The premise of The Bachelor is simple: find an attractive man with maximum mainstream appeal (and the ability to sound sincere while behaving like a sleazebag) – and then present him with 19 women willing to join a televised cockfight for his affections.
The episode opens with the mandatory shirtless shots of 34-year-old Bachelor Sam Wood at the beach, the camera panning down his ripped hairless torso.
He says, “I’ve come in with an open mind, wearing my heart on my sleeve, and I’m going to throw absolutely everything at it.”
There’s no mention of the “journey” yet, but we’re confident he has a solid grasp of the reality TV clichés.
We also see him at work, running his primary school sports programs, so we know this Bachelor gig will be a marketing boom for his business (provided he doesn’t pull a Blake Garvey).
All teeth and glossy hair in a tuxedo, Sam arrives at the harbour-side mansion to meet this year’s bevy of bachelorettes.
A few of them go the extra mile: Rachel turns sideshow clown and fashions Sam a squeaky balloon flower; Ebru tells him in her native tongue, “I’m here to be your Turkish delight”; and Jacinda (who coaches herself pre-meeting in the limo: “Say hello, smile and then lightly vomit in your mouth”) takes a sly Polaroid of Sam’s backside.
Yorkshire vet Laura trumps them all, however, by telling Sam a gruesome story involving a small child and a dog’s anal glands.
Then we meet Sandra, certified reality TV gold. In fact, God may have created the genre to accommodate the coming of the 27-year-old primary school teacher.
She brings the crazy from the start, popping out from behind the bushes with, “Hello Mr Bachelor! Oo-la-la!” When she learns his name, their love is written in the stars: “Oh, my God, we’re S and S! That just, like, completely goes!”
She wants Sam to know she’s fun and “always, like, super-energetic”, which can only mean she’ll be weeping by the second episode.
They do a handshake, featuring fist bumps and finger flutters, and she walks off whooping, “S and S all the way!”
Sam seems exhausted by her effervescence, but it’s even worse inside the house, where she manages to alienate an entire party in the first 10 seconds.
In the obligatory cocktail-party catfight, Sandra launches the first salvo by hating on “Miss Pamela Anderson” (aka Zilda), who apparently turned her back on her. Itching for a bitch session, Sandra asks some women to name the ones they think they won’t get along with.
When Reshael refuses to buy in, Sandra calls her a “fence-sitter” and “goody two-shoes”, then declares, “If you don’t gossip then you’re clearly, like, not a woman.”
Incensed, Sandra bitches about the non-bitch to anyone who’ll listen – including Zilda, the woman she’d originally been bitching about.
She ambushes Reshael in front of everyone, supposedly to “clear the air” but really just to manufacture some drama. She says,
“I would never say anything bad about anybody” – leaving Australia to marvel at her self-delusion and to wonder whether her boss, the school principal, is watching.
Meanwhile, Sam is missing it all, chatting outside to 34-year-old sales rep Snezana. She reveals she has a nine-year-old daughter and he almost cheers, “You’re a mum!” (He’s so okay with that).
Apparently Snezana’s daughter told her mother to go on the show. I have a nine-year-old daughter and I find it’s best to never take her advice.
Sarah (who does a downward dog in a white diaphanous tube dress) nabs a red rose early on, but the big news tonight is that the Bachelor will hand out a white rose, enabling the recipient to ask Sam out on a date when she wants (like a normal, autonomous woman out in the real world).
Aspiring filmmaker Heather nails it, after bonding with Sam over their mutual love of superheroes and how ugly they were before they became beautiful: apparently he was a skeletal teenager with buckteeth and she had to grow into an abnormally large skull.
That leaves 15 roses for the remaining 17 women. As they await Sam’s decision, Sandra manages to sneak in a final dig.
“I’m the whole package but maybe he doesn’t want that,” she muses.
“Maybe he’s looking for someone more like Reshael.” As it turns out, it’s Zilda and Jess who have to go.
In the rose ceremony at the end of every episode, the women stand like wilting wallflowers, waiting for their time-share boyfriend to restore their self-worth with a single stem.
Yes, it’s offensively retrograde television – and that’s probably why we can’t wait for tomorrow.