Chris Harrison always promises that each season will be like no other before, but in the case of the new "Bachelor," that's not just Harrison being his typically melodramatic hype man self. Monday night's premiere was an actual night of firsts as, after 24 seasons and almost 20 years, "The Bachelor" finally cast a Black lead in Matt James. I know, hard to believe a program about a guy dating more than two dozen women at once would be kind of regressive – but still congrats on finally joining us in the 21st century, show!
So how would the show handle this newfound diversity? Will our star find love? How will "The Bachelor" deal with filming its second season in the time of COVID? And, the most important question: Will I have to change my name out of secondhand embarrassment after this season is all said and done? I'm just saying you don't hear about a lot of guys named Juan Pablo. (Of course, he's not the first in Matt representation on the show – that would be Brit import Matt Grant from season 12 in 2008, who no one particularly remembers, proving that there ARE limits to the charm of a British accent. That's right, there was a "Bachelor" from a completely different country before the show cast a Black star!)
But anyways, how would Harrison and company start this historic and well-overdue groundbreaking season? How else: with a vibrator. Indeed, normally the show opens with some grandiose clip from the finale – perhaps our teary-eyed protagonist on a scenic hilltop about to propose to a mystery woman or some dramatic mid-season moment. But this time, the producers figured you know what'll hook audiences? Sex toys. Talk about an opening with some real buzz. (What's that knock at the door? The police are here, and I've been arrested for crimes against comedy?)
While the contestant's little friend may steal the show, we do have to meet the actual star of the season: Matt James, commercial real estate broker in New York City, Carolina native and, as we see plenty of evidence of throughout the night, possessor of plentiful abs. I think our final shirtless scene count ended at three for the premiere – a surprising amount of restraint from the show considering the guy's abs each have their own little abs. There were almost as many shirtless shots as there were of deer, which is a ratio we're gonna have to work on, "Bachelor." No one's watching the show for Bambi.
When he's not charming nature itself, he likes skateboarding and flying planes. OH NO, NOT ANOTHER PILOT! NOT FLASHBACKS TO PETER'S SEASON! But thankfully, before any PeterTSD kicks in, we also get to see that Matt charmingly loves working with at-risk kids in New York City. We also get to check out Matt's bachelor pad for the season – complete with a couch that he almost immediately concusses himself on – and meet his mom, who raised Matt as a single mother and comes in with all the serious questions for her son. When was the last time you were vulnerable? What do you fear? WHERE WERE YOU THE NIGHT OF JUNE 27, 2008!? It's a lot – but then again, he's one of the first "Bachelor" stars in a long time who, instead of a holdover from a past season, is completely fresh to audiences and requires some actual introduction. He also needs some loosening up, clearly nervous about taking on the notoriously intimate show – much less taking on a historic role on it as its first Black star – and being on television.
In the meantime, here's a flashback to one of the great memorable dates from "Bachelor" history: that time Nick Viall and Vanessa went on a date on one of those zero-gravity planes. Ah yes, nothing like reminding the audience of a relationship that self-nuked itself just a few months later. And didn't Vanessa end up puking on this date? MEMORABLE INDEED! No wonder this brief bit of product placement came sponsored by Orbit gum ...
So we've met Matt James; now it's time to meet his contestants, all flying in and quarantining for a chance at love. And the diversity in the starring role of the season extends to his potential matches, as we have our first deaf contestant, Abigail, as well as a woman from Ethiopia. We later meet Chelsea, a woman with a shaved head, which feels like another first for the show. Remember during Arie's season when Bekah had merely a pixie cut, and the show was like, "IS THAT EVEN ALLOWED!?" Progress! But so far, I like just about everyone we've met – even Anna, the Chicago copywriter who's double-fisting caffeine and sure behaves like it too.
As for the rest of the women, we'll meet them with Matt at our new "Bachelor" bubble headquarters: Pennsylvania's Chateau at Nemacolin, which sounds very fancy but also sounds like some medication I saw an ad for. But hey, jokes aside: It's time for Matt to start his search for love ... almost. First, he takes Harrison aside to ask some questions and talk down his nerves about being on the show and the expectations placed upon him as the show's first Black "Bachelor." Thus far, he's not the most loose or natural guy to plug at the center of the show, but there is something refreshingly real to him and his somewhat stiff nerviness. He seems like a real person at the center of a very strange show.
