The Bachelor franchise has been going strong on ABC for more than 40 seasons, counting installments from The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise. The latest batch of episodes has been the Colton Underwood-led season of The Bachelor, and it has been... an interesting experience for viewers. It marked Colton's third stint in the franchise in the span of less than a year, and it has largely consisted of talk about Colton's virginity, which has been a topic of conversation ever since Becca Kufrin's run on The Bachelorette.
With Colton's season now at an end, it's time to look back at what didn't work terribly well and consider what the Bachelor franchise needs to learn.
Pick A More Popular Lead
It's not difficult to understand why The Bachelor went with Colton for the leading man of Season 23, considering all the buzz surrounding him after the reveal of his virginity on The Bachelorette, the drama surrounding his connection with Tia on both The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise, and the continued talk about his status as a virgin. The problem is that the buzz about Colton didn't necessarily translate to enthusiasm for Colton.
Going by social media, Colton wasn't exactly unpopular after The Bachelorette, even if other contestants were more of a hit with fans. Once he appeared on Bachelor in Paradise and the drama with Tia started while he was still mooning over Becca and keeping his options open with the other Paradise ladies, however, he didn't really come across as somebody all viewers would want to root for finding love in his own season of The Bachelor.
His selection as the next Bachelor didn't result in the warmest response from fans, with a Bachelor alum even weighing in. I was already exhausted by how much Colton I'd gotten from the franchise by the end of Bachelor in Paradise, and it didn't help that the announcement of him as the next leading man of The Bachelor came while Bachelor in Paradise was still running, making the focus on his relationships with Tia and the other women feel like wasted time. Too much Colton, too little time.
Cast A Lead With More Angles
No, I'm not talking about aesthetically. Over the past three installments of the Bachelor franchise, I think viewers have seen enough shots of him showering to vouch that he has plenty of pretty appealing angles. Colton's lack of angles as a Bachelor lead stems from what he brings to the table as somebody looking for love. As a contestant on The Bachelorette, he stood out because of his virginity and Becca's penchant for jumping on him to greet him whenever they got some alone time.
As a contestant on Bachelor in Paradise, he stood out because of the drama with Tia... and also the virginity. Heading into his season of The Bachelor, the only angle he really had going for him was that he was still a virgin. In fact, if any viewer attempted to play a drinking game and took a sip every time somebody said "virgin," they would have been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning a long time ago.
Sure, he was looking for love and marriage, but in theory, so is everybody else ever to appear on one of the shows in the franchise. The Bachelor even seemed aware that Colton didn't bring a lot of nuance as the leading man. The most-hyped event of the season was his unexpected jump over a fence in Portugal, not on what he brought to the romances. His virginity and his jump over the fence weren't enough to sustain a whole season.
Mix Up The Format
Although Colton's most notable angles for the majority of the season were his status as a virgin and his leap over the fence, one element that his season will likely be most remembered for is the botched ending. Fans of the Bachelor franchise know that the final episodes of seasons generally involve home visits, fantasy suite dates with the final three, the elimination of one, and then a heartfelt struggle to choose between the final two worthy candidates.
Colton turned the format upside down with the bombshell reveal during the fantasy suite episode that he'd already decided on who he wanted to marry: Cassie. He shared his intention with Cassie during the date that should have led to their night together in the fantasy suite, which was notably after his fantasy suite with Tayshia and before what was supposed to be his night with Hannah G. Cassie wasn't ready to commit, and she left, leaving Colton with two women he didn't want and ready the quit the show.
As such, the finale on March 11 was an underwhelming two-hour affair that felt like it was killing time, as Colton had no decision to make. The After the Final Rose special promised to deliver some closure (and a new Bachelorette), but The Bachelor sticking to its format almost religiously meant that Colton's decision derailed the season without the chance for recovery. The Bachelor should mix things up to prevent another fiasco such as what happened after Colton fell utterly in love with Cassie ahead of schedule.
Bring In Older Contestants
The Bachelor franchise could stand to mix up its contestant pools, and that could mean including contestants a bit older than those who appeared in Colton's season. Only three of the women were over the age of 30, and being over 30 was dubbed "old" by some of the younger women. Of the 30, nine of them were 23 years old. The Bachelor could mix things up in a good way by mixing up the ages of the contestants more than in years past.
That's not to say that the ages need to be drastically far from the lead, and Colton himself is only 27. Still, a wider variety could make for more of an interesting season, and more older contestants and leads could prove that the Bachelor franchise can still try new things. Besides, it's not like 30+ should qualify as old, and it would be even more believable that slightly older people are more ready to tie the knot and start a family.
Colton never felt all that mature and ready for a life beyond reality TV dating to me, to the point that I half wanted Colton to appear on The Proposal if The Bachelor didn't work out for him. I couldn't bring myself to root for Colton, and that meant that his season wasn't as much fun as past seasons in the franchise have been.
Is all of this to say that The Bachelor franchise needs to entirely reinvent itself, or that Colton's season was entirely lacking in fun or appeal? Not at all. The Bachelor has lasted for as long as it has for a reason, the format is still entertaining, and Colton's season wasn't without its highlights. Still, the franchise could stand to make some changes and learn from what didn't work during Colton's stint as leading man.
Fortunately, the franchise undoubtedly will have plenty of chances, even if the midseason moving forward will be devoid of Bachelor action. I don't think we have to worry that The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Bachelor in Paradise will end any time soon. The Bachelorette should be the next one with a new season, and it should be fun to compare it to Bachelorette seasons past as well as the most recent season of The Bachelor. I'm just hoping that there's not a repeat of the Arie debacle whenever it hits the airwaves.