The Bachelor is coming to Canada. We don’t know his name yet, but there is one thing we know for sure: he and his harem will change our great nation forever. Look at the United States: The Bachelor was its original reality romance, and in no time it spawned a trio of similar spinoffs south of the 49th parallel, a smutty trifecta: The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire and A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila. Alas, here in the Great White North we’re only getting the original. And worse, I am ineligible to apply. As an employee of the corporate behemoth that owns this magazine and just about everything else (the Canadian instalment of the show will air on Rogers-owned Citytv), I am obliged, by law, to abstain from falling in love with the bachelor—or getting embroiled in a lesbian sex scandal with another cast member in the process. Such is life. And perhaps the end of Canadian civilization as we know it.
For those of you who have never witnessed the “rose ceremony” (that’s the clincher at the end of every episode, when the bachelor dishes out flowers to all the ladies he fancies, and sends the others packing), this is, roughly, how the show unfolds: ABC’s The Bachelor is a romance competition in which 25 to 30 women, whose occupations apparently have to end in the words consultant or sales rep, compete for the affections—and hopefully the marriage proposal—of an all-American male counterpart who is usually a businessman, consultant and/or sales rep. Sometimes the businessman is replaced by a “medical doctor” to add diversity (according to the American show’s creator, Mike Fleiss, ethnic minorities, “for whatever reason,” don’t audition). The female contestants on the show range in personality from “down to earth,” to “girl next door,” to “certifiably insane.” Through a process of profound soul searching and steamy hot-tub hijinks, the bachelor eliminates contestants at the culmination of each episode (via a teary-eyed limousine testimonial) until he’s left with only one, whom he immediately proposes marriage to, and files a restraining order against the next day.
And herein lies the danger: the show requires a level of zany malice that is not traditionally Canadian. I may have too much faith in my countrywomen, but it strikes me that while we’d have a surplus of down-to-earth contestants, finding the certifiably insane would, I hope, be a struggle. So down to earth might Canadian contestants be, that the obligatory teary-eyed limousine testimonials after the weekly dump would be few and far between. As the mom of one of my best friends said of Jillian Harris, the only Canadian to make the cut as the contestant on the American Bachelor spinoff, The Bachelorette, “she is the most down-to-earth girl in history.” This is what I’m pinning my hopes on. My fear is that even down-to-earth Canadians might not be able to resist the pull of those American hot-tub hijinks. In which case, a little piece of Canada will be lost forever.
Maybe I’m overcompensating. So far, Canada has managed to avoid the cycle. Until the announcement in January that The Bachelor would appear on Canadian TV this coming fall, our country’s reality television lineup has been comfortingly synonymous with its politics: dry. We have no Snookis or Kardashians, and so far, our attempts to popularize such characters have ended in failure. Canada’s own attempt at a Jersey Shore-style show, Lakeshore (an unabashedly racist portrayal of ethnically diverse twentysomethings in Toronto), didn’t even make it to TV, and the Canadian spinoffs of America’s Next Top Model, American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance were all cancelled for the 2012 season. Salacious and outrageous aren’t our strong suits. Or maybe we just like the fact that the dual cultural citizenship we share with the U.S. enables us to relish American reality TV while simultaneously turning our noses up at it—as if to say, “they may speak the same language and wear the same clothes as us, but they’re definitely not us.” Only now they are—or may soon be.
According to Chris Harrison, host of the American Bachelor, the Canadian Bachelor will have a distinctly Canadian vibe. What that means exactly, he doesn’t appear to know; his best guess, he told a Canadian reporter recently, is that contestants will wear warm clothing because it’s cold here. (The show begins filming in the spring.) Harrison is a firm believer in The Bachelor’s alleged ability to create lifelong romances (so far, however, the show seems to have created none). The Canadian version, in particular, claims it will only cast female contestants who have “a sincere desire to fall in love.” But something tells me our lot will be a little bit less keen. Or, in the words of 24-year-old Vancouver bartender (and Bachelor hopeful) Samantha Aho, “I just want to try it out, and if something finds me, then it finds me.”
Let’s hope it’s not contagious.