TV

'Glee' and 'The Bachelor': Less Talk About Love, Please, and More Action

The Bachelor

Glee and The Bachelor need to show a little trust in the relationships they're filming, and lighten up on all the talk.

At first glance, Glee, the little show about a bunch of musical high school students that could, has very little in common with the money making machine that is The Bachelor. One is a scripted dramedy; the other, a heavy-on-the–schmaltz search for “love”, or something like it.

While I’d watched Glee since its premiere, it's the 15th season of The Bachelor, and this is the first time I’ve ever remotely been interested in that particular quest for companionment. Watching real people live out fake relationships is, surprisingly, far less interesting to me than watching fake people pursue real relationships. But as both Season 2 of Glee and Season 15 of The Bachelor have waned on, I’ve realized that they share a striking similarity in the way each chooses to expose relationships. Both programs willingly fight against the old adage taught to good fiction writers: show, don’t tell.

Glee started out with a basic conceit; it’s about a dorky set of high school students who love singing. This rag-tag band is led by their Spanish teacher who wants to relive his glory days and give these kids “something to believe in.” There are the popular kids (jocks and cheerleaders) and the dorks (everybody else, in their own hierarchy). The Glee club, brilliantly called “New Directions”, attempts to subvert this hierarchy through music.

Throw in one too many faked pregnancies and far too many celebrity guest spots, however, and the show seems to have lost its footing. Even the most fickle of viewers stick around for the performances, but past all those snazzy numbers that kept us dancing in our seats and downloading cover after cover of Journey’s Greatest Hits, what keeps us watching most television is the relationships. Will Rachel (Lea Michele), the overachieving diva with two gay dads, ever make it with Finn (Cory Monteith), the sort-of slow football stud with a heart of gold? Unfortunately, at this point, having been back and forth on this topic so many times, I don’t even care.

Glee

Glee seems to assume that all couples (especially teen couples) are dramatic, heightened by the fact that this particular set of students are in a drama-related club. Yet despite all the fake Britney Spears-induced hallucinations, the relationships have become the least real aspect of the show. Season Two has forgotten to show us who is in love, and has resorted to far too many random declarations of it. Each episode has spiraled deeper into a chasm of characters discussing the state of their relationships, instead of showing us why they should or should not be together. When Rachel and Finn, plus Quinn, Sam, Santana and god knows who else are bouncing back and forth between each other in one 43-minute period, it’s impossible to feel any real emotion for any of them. Maybe they don’t know what they want, nor do we know what we want them to want, either.

Television doesn’t exist in a vacuum, of course – interaction with the audience is one of its greatest qualities. Criticism can make or break a show, and while showrunners and creators make many decisions without being overly concerned with audience reaction, they have also responded to mass response as a touchstone of when they’re stepping away from reality. The writers of Glee seem to expect its viewers to suspend disbelief and become committed to a relationship between Quinn and Finn, yet again, even though last season she lied to him about carrying his baby, and now she is with Sam, but Finn just broke up with Rachel because Rachel was with Puck to make him jealous... I’m tired and bored just thinking about it, and I get the feeling the characters are, too. Love may have no rhyme or reason, but it does have a little common sense, once in a while.

The Bachelor, however, has never had much common sense on display, but it has claimed to be full of love. Forget love at first sight; these women were in love with Brad Womack before they even met him. This is despite the fact that he has been considered the most hated Bachelor in the history of the show, because he decided to pick neither woman at the end of his first go-round on the reality television program during Season 11. One woman who was ousted early, Melissa Schreiber, claimed to have waited eight years to get on the show and to have quit her job to be with Brad, a man she had never met and did not even know the name of before entering a relationship that might -- or might not -- end in an engagement.

As The Bachelor progressed, the women have, unsurprisingly, become more clingy and insecure about the time Brad spends with their competition. On this note, perhaps it’s the editing of the hours upon hours of date footage we don’t see, but it appears that when they are with Brad, all they do is talk about their “relationship”. One contestant, Chantal O., told Brad that she loved him in Episode 6 of this season. Since each episode apparently takes place over a one week span, this intense sentiment occurs after six weeks of knowing each other, which consists of only two one-on-one dates, and a handful of conversations sequestered from the group during larger dates. Cumulatively, this consists of approximately 30 hours of time spent together alone, maybe less.

During these dates Brad and whatever partner at the time, don’t really talk about their interests or feelings or thoughts about the world. Instead, they talk about each other, together. In fact, during one date with Shawnteal N., who is a funeral director, Brad became visibily turned off when she began discussing her job (which is, admittedly, less than sexy). It’s an important part of who she is, but he seemed less than interested in ruining their super important conversation about the state of their feelings for each other. The Bachelor relies on the conceit that it is possible to develop feelings for someone even when all you do is discuss said developing feelings.

Reality television often relies on heavy-handed expository discussions, post-shooting, to explain to the viewer what is happening. But what can make us believe this is really love? Why can’t we see the development of love move along at its own pace? The same goes for scripted television; if Finn would stop telling us that he loved Quinn or Rachel or whoever, and showed us how he loves (insert name), we might believe it more and therefore, become more invested.

This might be harder work for the writers, but it’s been done successfully. Of the 15 seasons of The Bachelor, currently only one couple is still together, and the woman was not even that Bachelor’s original choice. On Glee, character development and consistency seem to have been sidelined due to some unclear quest to become a candy-coated crowd pleaser that throws a mildly risqué wisecrack in the mix to remind us that it’s clever. Both shows are suffering from their laziness, and seem to require a final message to their writers and editors: trust in the relationships you’re watching. We do.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image