By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published May 05, 2020 at 6:59 AM

I think I've found the key to watching "The Bachelor: Dawn of the Jeds." (I mean, other than "don't.") As it turns out, you just have to skip the first hour.

The second half, where the performers take the stage together, get judged by a celebrity panel and get mocked relentlessly by a wine-drunk me, almost resembles an amusing TV show. There's competitive energy, there's a point and, most important for "The Bachelor," there's people to either root for and wish to be launched into the sun. Ninety-one percent of the fun of "The Bachelor" is having an opinion about the players, either loving or hating what they do next – and that's hard science, not just a number I made up. (Editor's note: It's a number he just made up.) The music competition parts are the closest "Listen to Your Heart" has come to recreating that. 

You still have to chug through the first hour, though, which this week barely qualified as televised entertainment – and worst of all, Chris Harrison clearly knew it! How else to explain the first flailing 60 minutes of Monday night's new episode, when the show dragged out scenes of literal nothing (EVEN BY THIS SHOW'S USUAL STANDARDS!) and shamelessly manufactured drama in the hopes of making things interesting. (Spoiler: It didn't.) I was almost offended ... but then I remembered that I was watching a musical spin-off of "The Bachelor" inspired by the producers watching the trailer for "A Star is Born," starring a bunch of charisma-devoid dog food jingle writers, so I'd lost the right to be offended. 

So, at the mansion, Dark Universe Shawn Mendes brings the audience up to speed on how the remaining Jeds are doing, adding that, "I don't think anything's gonna split Savannah and Brandon apart." OOPS, SOMEBODY SAID THE MAGIC WORDS! I'm ready to bet all the money I own (that's right, a whole $37) that these two don't make it to the end credits. Then Savannah chimes in, talking about how Brandon is a steady rock for her. SERIOUSLY, SOMEBODY TAKE THIS BET! Any time somebody on this show says, "Things seem OK," the show immediately plots to destroy them. It's like the whole cast is made up of the horror movie characters who say, "There's nothing in here!" after checking out a dark room, only to be stabbed through the chest by a murder machete as soon as they dot the exclamation point in the sentence.

Indeed, in walks Harrison, desperate to make this show interesting. Even he knows these Jeds aren't compelling enough right now, so decides to force a few of them to go on dates outside of their current coupled arrangements. It's supposedly in honor of "strengthening" and "testing" relationships, but ain't nobody buying that, Harrison. You're trying to nuke these relationships from outer space for our entertainment, and the only thing you're testing is the audience's well-honed reality show BS detectors. Oh, you CONVENIENTLY happened to choose to send Julia on a date with her constant flirtation Brandon?! WHO COULD'VE SEEN THIS WILD TWIST COMING!? Somebody fetch me my fainting couch, because never have I been so taken aback.

So three couples go on dates, but two of them don't remotely matter. In fact, I don't even think they leave the mansion. Chris and Rudi go on a picnic on a hill basically a block away from the mansion – so close that they spend most of the date spying on what's going on back at the homestead – while Jamie and Dark Universe Shawn Mendes go on a "spa day" that looks suspiciously like they just put on some uncomfortable robes and sat in a different corner of the mansion. The two have one pleasant conversation while dressed like biblical movie extras and then just walk off – no shot of them getting massages, no sign of an actual spa, nothing. The show truly isn't even trying – and the cast matches that effort, no eventually putting in an attempt at causing friction.

All of this is just an excuse to put Julia and Brandon together on a date so they can flirt, choose to be with each other and then explode the poor hearts of Savannah and Faux Bice – who, hopefully in return, form a powerful duo of their own seeking SWEET REVENGE! But before that, Julia and Brandon have to hang out at a famous L.A. bar with the most L.A.-looking dude ever. He tells them to write a song together, and they do – one that actually isn't bad, but also one that I literally just remembered right now while looking at my notes and writing this article. SO NOT EXACTLY AN EARWORM! The two make out a little and decide that they're going to roll together and ditch their significant others back at the mansion.

Meanwhile, Faux Bice is plunking away a sad bastard song on the piano, and the producers try to make Natascha sun-bathing within a mile of Matt and Trevor into juicy drama. They fail. 

Julia and Brandon eventually arrive back home, and Julia arrives with those dreaded three words of Faux Bice: "Can we talk?" So yeah: doomed. Julia stumbles her way through a breakup, setting a new world record for unfinished sentences – and then has the GALL to get whiny and complain about Faux Bice wanting her to complete a thought. Eventually, she coughs up a full sentence about her not believing that she can continue on the show with him, and Faux Bice throws up the deuces, wishes her luck and leaves. Julia is upset that he doesn't fight enough – but also, nobody cares about what Julia feels right now. The cast and audience is too busy being sad for Sheridan instead. And to add insult to injury, the show tries to play a misty montage of all of the great romantic moments Julia and Faux Bice had together over the last three episodes – you know, all those wonderful moments of Faux Bice lovingly staring into Julia's eyes and Julia desperately wishing she was somewhere else. TRULY A WHIRLWIND ROMANCE FOR THE AGES!

So now that the show's gotten rid of its one remaining unique personality, it's Brandon's turn to break the bad news to Savannah – and if you thought he was a condescending prat last week, well, apparently that was just Spring Training! Instead of owning up to the fact that he has feelings for someone else, he blames Savannah for his decision, saying that he feels like she's only 95 percent into their partnership. And then when Savannah is understandable not pleased about this conversation, Brandon dares to give her sass and attitude, talking down to her and saying condescending crap like "Can we talk like adults?" when Savannah is simply looking for a straight answer from this wheedling little player. You know what: I'm happy Savannah and Faux Bice are getting off this show. Julia and Brandon deserve each other – and then they deserve an all-expenses paid trip to a deserted island, far away from human contact or communication. 

