one episode, Michelle, 24, revealed that she "poops five times a day."
Next hopped off the air in 2008. Ten years later, we have The Proposal, ABC's spiffy Bachelor-inspired television show. Produced by Bachelor creators Mike Fleiss and Robert Mills, the show has been touted as Bachelor fast food. Basically, what happens in ten weeks on The Bachelor happens in one episode of The Proposal. There's even a former Bachelor involved! Jesse Palmer, the season 5 lead, comes out of retirement to play emcee. Despite its credentials, the show actually functions a lot more like Next, just with fewer RVs.
The format takes after a beauty pageant. The Bachelor, in this case, is the only judge. He watches from behind a wall while a series of women introduce themselves. In episode one, this man is Mike, a police officer and an amputee. The women strut out in their semi-finest while an announcer reads a couple of wacky facts. There are no poop facts in The Proposal, but it still gets weird!
"She loves the beach, and she hates parades," the announcer says of a brunette named Morgan. (Morgan is also, apparently, the Jennifer Aniston of Long Island.)
Of another woman, the announcer reads, "When she isn't writing or speaking, she's tending to her massive collection of dolls."
And another: "She's never had a boyfriend, and her grandfather offered to pay for her to have her eggs frozen." I think that's the show's way of being cheeky.
One woman wears roller skates down the stairs. Another, an Olympic weightlifter, declares a love for strong women. ("If I hear one more time that women should not have muscles..." she says.) And they're all doing this without having seen Mike, ever. Mike, in his introductory package, looks like a mummified cloud. Either some poor editor painstakingly erased Mike from the establishing shots, or some poor editor plopped his Photoshopped spectral form into some random footage.
Oblivious to just about everything about their suitor, the women proceed to enact a pageant, which is where things get hairy. Included in the show's logline is the fact that contestants will take the stage in a swimsuit, just like contestants in a beauty pageant. The Miss America pageant recently eliminated this portion of the contest to mixed reactions. The Miss America Organization cited a shift from "pageant" to "competition" as the reason behind the decision. The Proposal is making no such shift; instead, it's careening gleefully into a Black Mirror-esque world where men shop for women the same way they might shop for a suit.
When the women do wear their suits, Mike can see them, but they still can't see Mike. He emerges only at the very end, when he's whittled his choices down to just two women, a bashful girl named Jessica, and a consistently weepy girl named Monica. Mike goes with Monica, who has a commonality with Mike in that she also survived a traumatic car accident. He gets on one knee and, amazingly, asks for her hand in marriage. (Don't worry, he sort of meets her mom first.) Mike and Monica, per Robert Mills, are still together.
Like FOX's Love Connection, The Proposal is channel-flipping fodder, the type of show you pop into only until you move onto another TV option. Next!