After 12 years, 18 seasons of The Bachelor, and nine seasons of The Bachelorette, I'm still following the franchise, with my DVR set to record the season 10 premiere of The Bachelorette this Monday. Since the franchise started in 2002, I've watched (almost) every season, taking only a handful of breaks when it was just . . . too much. Of course, the show has prompted its fair share of controversies over the years, and I've definitely had frustrations, asking myself more than once why I keep tuning in season after season. The answer? For one thing, it's just plain loyalty. I struggle to quit, well, anything — including my guiltiest pop-culture habits. If I start a book, I finish it, and if The Bachelor keeps chugging out seasons for years to come, I'm afraid it's very likely that I'll keep on keeping on. Here's why.
1. It Consistently Delivers
The predictability of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is part of the shows' appeal. Every season, Chris Harrison promises "the most dramatic season yet," and we know what to expect when those limos arrive. We know there will be helicopters, hot tubs, hilariously awkward dates, and hopefully, a handful of romantic moments that — in the Bachelor world, anyway — carry a sort of romantic-comedy charm. We know there will be big, exaggerated personalities that are all the more heightened in the strange, wildly unrealistic world of the show. And we know there will be some people we genuinely love to watch, people whose happiness we find ourselves rooting for in the end. Oh, and based on our first impressions of the guys vying for Andi Dorfman, it looks like this season will be no exception.
2. The Show Doesn't Hold Back on the Crazy
When the show first premiered in 2002, reality TV was still finding its footing, and the main thing everybody wanted to talk about was whether or not it was "real," how much of it was real, and so on. By now, we're long past caring what's real or not, understanding that reality isn't always the point. It's all about entertainment, and a large part of The Bachelor's entertainment value is in the crazy. Even the producers are in on the silliness of the show, well aware of just how ridiculous the Bachelor world can be. For Sean Lowe's season, his abs were at the center of the show's promotion, and shirtless Sean montages kicked off just about every episode. Both the people on the show and the fans who watch it are in on the joke, and everyone involved — or mostly everyone, anyway — knows what they're getting into. Hence, of course, all the aspiring actors, models, and singers who audition to "find love."
3. There's a Rabid, Hilarious Fan Base
Most fans of The Bachelor don't just watch a two-hour episode and move on. It's a full-on experience, complete with viewing parties, Twitter chats, and Bachelorette bingo games using boards filled with the most common, cliché phrases typically said on the show, like "fairy-tale," "amazing," and "here for the right reasons." Viewers and former contestants are known as "Bachelor Nation," and when an episode airs, social media becomes a virtual watercooler as people comment on every weird, frustrating, and funny moment from the show. You're also hard-pressed to find a viewer who doesn't read Bachelorette recaps, because rehashing the outrageous dates, wild antics, and GIFable one-liners with fellow fans has become a huge part of the whole Bachelor game.
4. It Sparks Conversation
For better or for worse, the franchise is part of the pop-culture landscape, and like anything else, it prompts plenty of debate on both important and not-so-important issues. In the hours and days after an episode airs, sites across the web cover the dynamics between the star and the contestants, and fans find themselves talking about relationships, friendships, and what they do or don't agree with from the episode. The last season of The Bachelor was arguably the most controversial, starting with Juan Pablo's widely criticized offscreen comments on homosexuality, and the buzz kept going after the upcoming bachelorette, Andi Dorfman, confronted Juan Pablo about something he said to her in the fantasy suite. In any case, whether you find the show repulsive or entertaining or you really, truly couldn't care less, it is interesting to see that — like shows including American Idol, The Real World, and Survivor — The Bachelor franchise has become a reality TV phenomenon, one of the few reality shows to keep chugging along.
5. Sometimes There Really Is a Happily Ever After
Just like you can't look away from the crazy antics, you also can't help but swoon over some of those sweet, over-the-top dates. And ridiculous or not, sometimes the strange, not-at-all-realistic circumstances surrounding The Bachelor or The Bachelorette result in a lasting relationship. (See the franchise's golden couple, Trista and Ryan Sutter, who have been married since 2003.) Sure, the success rate isn't very high, but in those moments when two people really do end up happy together, it's pretty awesome to watch, like a romantic movie come true. And who doesn't appreciate a happily ever after?