Many full and crescent moons ago, I stayed overnight at a hotel in Albany. I was there with two of my friends to attend a conference for New York State English teachers – and I think I would have rather been at the dentist having my gums drilled without anesthesia than sitting in lecture after lecture about exciting new ways to teach Shakespeare.
It’s not that I don’t think that there is, in fact, some new fun way to teach Shakespeare. Of course there’s a way to spin it so the kids reading it for school credit can get into the play and won’t get so easily dissuaded by the language that doesn’t sound in any way normal or current to their tender ears, ears that are so used to hearing the word “motherfucker,” that insults like “starveling” zip right by without a shred of comprehension. But I can’t honestly say that I was all that fascinated by any of the lectures that took place during that frigid day I spent in Albany. I was there for one reason: to win an award as a Teacher of Excellence (suck it, all you starvelings!), and I was humbled enough that I was chosen to receive the honor that I happily made the trek upstate.
I remember a bunch of things about the experience, including that it took longer to get up to Albany than we thought it would and that I drove us there in my black Pathfinder, a car I still miss, even though the CD player skipped constantly and I think a Pearl Jam disc was literally stuck inside of it for three years. Sometimes Porch would start to play out of nowhere before the CD player ground again to a sad and shuddering halt. I also remember that the hotel where the conference was held smelled like day-old meat carcass and that the lunches they served in the ballroom were things like chicken drowning in some kind of cream sauce and that I decided that I would never attend any conference ever again without a bag of Combos stuffed into my pocket for some real sustenance.
But what I remember most from that conference – besides the fact that my mother and my stepfather sweetly drove all the way up to Albany to watch me get my award – was that in the hotel room the night before, my friend Shannon made me and our friend Walt watch a show neither of us had even seen, a quaint little dating show in its second season called The Bachelor.
This was a long time ago in Bachelor life. The guy up for grabs that year was a bar owner from some southern state. He was blonde and he was handsome in a generic way; he kind of looked like someone would use his face as a model for a Hasbro action figure that would come with a detachable firearm. Over dinner, I loudly declared that I heard the show was trash and that I refused to watch it, but back in the room I reluctantly gave in because Shannon’s a really good friend – and she would let me watch a continual loop of the police officer getting his ear lobbed off in Reservoir Dogs, if only that footage played on a loop anywhere but inside my own mind.
And what happened when I sat there that night and watched the show? I became drawn in immediately, so much so that I was upset when the episode broke for commercials. Who needed to see another ad for Viagra? Bring back the blonde bachelor and his hysterical band of admirers!
I think that what roped me in so quickly was the vicious competition that existed between the girls that was grounded in their steadfast belief that a guy they had each met twice was the true love they had all been searching for forever.
I’m not joking. These women literally spoke to the guy two times in group settings and then maybe broke off for a few minutes of chatting one on one with him, and from those brief and filmed interactions, several of the women decided this guy was The One. And they were prepared to gut and filet any woman who got in the way of what they decided was fate.
The immediate desperation illustrated by seething women wearing sequins and holding wine glasses was the scariest thing I have ever borne witness to, but to be fair, it was before the time I knew what a Kardashian was.
I hated myself for it, but I got really into the show. I watched every single week. I debated with my friends who this Aaron guy should pick and whether or not the blonde girl with the incarcerated father was too young for him since she was in the wee early days of her twenties and she still probably slept with a retainer in at night. The night of the big proposal, I settled in and watched Aaron pick the brunette with the super whiny voice and I wondered how long those two people who had met in utterly unrealistic circumstances could possibly last and I considered forming a betting pool with my friends and embarking on an over/under kind of thing with the expiration date of this couple’s bliss as the central focus of the wager. And while I never ended up creating a gambling ring, I realized that The Bachelor was the kind of show that could still be a draw in the off-season since the participants were real people who would be reported on endlessly by publications like People, a magazine I inhaled in private along with handfuls of Cool Ranch Doritos.
