This show needs to quit playing games with my heart! I’m feeling so many mixed emotions about this bizarre Bachelor spin-off. I loved some aspects of last night’s episode: the rehearsals, the many excellent performances, highlighting singers’ hilarious warm-ups (that representation was accurate!) and performance anxiety (thanks to Jamie). I also dig how there are now judges around to do some eliminating; no more X number of roses for Y number of contestants, a much-needed and refreshing shift.
Unfortunately, there were also cringe-y Bachelor-isms that drove me up the wall. It pained me when talented folks, cast for those talents, left without ever getting to showcase them, simply because they hadn’t found budding love. Gabe and Ruby may well have been the most musically talented of the bunch, yet they weren’t even in the running because they didn’t want to stick their tongues down each other’s throats? Say what?
We saw from the previews that this week’s performances would be judged partly on romantic chemistry, but nothing could have prepared me for how infuriating this would turn out to be. I hated seeing singing (ranging from decent to world-class) glossed over in favour of focusing on something as trifling as eye contact. These singers were put on a stage to perform for an audience yet criticized when they did just that; they were accused of actually performing, of enjoying what they do, of loving the audience too much, as though that somehow detracts from an emotional connection with their partner. The Powers That Be might as well have put these contestants on that stage and just told them to make out while they were judged on their kissing technique; that’s all they seemed to want.
In pigeonholing every musical duo into a romantic relationship, this show isn’t even hiding the fact that it’s instigating the very Wrong Reasons behaviour it constantly condemns. I said two weeks ago that by creating a setting where everyone clearly benefits from the exposure, the concept of Wrong Reasons is instantly moot. I was excited by this prospect. It felt like the show was finally getting the memo that we care more about authenticity than we do love stories, hence why Peter’s season’s forced ending was so unsatisfying. It doesn’t bother us that these folks might pursue something other than love—they certainly wouldn’t be the first nor the last to seek exposure for their talents on TV.
But by The Powers That Be continuing to pretend that these folks should care more about forming romantic relationships (from a very small pool of candidates to be begin with) than they should their music careers, are they not forcing their own cast to fake it? Eye contact, hand-holding, kissing…these are all easy things to fake (as we know from years and years of The Bachelor) and the sacrifice is a mere drop in the bucket to the potential gain in lasting even one more episode. I said two weeks ago that the best thing about this show is the talent, as talent cannot be faked. So why skim over that component, only to focus on the things that CAN be faked?
It would appear this show is having something of an identity crisis. What is this, a show about finding love or a show about launching a music career? More importantly, why must they be intrinsically linked? We would far rather watch a romance bud naturally, just from living in the same place and collaborating musically, than for it to be the required starting point. Chris Harrison’s groan-worthy Right Reasons speech left me scratching my head; there’s a distinct winner getting a record deal and performance tour at the end of the rainbow, yet everyone must be there for “love”? That’s like berating contestants on Survivor for wanting the million dollars, expecting them to want to starve on an island for fun. The Wrong Reason at which Chris Harrison wagged his finger is the show’s very own grand prize. Talk about mixed messages.
However, true to Bachelor form, nothing irked me more than the unsubtle producer involvement. Julia was the source of plenty of unsavoury behaviour in this episode. She spent way too much time hung up on the authenticity of Savannah and Brandon’s relationship, particularly rich given it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that she’s at least partially feigning her interest in Sheridan in order to stick around. Further, Savannah and Brandon’s sudden love connection (which frankly didn’t feel so sudden to me) and PDA didn’t seem to bug anyone else in the house, a detail that seriously curtails Julia’s credibility. (Notice how Jamie, the person Julia was venting to about this, barely seemed to agree with her.) It was obvious that Julia felt rejected and hurt by Brandon choosing Savannah; this was basic, middle school-level jealousy. And the more Julia denied it, making it about fakeness instead of her own hurt feelings, the more juvenile she looked. She became the pot who called the kettle black, and her inability to recognize this hypocrisy made her quite unlikable.
But what we really didn’t need was the over-the-top, almost old school villain edit that accompanied Julia’s aforementioned unsavoury behaviour. Julia’s producer obviously worked overtime to keep her from moving on, encouraging her to focus on a relationship that wasn’t hers. She was likely egged on in feeling righteous, no doubt encouraged to confront Savannah about authenticity. I always say every contestant is responsible for their own actions—they’re not forced to do or say anything, so Julia must be held responsible for allowing herself to be manipulated. But the truth is, Brandon’s mixed messages, the rejection, and the obvious pain this caused Julia was punishment enough—there was no need to go the extra mile to also make her come off as a big time bitch.
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Exhibit A, when Brandon was heard praising Savannah, Julia was shown overhearing them and responding nastily…
But upon closer inspection, it was clear this clip was taken from another moment entirely, when Julia was crying on the balcony. Perhaps it was when Sheridan came to check on and comfort her, perhaps in response to a simple, “Are you OK?”…
It’s obvious this balcony moment was one and the same (her water glass is even in the same hand) and Julia’s “Not really” was NOT directed at Savannah and Brandon.
Julia greets Savannah in a friendly enough way, yet reacts rudely mere seconds later? It’s clear Julia’s “No” was taken from a different moment, perhaps in response to a simple yes or no question of Sheridan’s.
First, it’s questionable whether Julia even uttered this sentence as a whole given we never saw it come out of her mouth and this would be easy to frankenbite. But more importantly, Julia had plenty to giggle about in that scene; it could have been about ANYTHING. But of course, that giggle was placed just so, to make Julia seem mean and petty.
So answer me this: Why is it that with a) a mansion of a dozen talented individuals, b) the positive, uplifting moments of togetherness and music-making that are surely ensuing, and c) in the midst of a real-life pandemic, THIS is what we’re subjected to?
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I’m frustrated with this show and its wasted potential. I had high hopes that with zero expectations on viewers’ parts, and only six episodes to play with, Listen To Your Heart might realize how little it had to lose by trying something new. But this show is its own worst enemy, relying on the same intelligence-insulting gimmicks from a decade ago. I don’t want to watch unflattering words be put in someone’s mouth, or watch people edited to be crueler to one another than they actually were. In three short weeks, The Powers That Be are showing us just how little they understand us, and on a grander scale, what people want and need at a time like this. This spin-off’s viewership hasn’t been great to begin with, but if the numbers plummet even further (which I suspect they might), even amidst a pandemic where people are LOOKING for shows to watch, it has no one to blame but itself.