Hopefully meeting the women helps loosen him up, though, starting with Bri. She says a bunch of generic nice stuff and doesn't leave a huge impact – but the first one out of the limo is always a serious contender, so I bet we haven't seen the last of her. Then comes a parade of nice but not particularly interesting contestants. The most interesting thing in this first batch of arrivals is the set-up at Nemacolin. (Ask your doctor today!) Instead of the short walk to the mansion, the ladies now have a massive stairway to walk up after meeting Matt, and while it looks gorgeous, it's also awkward having Matt just ... stare at the women as they take their time walking up the "Rocky" stairs in heels and a luxurious dress. It's frankly amazing that only two women almost Jennifer Lawrence themselves and biff on the stairs.
We meet a lot of potential winners – Matt seems quite taken with Mari, ogling her as she makes her hike up to the mansion, while Khaylah makes a good impression both with a pick-up truck and with her shared Carolina background – but not a lot of personalities. Thankfully that changes with Saneh, an IT worker who shows up wearing goat hooves – as one does for a first date. Can't say this is my favorite strategy, considering when I think of people who are half human and half goat, I think of THE DEVIL!
We also meet Alana, who tries lady-and-the-tramping some spaghetti with Matt. First of all, we are in a pandemic right now; I WOULD RATHER NOT SHARE FOOD. But most presssingly, there's no way that pasta is still warm after the limo ride. Those two had to suck on slimy, cold pasta, all while risking splattering tomato sauce on their fancy clothes – and then he's left with a bowl of unappetizing pasta with no fork. And have you seen this man? Those abs haven't seen a carb since the Bush administration. Same criticism goes to Illeana, who brings a giant meatball for Matt to chew on for the sake of a balls joke. There's no way that meat wad was still warm and appetizing. If you're gonna bring food, pull an MJ and bring pizza. Everyone likes pizza, it's easy to snack on without making a mess of yourself and it even comes in a little box so it stays warm! STRATEGY, LADIES! Just make sure you don't lock yourself out of the pizza delivery car you hijacked from a poor Papa John's worker.
We also meet Kaili, who arrives in only lingerie and a robe with all two of her dresses on a rack for Matt to choose from – which gets his attention and certainly the attention of the other ladies as well, particuarly Saneh who's wondering if maybe the goat feet was the sexiest choice. But she still made more of an impact than Corrinne, Marylynn, Emani, Lauren and Pieper, who all exist for about three seconds each and are all doomed.
But then the real star of the evening arrives: the vibrator, brought by Washington bank marketing manager Katie. I am VERY intrigued by her marketing pitches. ("Open a bank account with some buzz!") Thankfully, Matt seems intrigued by her as well, laughing at the joke – though it's not exactly clear how much of a joke bringing the vibrator is for Katie, who implies that her glittery pal is for go and not just for show. She may not win – and she's not quite Shark/Dolphin Lady – but no matter how this turns out, is there any doubt she's going to have the most fun of any of the contestants this season?
Anyways, while she goes around knighting people with her dildo, we meet an actual queen – but actually, her job description is "queen," aka "unemployed." This is Victoria, who arrives in a tiara and carried by four gentlemen on a king carrier. It's quite the entrance – though where's the commitment to the bit? She should've had her hired servants fan her with palm fronds throughout the night and feed her grapes from a large golden bowl – or at least carry her up the stairs so she wouldn't lose a fight against gravity and fall. Instead, she simply commits to being annoying, arriving with the royal proclamation, "The queen has arrived, bitches!" (Ah yes, I believe that was an Elizabeth I quote, correct?) After that arrival, everyone MUST know Victoria's name ... mainly so they know who to avoid forever.
Speaking of people to avoid, there's also Kit, a "fashion entrepreneur" – again, aka unemployed – who uses her name as text slang (KIT equals "keep in touch" apparently) and happily admits to loving to be the center of attention. I cannot see how this could go wrong.
I guess we'll find out, though, as that's all of the contestants. Now it's time for Matt to actually get to know these ladies – but first, it's time for a prayer. I'm not going to mock somebody's religion (and he does say some nice, honest stuff in this opening speech), but there's something delightfully goofy about asking God to bless the fact that you're about to date 32 women at the same time ... and also there's a dildo just sitting there in the room. That vibrator found God that night – and apparently so did many of the ladies because they are MOVED by the fact that he led the room in prayer before hitting on all of them at the same time.
