ABC, Why Colton?

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
ABC, Warner Brothers Horizon, and the powers that be decided recently that Colton Underwood should be the next Bachelor, revealing the decision this morning on Good Morning America. Underwood isn't the fans' pick for Bachelor, and fans (at least the ones on Twitter) quickly made their opinions known. Underwood, a 26-year-old former tight end for the Oakland Raiders, would be a tiresome Bachelor. He's a weird pick — he's weepy, indecisive, and still very young to be out to get married. (He tweeted this morning that he's ready to "find a wife," sounding a bit like an excited pirate about to explore a new treasure trove.) Underwood is also the most predictable pick for Bachelor: he's weepy, indecisive, and a former pro football player. Underwood as Bachelor isn't necessarily a death knell for the franchise, but it is proof that The Bachelor isn't currently looking to swerve. Sorry, friends — the more things change, the more they stay the same. Representation for ABC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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Underwood resembles a few other Bachelor picks from the past. First, there's Nick Viall, 37, a Bachelor oddity in that he appeared on not one, not two, but three shows before taking on The Bachelor. Viall tried twice to win the heart of the Bachelorette (first, Andi Dorfman, then Kaitlyn Bristowe). He later appeared on Bachelor in Paradise as a ringer of sorts, an experienced Bachelorette veteran with a few tricks up his sleeve. His trick was this: He stayed on Paradise just long enough to get the public's attention. Then, he became the Bachelor. By the time he assumed the role, fans were eager to follow Viall's story. He was an underdog, having been dumped twice on national television, and he'd had at least two years in the spotlight to get really, really good at appearing composed on TV.
Underwood has a similar history. We met him in May on Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette, where he was already fame-adjacent, thanks to a publicized relationship with Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. He proceeded to reveal that he'd also dated Tia Booth, a former Bachelor contestant. Then, Kufrin dumped him on national television. Later, on Paradise, he struggled to form a connection with Booth. He's made it clear that he wants to find love; he just can't seem to get the recipe right. So, the natural conclusion is The Bachelor, where he'll be in charge of the ingredients — except not really. He's still a pawn in reality TV's game, just like Viall was. (Viall split from Vanessa Grimaldi, the woman who won his season, in August of last year.)
Unlike Viall, though, Underwood is young. He's 26, which isn't unheard of for the Bachelor, but it's still troubling. The Bachelor set the precedent for the franchise's general age. If Underwood is 26, his contestants will probably be younger than him — putting them in the 22-24 age range. Ben Higgins was 26 when he took on the Bachelor, which meant that the majority of his contestants were under 25. JoJo Fletcher, who went on to be the Bachelorette, was 24, as was Amanda Stanton, who has now become a franchise favorite. Two other franchise faves were the twins Emily and Haley Ferguson, who were 23. Youth doesn't necessarily ruin the franchise, but it certainly appears to hinder the success of the relationships: Higgins ended his relationship with Lauren Bushnell (25 at the time) after a year, and, aside from Fletcher (who is still engaged to Jordan Rogers) nary a woman from Higgins' season has found love within the franchise.
That said, Higgins' season is the most successful of any recent Bachelor iteration. His finale drew more than 9 million viewers, a number that neither Viall's nor Arie Luyendyk's seasons matched. Luyendyk's season was notoriously bad, raking in roughly 7 million viewers for the finale. There are a number of reasons why this happened — no one cared about Luyendyk, maybe, just maybe, people are losing faith in this franchise, and, oh yeah, cord-cutting — but some of it might have been due to Luyendyk's age. Luyendyk was 36 during filming, and he repeatedly told the camera that he was "boring." He liked to drink wine, he said, and he liked to stay home on weekends. He really did seem to want a wife, but he also wasn't going to pony up for it. This, at least, might be what ABC is thinking re: our new Bachelor, Underwood.
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The Bachelor, essentially, keeps trying to get the formula right, much like Underwood with his failed relationships. The trick is to find an imminently appealing Bachelor who also very much wants to find love. A party-in-the-front, business-in-the-back kind of man. Also known as Sean Lowe, the franchise's white whale. (In this franchise, it should be said, all the whales are white.)
Lowe was the perfect Bachelor: generally funny and desperately, urgently (annoyingly) serious when he needed to be. He's one of two successful Bachelors, the other being Jason Mesnick, who flip-flopped on his season winner and proposed to his runner-up. Lowe has two kids with his season winner, Catherine Giudici, and he's never found himself in Bachelor Nation controversy. He's as anodyne as they come, and his season was a success in every way: over 10 million viewers for the finale, and one happy couple.
Lowe also happened to be a "born-again" virgin, although he told The Daily Beast that he never described himself that way. He stopped having sex after college, pledging to have sex again once he was married. Underwood, on the other hand, is a virgin — just a man looking to save himself for marriage. Neither Lowe nor Underwood are all that abnormal, but the franchise delights in discussing things like virginity. Lowe was the "Virgin Bachelor" and now Underwood can be Virgin Bachelor 2.0.
Last year, when the franchise selected Luyendyk to be the Bachelor, the move looked like an effort to return to the franchise's heyday. After Luyendyk's failure of a season — though he will marry his winner in January, so congrats to him — the franchise is trying again, this time with a new strategy. It's going corn-fed. It's going all-American, down to the football career. When the climate calls for more and more risk, the franchise decided to stay the course, tunneling deeper into what it's known for best: young, pretty, white people toying at love.
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