"The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart" recap: Meet the Jeds
For 80 minutes here in Milwaukee, the debut of "The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart" was rendered silent. Yes, due to technically difficulties at the local station, the music-focused dating spinoff – filled with generically attractive future state fair opening acts plinking away at pianos and plucking away at drab acoustic guitar numbers – was put on mute. Call it hilariously ironic. Call it divine intervention trying to direct me toward better life choices. I call it an excuse to drink even more wine than usual.
I went into "The Bachelor: All Jeds Edition" already with plenty of questions (mainly "Why?" and also "Why me?") and obviously, considering I spent 75 percent of the premiere having to watch the silent film version, I left with plenty more. Thankfully, I found a talkie edition of the debut online (thanks Hulu!), and many of those basic questions were answered – save for the most important one.
Who wanted this?
I'm very confused by "Bachelor" HQ, who apparently watched Jed's wildly insincere, gag-inducing and now universally loathed self-promotional run during Hannah Brown's season and thought to themselves, "We need to get us 20 more of THAT!" Who thought that was a good idea? (OK, maybe Jed.) Even if these contestants are indeed authentically here to find love (*suppresses chuckle*), the audience would watch the entire series with their eyebrows raised in suspicion, waiting for each person to "accidentally" drop links to their Soundcloud page. It's pushing the show's most cynical nature – using the show as a branding opportunity – into the spotlight, making it impossible not to watch it through dubious eyes. It'd be like having a "The Bachelor: All Instagram Influencers Edition" season; yeah, we know that's a part of the show, but we normally try to pretend that's a BAD thing, rather than base an entire spinoff around it.
Then again, it'll all be worth it if, at the very end, each individual in a couple has to choose between getting a solo record contract or getting married. If we're gonna be a dumpster fire, POUR ON THE KEROSENE AND MAKE THIS THING VISIBLE FROM ORBIT.
That won't happen until the finale, though, so let's get into the premiere. Chris Harrison greets us back to the mansion, where he explains that this new spinoff was born from their massive fandom for "A Star Is Born" and a desire to conjure up more of that film's magic. DID YOU NOT FINISH WATCHING THE MOVIE, HARRISON!? It does not end well for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga – and even along the way, it's romantic, sure, but it's also pretty rough treading. If this is REALLY inspired by "A Star Is Born," Harrison, somebody better drunkenly pee their pants on stage at some point this season.
Anyway, "All Jeds Edition" feels less inspired by "A Star Is Born" and more so by "Bachelor in Paradise." Instead of the beach, 20 men and women hoping to "share their passion for music with a special someone" (uh huh, sure *eye roll*) are gathered at the "Bachelor" mansion with the hopes of pairing up with someone. Each week, there's a rose ceremony, and if you don't get a rose, you're booted off the show and can no longer broadcast your acoustic covers to the nation. This week, the women were on rose duty; next week, it'll be the dudes' turn. As things tighten up, they'll perform duets in front of Bachelor Nation and various panels of celebrity judges. (You will NOT be amazed to know that former "Bachelor" alumni were available.) Over the course of this intro and montage of scenes to come, there are three "Star Is Born" references in three minutes.
But oh well, we're off in the deep end; watch as I dive in to the show's collection of assorted coffee shop acts.
First, we meet Brandon the former military sniper from Nashville – because everyone on this show is basically from Nashville or Los Angeles. As with everybody on this spinoff, he looks less like a starving artist or unique creative and more like ... any other miscellaneous contestant from a season of "The Bachelor." Same goes for Bri from Utah. Not quite the case with Sheridan, who shows up with long hair, beard, rings and a not-insignificant obsession with hats. I – and even he – would say he looks like the city of Austin incarnate, but he actually looks more like former "American Idol" runner-up Bo Bice. I shall now call him Faux Bice from here on out.
We're also introduced to Becca, a musical theater actress with real musical theater kid vibes, giving herself overdramatic pep talks in the mirror like she's Rachel Berry on "Glee." (I'm allowed to make these jokes because, as a former musical theater performer AND a cappella kid, I speak fluent theater kid. It's not a matter of if she sang "For Good" from "Wicked" at graduation, but which part she sang: Glinda or Elphaba.) There's Gabe, who loves sports and flipping tires ... but also likes the cello too?! People can contain ... multitudes?! (*"Bachelor" producers' minds explode*) There's yoga instructor Savannah, and there's Trevor, who has a dog and is somehow neither Nick Viall NOR Jed. Are we sure he isn't literally Jed again? He formerly auditioned for "American Idol," so I'm sure he's trustworthy and definitely here for the right reasons, not to get a record contact NO SIRREE!