So Matt finally gets to meet some of these women, all while trying to loosen up and act like himself in a wholly bizarre scenario that's completely new for him. After all, as contestant Rachael (who somehow isn't Camila Mendes from "Riverdale") points out, unlike most recent "Bachelor" stars, he's never done this before. She also talks about how she's had vulnerability issues in the past, something Matt says he's had problems with as well, so there might be a connection there.
Mari and Matt also seem to have a connection as well as she talks about her family's Puerto Rican origins and the tragedies they've had to endure – or she would've talked about that if she didn't get tapped on the shoulder by a sex toy right as the tears were getting started. Nothing like getting LITERALLY c*ckblocked while trying to open up about how your family survived hurricanes and poverty! Mari is understandably harrumphy that her big emotional moment was cut off by a vibrator that may or may not be more than simply a joke prop – but sorry, I'm pro-Katie, especially as Mari goes around complaining to everyone while Katie simply says that it sure seems like Mari could stand to borrow "MJ"? (Named after the pizza-delivering fellow contestant who recommended naming the toy ... and also conveniently Matt James' initials.) Never thought I'd be paid to type this sentence, but I am definitely Team Vibrator Girl.
That's not all the drama, though, as, in a shocking turn of events, Queen Victoria turns out to have a mild ego problem. Of course, she makes the mistake of interrupting "Emily in Paris" cosplay artist Kit, who would've grumped even if it was the literal Queen of England asking to cut in. Kit really likes this line about how, "Victoria may be the queen, but I'm the queen, president and CEO" – a line that's nowhere near as clever or fun as she thought when she rehearsed it earlier on the limo ride. She's working so hard to make that line a winner and come out as the favorite versus Victoria, yet she gets totally outdone by some random lady named Amber who we never really meet and who doesn't even have a line, just a perfectly peturbed "hm" after having to deal with Victoria. GIVE THAT LADY MORE SCREEN TIME!
Instead, we get more of Victoria, who interrupts the ladies, goes back for a second chat with Matt (because their conversation about explaining very basic fire hose metaphors was SOOO stimulating) before other women got a first crack at the bachelor and then harrangues people for not being as brave and open as her. A fair point about the women needing to step up and make the time for Matt instead of waiting, but I guess tact was banished from her kingdom, howling about how happy she is that she talked to Matt SOOO much. Who could've predicted that the lady who self-proclaims that she's a queen would turn out to be commandeering and self-centered!? She'll maybe last another week or two.
As for real contenders, we've got Bri, who not only was the first one out of the limo but also opens up to Matt about the importance of diverse stories and how she too comes from divorced interracial parents. I assumed she was going to get the first impression rose – but instead, it goes to Abigail, who has a great conversation with Matt about being deaf but also just about life and love, earning the carnation and also the first real kiss of the season.
Then it's time for the rest of the roses, all going to women whose names none of us have learned yet. I always forget how much these premiere episodes are total bombardments. All I remember was that poor overcaffeinated Anna was in the front row of the rose ceremony, clearly trying to work a hex on Matt to convince him via telekinesis to give her a rose. I was concerned she was going to pop a vein in her forehead – especially as he kept giving roses to everyone standing around her ... except her. But eventually she did get a rose. MIND CONTROL WORKS! Should've used her powers to stop Alana from wearing her exact same dress.
If mind control does work, I clearly don't have it mastered because I used all my brain energy to try and convince Matt to keep anyone other than Queen Victoria – but, of course, she got the final rose. The nice ballerina got sent home, but Queen Victoria and Dildo Lady both got to stay?! I HAVE SUCH QUESTIONS!
And speaking of questions, how long did that ceremony take – because when Alicia emerges from the mansion, it is full-on daylight outside. You stay up all night in your finest gown, feet dying in high heels (or maybe goat hooves), getting drunk with your boyfriend's 31 other girlfriends in a hotel lobby, just to be told that you're not as good as a grown woman with a tiara and scepter whose job is "royalty?" The consolation packages better have been impressive. I'm talking at least two Olive Garden giftcards and free Disney+ for a year.
Minus that dubious choice, Matt's historic season is actually off to a decent start. The kooks are suitably kooky, the charming frontrunners are suitably charming and Matt himself makes for an engaging protagonist despite (or maybe thanks to) his obvious nerves and stiffness on television. He'll have to get more comfortable, but here's to a good rest of the season – if only for the sake of not sullying the good name of Matt.
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.