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An inoffensively handsome Caucasian male named Ben is dressed in a conservative yet hip navy blue suit. Holding a solitary, highly-contrasted red rose, he is positioned as if he’s offering the rose directly to you, the viewer, at whom he is smiling encouragingly.

 
ANNOUNCER: “Tonight on the emotional season finale of The Bachelor…” #

Cut to Ben, now in a plain t-shirt and shorts, pensively leaning on the railing of a balcony that overlooks a shimmering pool and, farther still, a vast indigo ocean.

BEN (in a voiceover): “I came here hoping to find love…”

Cut to a bright-eyed blonde flight attendant whose name is (and now will forever be) Lauren B.

LAUREN B. to BEN: “I’m in love with you.”

Cut to a brunette real estate agent from Dallas named Jojo who could be mistaken for Isla Fisher by someone who is not that big a fan of Isla Fisher

JOJO to BEN: “There’s zero doubt in my mind that you’re who I want to be with.”

Cut to various clips of Ben frolicking and flirting with both women

BEN VOICEOVER: “…but now I have two women that love me. It’s a little bittersweet because I love both these women as well, and I don’t know how to handle it.”

This is how The Bachelor’s 20th season finale began…

JojoWhat

Now I confess that I hadn’t ever actually seen an episode of The Bachelor from beginning to end until this week’s finale. However, between Channel 33’s Bachelor Party podcast, friend-of-the-site Nate Scott’s musings on the subject, and general pop culture osmosis, I’ve been able to get its well-manicured, Disney magic gist. And though this season did decide to go with the “this has never happened before!” scenario of The Bachelor, Ben, telling two women that he loves them – something only his mother seems to realize is logistically idiotic# – the overall concept of the show nevertheless remains the same:

A single guy (or girl, if we’re talking The Bachelorette) has to whittle down a multitude of potential romantic partners until he or she selects “The One.”

Which, correct me if I’m wrong, feels like a blatant, Midwestern-valued ripoff of MTV’s Singled Out:

I mean, I can get over the Unreal-esuqe unreality# of The Bachelor, I can look past its contrived dialogue#, and even the way they inject religion to undermine the blatant use of sexuality to sell the thing#.

But still, it really feels like Mike Fleiss owes some of that $80 million of his to those cupidic pioneers who came before him…

 

When we ran out of people on Singled Out we'd hook up flatware. #50SingleForks #hairdrapes #tbt

A post shared by Chris Hardwick (@hardwick) on


For those born before 1970 or after 1990, Singled Out was the dating game for a particular generation, running on MTV from 1995 to 1998. Each episode, a group of 50 men or women competed for a date with one main contestant – “The Picker” – who sat facing away from these contestants (thus unable to see what they looked like). The show would then go through three different rounds of eliminations that, like The Bachelor, became more emotionally intense as they progressed.

Mark Cronin, the show’s head writer and eventual showrunner describes the process in a way that should sound eerily familiar to any Bachelor fans:

Let’s get the shallow stuff out of the way, then get deeper after that. Make your first impression, like at a bar. When you walk in, you’re not going to walk up to guys you’re not attracted to. And what you’re attracted to is not career ambitions or anything like that. It’s “How do they look?” or “Are they tall enough?” or “What do you like?”

In the first round, The Picker was presented with a big board showing six categories that separated their Dating Pool into various groups, ranging from intelligence, to hair color, to less highly-minded of categories…

PackageGIF

The Bachelor, after a decade of research, found a way to turn this enthralling, arousing 4-minute process into the first 4 episodes of each season.

From there, The Picker then had the remaining 5-8 contestants answer a series of Dating Game-style questions (“if you could take me anywhere, where would we go?”) or perform random physical tasks (their version of “The Fantasy Suite”) until only 3 remained. Those remaining three would then enter what was colloquially known as the “Horse Race” round, where the Picker asked them a series of two-choice questions until the infallible binary process of yes-or-no decisions helped true love find itself.

LaurenBNod

However, it’s not just this MTV classic’s flawless structural format that’s been co-opted by the likes of Chris Harrison and company. Singled Out’s legacy continues to live on behind the scenes, behind the lens, and beyond the screen.

We all know Chris Hardwick is doing just fine for himself, but Mark Cronin would later go on to produce wildly successful reality shows like The Surreal Life and Flavor of Love; Lynne Spillman, the woman in charge of recruiting the thousands of kids every season would go on to become the casting director of Survivor; Neal Brennan, the show’s head writer, later co-created Chappelle’s Show.

And while they may not have been allowed to pour champagne down their mostly-underage contestants’ throats#, they certainly helped develop best practices when it comes to cultivating a vibe for a show.

“The noise in the studio would never stop. We would also totally sugar-load them. We had an enormous amount of free candy and soda and stuff so when they came they were totally jazzed up. We also warmed them up and did comedy for them, because it was an important part of it that everyone felt like it was a party.”

The show spawned two foreign versions (UK and Brazil), boasted guests like a pre-Black Eyed Peas Fergie# and in-her-prime Jennifer Love Hewitt#, and was even featured on a 1996 episode of Boy Meets World#. So while Ben and Lauren B. may be the “it” couple of the month, remember where the seeds of televisionary love were first planted.

And that 50% of marriages end in divorce…

BenKiss