Last week was Turn Off Your Television Week. Dutiful television writer that I am, I kept my set on, but found myself ready to throw the thing out the window when I tuned into the season finale of ABC's The Bachelor. I knew the show was doing well for the network -- the same network that canceled Once & Again, filling the time slot with one of those "talk to the dead" specials. And I knew feminist critics were bemoaning the show's 100-year leap back in time. But as I said, duty prevailed and I felt obligated to tune in to the finale. How bad could it be?
I'd seen Fox's scandal-ridden Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, and another now-forgotten show that featured women corralling their boyfriends under false pretenses in order to propose marriage, done up in wedding gowns and tears in front of a salivating audience. But The Bachelor ... where to begin?
First, there's the criticism of how retro it is for women to fight over men. But it's not an exercise exclusive to women. Men partake in this activity too. In The Bachelor, the thing that was different from the past was that in addition to social and economic stability, these spouse-hunters seemed to be looking for something much more elusive and dangerously precious -- emotional security. Money, nice cars, and buff bodies are the bargaining chips, but it's that emotional anchor that these women and especially the Bachelor himself, 31-year-old Alex Michel of Dallas, were in desperate search of. From what I saw, Alex had a hard time making up his mind because as soon as one lovely beauty sidled up to him and he said, "You're the one," there would be the next date with another woman and he was confused again.
When it came time to pick between Amanda (the eventual winner) and her only standing competition, a Miami Heat dancer named Trista, he went with the woman who said she found herself falling in love with Alex, a man that, from all indications, she hardly knew.
And yet viewers tuned in. Why? The answer isn't so mysterious. "And they lived happily ever after," lives on in today's fiction, film, and television, and viewers, it seems, are still suckers for that fantasy version of the love story.
I doubt that Alex and Amanda will last, especially with flaky Alex changing his mind every time a new woman batted her eyes in his direction. I believe much of my sneering at the show came from knowing they were being schmucks for love, and on prime time television. However, I do find myself curious to see what the public response will be once the roles are reversed. When a bachelorette gets to pick from 25 men, will the public be as giddy to tune in?
As always, stay tuned.
Yup, it's sweeps month. Look for season finales of all your favorite series. This is the month Rachel has her baby on Friends and Dr. Green checks out of ER. The truth is brought in from "out there" in the two-hour series finale of The X-Files (May 19), while Ally of Ally McBeal will see her last dancing baby (May 20). Specials lead the way on most nets. NBC celebrates 75 years with an anniversary special (May 5) and with reunion shows featuring the cast of The Cosby Show and L.A. Law. One of the things I've been looking forward to most is ABC's much-hyped six-hour miniseries, Dinotopia (May 12). Over on cable, HBO presents its 9/11 special In Memoriam (May 26), while other cable nets gear up to launch new series in an effort to lure viewers from networks that are traditionally showing reruns during the summer.
University of Texas student Maggie Carey's documentary Sun River Homestead airs Monday (May 5) on PBS. The documentary tells the story of Esther, Lydia, and Anna Strasburger, sisters and a few of the women homesteaders at the turn of the century. Sun River Homestead airs at 10pm.
Made in Texas
Thursday's episode of Frontline features the two-hour documentary Muslims, a joint production of Frontline and the Independent Production Fund. Although the religion is regarded by some as insular and one-dimensional, Muslims offers a historical look at the formation of Islam and its incarnations around the world, including the U.S. Muslims airs Thursday at 9pm on PBS.
Nominations for the 11th annual MTV Movie Awards are out, and you get to be the judge. Along with traditional award categories like Best Movie and Best Actor/Actress, the MTV Awards includes nominations for Best On-Screen Team, Best Villain, Best Kiss, and Best Fight.
MTV Movie Noms
Viewers cast their votes now through May 18 by logging on to MTV.com or calling 900/288-4688 (the call costs about 75 cents). The 2002 MTV Movie Awards air June 6, 8pm, on MTV.