January 11th, 2006: Our unborn son – dubbed Torak the Slayer by fans and his idiot father alike – was a couple of months away from making his first appearance. At the time, Nigh Perfect was in and out of bed rest and suffering from gall bladder disease while Little Dude slowly cooked inside her. Once a week – as a result of my horrible guilt – I was forced to endure the sheer hell on Earth that is Prime Time TV. I resolved to make the best of it…
I want to start this week by apologizing for the terrible, awful, evil thing I am about to do to your lives. I am about to introduce you to a habit worse than heroin: "The Bachelor, "Monday nights on ABC. It's a little spot I like to call
The Greatest Show On Earth
Now, I am not a big television watcher: that's the Nigh Perfect wife's job. To me, television is like a full contact sport: I yell at everything that comes onto the screen. I yell at the ads and the idiot sports commentators. I yell at CNN, I yell at the Home Shopping Network and I especially yell at Doctor Phil because he is sorely in need of my therapeutic boot up his non-therapeutic arse.
Nigh Perfect, on the other hand, watches an endless stream of horrible bloody self-improvement shows on the Learning Channel. Back when I was a kid, "learning" things meant studying the root causes of World War Two after the Treaty of Versailles, or what happens when you mix soluble starch with iodine over a Bunsen burner (it explodes and glues your eyeballs shut).
The educational landscape seems to have shifted. I am not sure what my wife has learned from watching four hundred consecutive shows of some poor bastard arriving home after a business trip to find their living room redecorated to look like someone puked avocado soup over it. But I digress.
Back to "The Bachelor:" Now, you're probably wondering, "What the hell is he talking about? Isn't Jenkins supposed to be a man's man? Isn't he, like, beloved by over two thirds of the world's population?" The answer to all of these things is, of course, yes. But don't let looks deceive you, my friends. "The Bachelor" is television at its finest.
My habit came about as a brief experiment with an alternative lifestyle, as habits often do. When I got married, I promised Nigh Perfect that I would spend at least one night per week doing something that she wanted… kind of like a weekly date. She chose television over, say, ice-skating because she figured I might actually show up. That first fateful night, I settled down with a bottle of vodka and a cyanide capsule and prepared for the worst.
Boy, was I misinformed.
"The Bachelor," as it turned out, was the single most amazing piece of creative genius ever to be broadcast in the history of television. It roughly follows the same format from season to season, but the general idea goes something like this:
Lance Masterson the Third is a doctor from Illinois. Though he appears on the surface to be a perfect man, Lance is hoping to meet a dysfunctional fuckwit with enormous cans who lives a very long way from his home state. This is because the odds are very high that the person he chooses at the end of the competition will be a psycho.
Lance is taken to a very big mansion and made to stand on the steps to greet twenty-four extraordinarily beautiful women and one very ugly one as they arrive in a fleet of limousines. The ugly one is in the show for comedic value. She stands about as much chance of making it through to Day Two as Donald Rumsfeld stands of being voted Iran Public Radio's Man of the Year.
That first night, Lance gets to hang out drinking with all of these women and strut around the mansion like Abdul the Bulbul Emir. During the course of the evening, he will ask them a lot of questions about themselves. If you watch carefully, these questions are carefully worded to determine whether or not they would be willing to bring home another chick for a threesome, should Lance so desire. But don't be fooled by this because Lance has pretty much made up his mind that he's going home after the final show with Miss 36DD from Hawaii. In fact, Lance made his decision on this the moment she stepped out of the limo and jiggled up the steps to say hello during the introductions.
Lance is going by breast size. He's not alone. So am I.
Inevitably, the other twenty-four girls are unable to contain their loathing for Miss 36DD. I cannot tell you how entertaining it is to watch a bunch of beautiful women bitching about each other on National TV. It's like being led into the secret inner sanctum of their private thoughts. I have learned a lot. Did you know it is possible to get women to catfight without paying for it? All you have to do is tell them you are sincere but that, unfortunately, you have to send one of them home at the end of the week.
The women are great, too. While the host always says, "This is going to be the most romantic Bachelor ever," what he really means is, "This is going to be the most dysfunctional."
Eleven of the girls have been betrayed by every man they ever met. Nine are in therapy. Five are more volatile than soluble starch mixed with iodine over a Bunsen burner. One of them keeps bending over to reveal that she is not wearing underwear. All of this on the first show, mind you! By the end of the evening, most of these women will have convinced themselves that they are in love with Lance. Miss 36DD, on the other hand, needs no convincing. That's because Lance has already slipped her a note telling her to meet him behind the bike sheds for a quick grope before the Rose Ceremony.
This is where we get to the absolute best part of the evening: the bit where the Bachelor tells half of the women on National TV that they are going home. The way it works is this: Lance stands near a vase full of roses and calls out various names of girls he would like to make whoopee with if it falls through with the chick from Hawaii. As each name is called out, the girl gives a little yelp of delight and goes to accept her rose, thereby making it through to the next stage. At a certain point, there is only one rose left and thirteen very pissed off looking women biting their lips and getting ready to burst into tears at the mere thought that they will never get to be the mother of Lance Masterson the Fourth.
In a supreme moment of Must-Cringe TV, Lance steadies his nerve, holds up his last rose and announces that Sarah B from Iowa will be his final choice of the evening. At this point, I like to put my TIVO into slow motion, much to Nigh Perfect's annoyance. You can literally see these poor women's hearts shattering as they receive the awful news, and their hopes and dreams are dashed on the Rocks of Rejection. It is the funniest moment on television, and in slow motion, it is something to behold: it's like watching the back break off a very tightly wound clock. Twelve million people across the nation watch through their fingers as Jennifer from Kansas gets the bad news that she's uglier than twelve other women. She is not a happy camper.
The girls who were picked clutch their roses tightly to their breasts and try not to snigger. Everyone hugs each other to say goodbye. And then the fireworks begin.
Now Lance has to pay for his evening of pleasure, so to speak: he has to say goodbye to each girl as she leaves. Believe me, this is not a pleasant experience. If I were in Lance's shoes I would run to the bathroom, or something. I would run to Zimbabwe. Anything to avoid Jennifer, a Woman Scorned.
"Why didn't you pick me?"
"Well, Jennifer… it's just that you are certifiably insane. You are more insane than Saddam Hussein's volunteer lawyer. To be frank, I would prefer to sleep next to my future wife secure in the knowledge I was going to wake up in the morning without a knife in my eyeball."
At this point, Jennifer begins to twitch.
"But I love you. We were going to have babies. My eggs are rotting."
I am not kidding. One of them actually said that line last night. My theory is that she made a drastic miscalculation of both wind speed and what string of words might impress her intended future husband. On the other hand, it might have been that she was a complete nutbag. Lance looked like he was going to shit a brick: it was a mixture of incredible fear and the hope that one of the show's bouncers was standing by to remove Jennifer from the premises.
It gets better, too: after a couple of weeks the women are rejected individually, so they can't huddle together in packs. They have to walk the gauntlet towards the exit under the gaze of five or six smug bitches clutching roses, and twelve million television viewers. And me, laughing my arse off.
So join me, won't you, for the adventures of Lance Masterson the Third, a true American Hero.
God knows, he needs our support.