The Bachelor: Paris

Samantha Bornemann

For dark comedy, the show relies on its 25 wannabe Mrs. Bachelors, who must preen, banter, and scheme to keep their dream alive past opening night.

The Bachelor

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET
Cast: Chris Harrison
Subtitle: Paris
Network: ABC
He's like every other stupid doctor I know. He's intimidated by another professional woman. Maybe I just won't date anybody anymore. Maybe I'll just join a convent.
-- Allie G.

You know, he asked a question, and he kind of seemed like he was interested in the answer. That's, you know, that's kind of a first for a man. I'm just gonna play it by ear and see what happens.
-- Moana

With all due deference to Beauty and the Geek's marketing campaign, "reality dating show" and "social experiment" are not mutually exclusive terms. Both are key components of the Bachelor franchise, now celebrating its eighth round of disappointment, rejection, and "romance" on ABC. This time the series ups the fairy tale ante by moving its action to "the most romantic city in the world," Paris, France. The city deserves the series' "best bachelor ever," says host Chris Harrison, and that latest square-jawed prince is Nashville ER physician Travis Stork. Like dreamy Doug Ross before him, this doc "has held many hearts in his hands," Harrison tells us. "But can he handle 25 at one time?"

Ooh la yuck.

Tone-deaf as ever, Bachelor pours on the schmaltz by showing 33-year-old Travis at work, including an unlikely follow-up checkup with a former patient. "I credit Dr. Stork for saving my life," says Jacalyn. "My kids still have me because of him." The meet-the-bachelor shtick gets worse as Travis confesses that he needs to learn some French ASAP, illustrated by shots of him playing clueless American at a Parisian cafe.

This is all familiar, as groan-inducing humor is the method of choice when presenting each bachelor. For darker comedy, the show relies on its 25 wannabe Mrs. Bachelors, who must preen, banter, and scheme to keep their dream alive past opening night. Last week's premiere devoted a full 15 minutes to their arrivals, which is both curious, given the repetition (hug, chat, hug), and understandable, since "first impressions matter," and, more important, this might be their only conversation of the night.

For viewers, it's a chance to judge the Miss America-esque gowns and parse their words of greeting. Who tries to mix it up? Who plays it cool and simple? Who overplays the Paris angle? And finally, who stands out? April is the unfortunate klutz, as her shoe falls off halfway between limo and bachelor, and Yvonne is the maneater, immediately offering an assessment ("Beautiful eyes, beautiful tie, all well-coordinated. Love it..."). Allie G. tries too hard by unleashing an introductory speech in French (her college minor, she explains), while Sarah, just 23, is so jumpy that she doesn't even go in for a hug. (Then again, she's Canadian; she might not know the drill.)

Like The Real World, Bachelor has honed its casting process to a few types. The slightly zaftig Kristen ("I'm a hugger, I gotta give you a hug") is like Amanda, the last woman standing in Season One. Elizabeth has the dark eyebrows, blonde hair, and sweetheart smile of Jen Schefft, who (briefly) triumphed with bachelor Andrew Firestone before delightfully imploding her own Bachelorette season. Sarah's youth marks her for future attacks (she's not ready to settle down, her elders will argue), and Yvonne seems destined to keep the hot doc's attention far longer than viewers want her around.

On this first night, however, the focus is on who won't get a callback. Fifteen women go home without a rose (the bachelor's invitation to stay, in case you live under a rock) and one stressed-out, likely drunk drama queen often steals the show. This time it's 33-year-old Allie G. A Florida oncologist, she is just pointing out their mutual love of medicine when Yvonne plops down on the bachelor's other side ("I don't mean to be rude. I'll just sit here for a second 'til you guys finish"). Travis is amused; Allie is annoyed. Struggling to get back on track, she rambles through her pitch: she is comfortable in her work life, and "I sorta wanna kinda move on to the next phase, the reproductive phase." The what?

Yvonne smirks on the couch, and Travis takes a beat to make sure he heard that right, then laughs. He gives her kudos for coming all the way to Paris and taking the chance. It's clearly the brush-off, yet Allie is infuriated when she gets her walking papers at night's end. Standing in the cold outside the 14th-century chateau where Bachelor has made camp, she tearfully pleads her case to fellow rejectee Ali D.

Allie G.: "The only reason that I came on this show is because conventional methods aren't working. Internet dating, blind dating, dating services, I've tried all of that."

Ali D.: "Mm hmm."

Allie G.: "I told him that I was ready to, like, get my reproductive life going. Because the only one reason to be married is to have kids."

Ali D.: "But that's your opinion."

Allie G.: "No! Because... he's in his 30s, he should be willing and ready to proceed with that part of his life. I just think that men are [bleeped]. Really, I mean, what are they waiting for?"

It's both fun and horrifying to see a real moment of pain and frustration break through Bachelor's carefully calibrated Dating Game. Allie could be anyone bemoaning her lot in love late one evening. (Tell me again, Ashton, that your show is the social experiment.)

But Allie's not done. In a masterfully wicked bit of editing, she stomps back into the chateau and demands to know why Travis did not give her a rose ("You don't find me attractive, I'm too short, I have small boobs, what?") while word of her predicament spreads among her fellow castoffs, who sit shivering under blankets outside the chateau (first class all the way, that Bachelor). "Wait, like that? She said those words?" they gape. "I think any guy would freak out."

It's reality tv's latest water cooler moment -- and, with ratings dwindling, this franchise needs as many as it can conjure. Contacted by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, executive producer Lisa Levenson lauded Allie's empowerment. "She's the one woman in the history of hundreds that actually stood up to the bachelor and gave him a piece of her mind.... I love it when someone makes their mark." Allie told the paper she was spurred on by 12 hours with little food and lots of liquor. She plans to capitalize on her notoriety by selling T-shirts with slogans like "Let's reproduce" and "My eggs are rotting," through a new web site,

And you thought her story wouldn't have a happy ending.


The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)

In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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