Try taking a look at ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise by the numbers, and it’s impossible to count the hot tub scenes, candlelit dinners, dramatic confrontations and on-camera breakdowns that have populated the reality dating show since its debut in 2002. Yet one statistic is clear: After a decade on air, the show — along with its companion, “The Bachelorette” — has spawned only three successful relationships.
Still, the series has lasted a decade and is one of the longest-running reality shows in history. Its place in the pop culture landscape is firmly cemented, and the franchise’s third set of televised nuptials — “The Bachelorette: Ashley and J.P.’s Wedding” — will air Sunday night, a few weeks before the 25th edition kicks off in January. Through legal controversies to claims that the show is a sham, “The Bachelor” still endures.
That question fills the Internet with theories and think pieces — inspiring guilt-ridden blog posts with titles like “ ‘The Bachelor’: Why Smart Women Watch (and Love) It” — and there’s no shortage of answers. The show, in which an impossibly beautiful person is presented with a couple dozen equally beautiful people from which to choose his or her soul mate, provides escapism. It can be train-wreck TV at its finest. Viewers want to distract themselves from everyday life. Women want to see a fairy-tale romance. Watching crazy contestants makes viewers feel better about themselves.