TV review: The Bachelor NZ and Jono and Ben

by Diana Wichtel / 26 March, 2017

The Bachelor, Zac Franich: does he floss?

A bit of reflex bitchery and a barrage of punishing clichés? It must be the return of The Bachelor NZ.

Nina the Harry Potter nerd cut straight to the evolutionary imperatives that might drive normally sentient humans to seek meaning in the intellectual wasteland that is The Bachelor NZ. “We’re all just evolved gorillas that are trying to hide our leftover body hair,” she mused. “No, don’t put that in.” Certainly, the camera following one bachelorette as she paraded in her swimwear seemed to be checking for signs of depilatory failure.

There has always been something dispiritingly Darwinian about The Bachelor. As Zac, this season’s fresh prey, puts it at the first cocktail party, “I feel like there’s a pack of lions trying to hunt, like, a gazelle.” The show’s excruciating conversations can only be designed to check out potential contributions to the gene pool. Zac, a surf lifesaving coach, clearly works out. “Do you floss, though?” demanded Molly.

He seems a nice chap, but when asked how he’ll ever choose between all these women, he says, enigmatically, “I’ll leave Future Zac to deal with it.” Who is Future Zac and does he floss?

Really, the show should be hosted by David Attenborough stage whispering from the fairy-lit shrubbery. Facing a ruthless first purge of the bachelorette house, 19 women hurled themselves at Zac with all the dignity of salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn. “You gotta be rude,” explained new host Dominic Bowden, with the jaded air of a man overexposed to reality television. He drank his own urine on Shock Treatment, he endured Natalia Kills and Willy Moon on The X Factor, and now this.

He’s hardly needed. Everyone knows the drill. A bit of reflex bitchery, a barrage of punishing clichés: “Love is a special thing”; “Love is a two-way street.” This must be the only show not intended for nine-year-olds where a fart counts as a highlight. This season may already have peaked with – more Harry Potter – Claudia’s Moaning Myrtle impression.

Last season, The Bachelor NZ produced a result so bleakly unromantic that it may affect our ranking on the OECD fertility tables. It’s up to this season to continue the vertiginous decline in the franchise’s entertainment value, thus freeing a generation of young women from thinking this sort of carry-on has anything to do with love, relationships, dignity or dental hygiene. No pressure, Zac.

Jono Pryor (left) and Ben Boyce.

Maybe it’s time to take the responsibility for running the world away from the clowns and give it to the comedians. You wouldn’t normally look to Three’s Jono and Ben to provide one of the more important public-service moments of television since Campbell Live was canned. The show deserves some respect for mercilessly taking the piss out of its own network’s The Bachelor (and Max Key, who proved to be a good sport). But it ventured into serious territory when Jono Pryor spoke at the end of an episode about the death of a friend who took his own life. Pryor barely made it through his message – “No one thinks the less of you for dealing with a mental illness,” he said. There were tears and a hug. Now that current affairs has become a ritualised realm of almost unremitting drivel, it was a shock to see something that honest.

The Project followed up with Kanoa Lloyd presenting a useful segment on how the media covers suicide. What constitutes responsible, safe reporting? It’s a conversation that needs to happen. Silence, it seems, hasn’t done anything to reduce our far-too-high statistics.

Some have pointed out that, sadly, even in these supposedly enlightened times, and despite Sir John Kirwan’s best efforts, speaking openly about it doesn’t always work out for someone dealing with mental illness. Jono and Ben and The Project, in talking about it, have demonstrated one of the ways the media can help to change that.

THE BACHELOR NZ, Three, Sunday, 7.00pm and Monday 7.30pm.

JONO AND BEN, Three, Thursday, 7.30pm.

This article was first published in the April 1, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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