Why ‘The Bachelorette’ is sinking this season (it’s not all Desiree Hartsock’s fault)

Desiree HartsockYou look at the ratings this week, and what do you see? Why, it’s “The Bachelorette” sinking so low that it may as well be the new season of “Bachelor Pad.” For a preliminary number, the show drew a 1.6 in the 18-49 demographic, and it shows what has felt at times like a near-consensus online this season: People just aren’t into this season.

So what’s the problem? Everyone loves to play the blame game, and while it’s easy to have Desiree Hartsock be the poster child for the show’s failure, it’s wrong to point the finger solely at her when there are so many things bad choices that are out of her control. On the flip side, to excuse her completely would be a short-sighted as assuming that all of the remaining contestants are there for love.

Reason #1 – Blake “The Voice”

We’ll go ahead and state the obvious. “The Bachelor” earlier this year did not have to deal with the singing competition, and neither did “The Bachelorette” last summer. This is the first time that the two shows have collided in a little over a year, and the “Dancing with the Stars” ratings earlier this year prove that the singing show is a monster when it comes to sapping away your audience.

Don’t assume, though, that the ratings will bounce back huge without “The Voice” around. They may gain a point or two, but what’s probably happened is that most viewers picked “The Voice” to watch instead, and they haven’t bothered to keep up with this season.

Reason #2 – Blatant product placement

The amount of advertisements just in commercials alone has always been ridiculous, since you’re watching a show that is bloated to begin with. So to add to that all sorts of in-show advertising takes this to a whole new level.

Having the “Brave”-themed date last year was slightly annoying, but it at least made some since given that Emily Maynard has a young daughter who would like the movie. But did we need to have a “Lone Ranger” date, where everyone had diarrhea of the mouth and had to talk about this movie 100 times? Awful and seriously annoying. It’s gone from dating to advertising. Heck, last night we had basically an ad for Miss America along with a lengthy promotional campaign for the American Red Cross. We don’t want to downplay the role of charity, because it is extremely important, however we almost feel like the segment about the Jersey Shore would have been more poignant (and produced even more donations) had it been shorter and spontaneous, and thus did not feel so much like overkill that eventually caused viewers to get up and make a sandwich. The purposes of this show is to find love, and these outside promotions do take away from that to perform a separate function. It’s not like you are paying a judge $18 million a season here and need these to fill in content to justify the budget.

To interject a little first-person narrative into this, let me give you an example of something I went through while on “Beauty and the Geek” season 5 years ago. We had a challenge that was sponsored by the movie “Prom Night,” and while prom was a part of the challenge (create a soap-opera themed scene around the idea of prom), the actual in-show advertisement lasted for only a minute or two, and was only a minor distraction from the premise of the show. In-show advertising can work, but it can’t stick out like a sore thumb, and nor can you do it three times within a two-week span. “Shark Tank’s” a great example of a show that got the picture: Viewers hated the hypocritical T-Mobile ads during the show, so they stopped doing them.

Reason #3 – The guys are dull

Remember last year, when we had Sean Lowe, Jef Holm, and Arie Luyendyk Jr. in the final three? Wasn’t that great? Can’t we have Jef and Arie on here, too? Brooks and Chris seem nice enough, and Zak has been a pleasant surprise, but all in all this cast is snoozeville. The attempts to make Ben Scott into Tierra 2.0 have been lukewarm, and this crop of guys feels in a way like a worse version of Ashley Hebert’s season, where you had a few obvious contenders and no one else seemed to be interesting enough to remember.

This show is about the contestants more so than the lead when it comes to entertainment, since the lead is typically forced into read sappy lines about wanting love. The last two seasons have had amazing casts; this season does not. The only real consistency is the continued objectification this year of men as hunky, shirtless meatheads. We know that this is a “Bachelor” franchise calling card, but look at the past few seasons. Neither Ashley nor Emily had guys in the final two who were necessarily of that “I must be shirtless all the time” type. Maybe it’s what Desiree likes, but it feels ridiculous to see all of these “get shirtless or beat each other up” group dates that seem to be soley based on appearance and brawn. Where’s the brains?

Reason #4 – Desiree is equally dull

Desiree may want love, but she’s not doing a great job of making it interesting to watch. We’ve tried to make it clear that much of this season isn’t her fault (she’s not the one coming up with “The Lone Ranger” dates), but couldn’t you try to be a little more interesting? She just doesn’t pop off the screen, and a few episodes in (plus Sean’s season), it’s still hard to get a grasp as to who she really is in her everyday life.  The fact that the ratings were pretty weak from the start, and haven’t improved since, proves that not everyone is particularly interested in seeing her journey.

Not everyone is a naturally-born entertainer, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t open up more to the viewers. It just helps when the stars have more on-camera charisma and do not sound as robotic in confessionals.

What do you think is holding “The Bachelorette” back? We want to hear from you in the poll below, and you can also click here if you want to watch a preview for next week’s episode.

Photo: ABC




Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!