As the years and the seasons flowed by, I continued to watch The Bachelor and I saw that producers early on began to rely on key variables to maximize the drama. There was always a girl cast who was a sloppy drunk and there would always be a few girls thrown into the mix who would have believed any guy who had a pulse could be their soulmate and there would be a girl who the others would judge for being there for the “wrong reasons,” meaning – according to show-speak – that she did not believe this man procured for her pleasure was her last chance at heterosexual happiness. Combining that casting formula with unlimited tequila, itsy bitsy bikinis, more hot tubs than any human being has ever seen outside of Vegas or a Jacuzzi showroom, and roses handed out as a tangible symbol of temporary male acceptance, the show worked for me for a long time.
But then I just kind of got over The Bachelor. There were too many girls and too many names to remember and they were often ridiculous names like Tiffanee or Britennnie. The girls were billed as having careers like “VIP Cocktail Waitress” and the couple who ended up together in the last episode, betrothed and weepy with what they believed to be love, rarely to ever made it to the alter. It just became impossible to care anymore, so I cut The Bachelor from my life and moved on to more refined and esoteric television fare like The Real Housewives and Big Brother.
But I had a dilemma. See, two of my closest friends still watched The Bachelor and I hated missing out on their day-after dissection of the ridiculousness I’d chosen to avoid. While I couldn’t make myself get back into being a viewer of the show – it was too much of an investment, and like a bad relationship that you finally move on from, I was just over it – I knew that I could go online and read recaps so that at least I could know what my friends were chattering about.
I really enjoyed the snarky recap written on Entertainment Weekly’s site, but perhaps my greatest find was the site of a guy who called himself Reality Steve. I think I first stumbled upon it via a standard Google search, but upon my first visit to his page, I saw that his was not a standard recap.
This guy knew who won the show – before it even started airing.
And he brazenly told the world everything.
His reveals were so ballsy and usually they were right on the money. He would never reveal how he got his information, and for me, that mystery became part of the intrigue. I know enough about networks and production to realize that having your competition show spoiled probably freaked them out massively at first, though now they probably see the spoilers as extra marketing for the show and I’m guessing that they pretend to embrace it, while deep down harboring a real hatred for a guy who has outsmarted them for years and years.
I read Reality Steve’s website during the Bachelor season as well as during the off-season. I find what he writes to be hilarious. I already know who will win this season, the one that just started last week. Having that knowledge spoils nothing for me because I don’t watch the show – but I do get to stay current when conversations with my friends veer from topics like the meaning of life and the debate about length versus girth to the lunatic participants of this season of The Bachelor.
As far as building a following, Reality Steve has excelled. He has loyal readers, people who visit his page faithfully, and as someone who just started a blog this year, I truly respect what he has done for himself in the online cultural landscape.
And so, I am thrilled to announce that last week, after reading his first recap of the new season where a farmer is being held up as the universe’s pinnacle of virility, I emailed Reality Steve – who I kind of can only make myself refer to as Reality Steve and not just Steve – and asked him if he would be interested in having another writer create recaps for shows other than The Bachelor on his amazing site. I told him that I found myself constantly watching and writing about reality shows, especially those that appear on Bravo, and I sent him some of my posts as examples of my writing style, and I asked that if he ever chose to feature other writers, that I would love to be considered as a contributor.
The email I received yesterday afternoon was all kinds of exciting. Reality Steve read my work and he liked it and I will now be writing the day-after reactions to Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for his site. I am completely aware that the vast majority of people logging onto realitysteve.com will be going there to see Bachelor news, and I believe that’s how whatever God created executive producer Mike Fleiss and girls named Desztinee intended. But while you’re there, learning all the behind the scenes dirt months before ABC wants you to know about any of it, check out my posts too.
After all, I think we all should make peace with the fact that, at some point, a Bachelor contestant will marry a server from Vanderpump Rules and a spinoff will inevitably follow because once you have lived with a boom microphone aimed at your face, it’s hard to go back to a boom-less existence.
It’s really just better to get to know the participants and to embrace the televised carnage now.