do believe in marriage." That's what the last installment of the first round of the reality-TV series The Bachelor was about last Thursday night.
I'm paraphrasing a bit. The series featured one man, Alex Michel "The Bachelor" choosing a fiancée from what began as a group of 25 women looking to get hitched. As happens on TV, they are all ridiculously gorgeous. Some are a bit ditzy, others not. But all gorgeous. They go on dates normal people can't afford, live in Malibu, shop in Beverly Hills, and have hot tubs and limos at their disposal. And there is no escaping the bizarreness of the group-dating scheme. These details, of course, take away from the whole reality factor.
In the end at least of the TV-camera part Alex did what he had signed on to do choose a girl. He did that. He bought her a ring, but she did not walk away wearing it. (He had not contracted to get married, or even engaged, by show's end.) Instead, they decided to hold on to it, in case they later decide they're right for one another. As decision time came around in the six-episode series, "The Bachelor" freaked out a bit probably not what the producers would have scripted. He didn't want to rush into marriage. He wanted to get to know Amanda better outside of the ABC-manufactured reality.
On the final episode too, Alex took the last two girls home to meet his family. There was something so real about it, that it was actually a tad refreshing. The Michel family was not overjoyed by the son's participation in the whole advanced dating game. They were not overly impressed with either girl knowing Trista Rehn (the one he wouldn't choose) was a Miami Heat dancer (who gave them some pretty pathetic answers to their probing questions) and that the 23-year-old Amanda Marsh had been married once (it was annulled). His family including his two adult sisters and their husbands, along with his long-married parents were not shy with their bachelor and his girls. His mother told her son in the second visit that he was nowhere near ready to marry either one of them. In the end, his parents seemed to know best in Alex's mind. He said their reaction was "as a big wakeup call about just how serious this is."
Don't get me wrong. Overall, the show was silly. And we'd be no less if it had never aired. (Although, who knows, maybe Alex and Amanda would be.) If the girls were a little less gorgeous and the setting and set-up a little less ridiculous, it might pass a little more for reality. But for what it was, it wasn't too bad. Marriage doesn't often get an endorsement like it on primetime television, with young people who claim to want "true love" and marriage. And they're doing more handholding and talking, too, than jumping in and out of bed to find it.
In fact, ABC couldn't hang onto the pro-marriage sentiment for too long that night. Come 10PM, it was time for Primetime Live, and on display were angry couples and their falling-apart marriages for whom "wedlock has become a padlock." David Skinner makes this point over on The Weekly Standard's website (although Skinner has a very different take on The Bachelor). Primetime is much more typical primetime fare.
If you were among the 18.2 million Bachelor viewers and then turned on ER or Greta or went to sleep, or otherwise got on with your life, I'm not sure you didn't walk away with a decent feeling about marriage. "The Bachelor" has a point when he defends the whole concept: "People have met in stranger ways. If the right person for you is in a certain place, even on an incredibly crazy show like this, you've got to take the chance."
Amanda wants to settle down and have a family. And she says she is falling in love with Alex and would like to do it all with him. If it works out for them, despite the panic attack one rejected girl had and other hurt feelings, that's not a bad thing.
Sure, The Bachelor is a bit cheesy and definitely "weird," as Alex Michel's parents told him, and at times suffered from a bad case of "too much information," but it wasn't sleazy, and, frankly, twenty-six twenty- and thirty-somethings looking for a marriage partner certainly isn't television at its worst.
And it might just reflect where many young people are at when it comes to matrimony. They want stable, long-term relationships. But don't always know how to go about them and worry that they ultimately might not be cut out for them. (Stanley Kurtz wrote on these contradictions last year on NRO.) If nothing else, six episodes of fairy-tale believing, with doses of reality here and there might have done some of the millions who watched The Bachelor some good. Especially the young and single and somewhat-cynical ones.