But most of all, I'm happy Savannah and Faux Bice are off the show because that's one less couple on the show and one less episode of "television" we have to suffer through. (*pops the world's saddest confetti popper*)

Now that we got that useless first hour of allegedly televised entertainment out of the way, it's time for the performances – but first, Natascha has a fresh new couple to assassinate. So, while Brandon and Julie take a break from rehearsing their song – "We Belong" by Pat Benatar, which somehow Brandon's never heard of. IN CASE I DIDN'T ALREADY DESPISE HIM ENOUGH! – Natascha asks Brandon the obvious question: If Savannah had pushed for the two to stay together, instead of her making the decision for Brandon and bailing rather than being dragged along any longer, would he and Savannah still be together? Brandon gives a wish-washy answer – one that Natascha then saves to tell Julia a few hours before their big performance. "Oops, did you not want to hear about how your new relationship is built on a foundation of lies right before hitting the stage? MY BAD!" It's excellent; I couldn't imagine such wonderful sabotage happening to a more deserving couple.

And thus, it's showtime – with this week's judges played by Toni Braxton, former "Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay and Bryan (they're still together; good on them!) and Jason Mraz's sentient hoodie, aka Andy Grammer. Rudi and Matt get to go first with "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton – and maybe I'm just a sucker for this song, but I thought they sounded almost respectable! The two's stage presence doesn't quite match – she's extremely bouncy and he's extremely not – but unlike literally anyone else on the show, their voices have some texture, soul and character to them. They're kind of performing in different worlds, but they make decent music together, which I did not expect to happen at any point during this show.

Meanwhile, backstage, Jamie is having a panic attack because she's terrified of performing in front of this large crowd. Hmm, a proposal: MAYBE IF YOU HAVE STAGE FRIGHT, DON'T GO ON A NATIONALLY TELEVISED SHOW INVOLVING LIVE MUSIC PERFORMANCES?! Starting to think maybe you should get your fear of performing for crowds ironed out before, I don't know, MAKING A LIVING PERFORMING FOR CROWDS! Anyways, her nerves get the best of her and Trevor's performance of "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" by Meghan Trainor and John Legend, turning her already young and thin voice tight and pitchy. She tries to make up for it with a bunch of melodramatic stage moves, but it plays all wrong – especially because Trevor is a ghost on stage. From the vocals to the stage presence, the man just isn't there. He is beige incarnate. 

While they might be in trouble, Bri and Chris do outstanding on "Lover" by Taylor Swift. Their voices aren't the strongest and they're a little stiff on stage, but in an adorable way that seems like they're naturally in love together. I like them; it's a shame the show has literally no interest in them whatsoever, cutting away from their quite tolerable performance to show Jamie crying some more backstage. Sigh. Indeed, would hate for the music to take too much of the spotlight on this music-based reality show!

Up next, it's Brandon and Julia with "We Belong" – more like this performance belongs in a dumpster! HEYOOOOO! Indeed, it is not good – not wholly a disaster, but the two have no chemistry in the spotlight together and Brandon is nothing-burger on the stage with no discernible charisma or vocals of interest. Julia tries to explain to the crowd and the judges that they're a new couple, but that doesn't stop Rachel Lindsay from calling their performance a karaoke act. Mmmmm, the schadenfreude – it is delicious.

Adding to their misery, Natascha and Dark Universe Shawn Mendes are up next with "You Are the Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne, and they do well. I don't think their voices match up well – Dark Universe Shawn Mendes has a raspy John Mayer thing going on while she's a practice squad Christina Aguilera – and I don't even buy their relationship in the long run, but they sure act it out well on stage together unlike CERTAIN AWFUL COUPLES ON THIS SHOW. They don't mesh well, but their separate pieces work well enough for them to survive. 

But that's for the rose ceremony to decide, and indeed, Bri and Chris, Matt and Rudi, and Natascha and Dark Universe Shawn Mendes are all saved, leaving Jamie and Trevor as well as Julia and Brandon duking it out for the final rose. Either an annoyingly overdramatic lady and her boring wallpaper paste singing partner are leaving tonight, or an annoyingly overdramatic lady and her boring wallpaper paste singing partner are leaving tonight. No matter who loses, we win. If I had to choose, I'd send Julia and Brandon home because, while Trevor is a dull blank, at least he seems like a respectable and respectful dull blank. 

Luckily, the judges agreed, sending Julia and Brandon home. GOOD THING YOU BLEW UP YOUR PAST RELATIONSHIPS AND CAME OFF LIKE JERKS ON NATIONAL TV FOR THIS! WORKED OUT GREAT! I'm not saying I popped champagne watching them go ... but I may have popped champagne watching them go. And to make things even more delicious, on her way out, Julia tries to blame everyone else for her troubles: Brandon, Natascha, Chris Harrison, 22nd President of the United States Grover Cleveland, anyone.

It is delicious, though I do have a question: What's stopping these people from staying together and performing together after getting the boot? Everyone gets all sad and mopey when they leave this show ... but it's not like "The Bachelor" where one person is staying back to date other people. They leave together. So ... what are the stakes? If Brandon and Julia were truly in love, or simply loved performing together, why can't they keep doing that – just without Harrison watching over them, plotting their demise for my entertainment?

Oh, the show doesn't have an answer? Because this is still a bad, poorly thought out concept for a dating show spin-off? Yeah, that makes sense. Oh well, at least this show got 5,000,000 percent less annoying on Monday night – and about one-sixth closer to being finished. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.