Last during the opening montage is Jamie, another Nashville native who looks very much like actress and Leah Thompson's daughter Zoey Deutch from "Zombieland 2." She's been on hundreds of dates, and they've all been dismal, so she's ready to take the drastic action of going on "The Bachelor" ... at the age of 21. GIRL, YOU ARE TOO YOUNG TO BE RESORTING TO REALITY TELEVISION FOR LOVE! You're not some world-weary romantic; hell, you're barely old enough to drink.
We meet some more Jeds as they arrive and mingle at the mansion. There's Ryan, aka Dark Universe Shawn Mendes, as well as "neo-soul" musician Matt, who looks more like the tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. Matt also doesn't know who Chris Harrison is, at one point calling him Chris Hanson. Matt, my dude, that is a very, VERY different show. Meanwhile, there's Rudi, an R&B and soul singer who proclaims she's dated all of Los Angeles – an impressive feat for someone who's just 24 – along with a leather jacket-clad "Outsiders" extra named Russell who gets no lines and Josh, who may or may not be the gangster NoHo Hank from HBO's "Barry." Would certainly add some drama to the proceedings! There's also another guy with a hat who doesn't speak much but does hang out with Faux Bice – because hats gotta stick together. Fun fact: A group of creatives wearing pretentious hats is called a Coachella.
And then, there is Michael Todd, who shows up with INTENSE Mom's Favorite Performer energy, singing some nasal blues, "beatboxing" and then getting denied a kiss because he's just kinda strange. After his attempt at being "smooth" backfires, he even gives a disappointed look to the camera. The man is like if sad trumpet sounds were a person; I hope he never leaves.
So now we have all of our players. What we don't have, oddly, is a lot of music. For a show that's all about the importance of music, it really just feels like a regular episode of "The Bachelor," just that everybody brought their acoustic guitars along. It's an actual miracle that we haven't heard "Wonderwall" yet. Other than some brief moments, it really is simply "The Bachelor" again, maybe with slightly peppier contestants. For instance, Jamie and Dark Universe Shawn Mendes flirt for a little bit as the first arrivals. She asks him about his favorite childhood memory, and he leads with seizures and traumatic brain surgery. JUST ANOTHER FUN, CAREFREE TIME AT THE "BACHELOR" MANSION!
The show really likes Jamie, by the way, as she is definitely the "star" of the premiere, arriving first and getting sympathetically swoony love-drunk quotes like "I've been waiting for this moment for so long." YOU ARE 21 YEARS OLD, SO NOT THAT LONG! She also gets caught in a love triangle almost immediately including her, Dark Universe Shawn Mendes and Trevor, who is supremely not interesting. Still, after such stimulating conversation like asking about – what else? – "A Star is Born," Trevor and her end up in a hot tub making out while Dark Universe Shawn Mendes is jamming out on a piano with the a bunch of other contestants inside the mansion.
They're not the only romantic tensions brewing. Matt and Julia flirt for a bit, but then Brandon performs the spinoff's first "can I steal her for a sec?" and gets the first kiss of the night. So Matt moves on to Rudi, who he hits it off with, to the point of hanging out in the hot tub. Not at the same time as Trevor and Jamie, thankfully. (Sidebar: Are we sure that hot tub isn't just a pool? It does not look that warm, and there are no jets or bubbles going.) Meanwhile, Michael Todd offers to take a fellow lady contestant to the hot tub and gets denied again. All of his scenes should end with a "womp womp" sound effect.
So now that we've met all the Jeds, and the Jeds have all met each other (REALLY met each other in the case of Jamie and Trevor), it's time for date cards. And of course, since Trevor really wants one, it goes to Dark Universe Shawn Mendes instead, who naturally chooses Jamie for their musical adventure: a trip to the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles to sing John Mayer's "Gravity" together. Wow, we're really hitting all of the cliche coffee shop open mic numbers this episode, aren't we? If anyone sings "Skinny Love," I'm rage-quitting the show. Anyways, they have a good time and sing a decent duet – though she lags on the tempo during each of her verses. WHERE IS THE TEACHER FROM "WHIPLASH" WHEN YOU NEED HIM!? They end their lovely day by going to the top of the building and making out. Meanwhile, Trevor stares sadly into the middle distance with a beer.
There is another date card, however, though Trevor gets boxed out of that as well. Instead, it goes to Matt, who's stuck deciding between cool purple-haired New York rocker Mel or Rudi, who describes her ideal date as pasta and a horror movie on the couch. These two ladies seem awesome; all Matt has to do is not screw it up somehow. Spoiler alert: He screws it up somehow. Despite basically telling Rudi that he was going to pick her for the date, or at least significantly leading her on, he chooses Mel. It's so sad that even Michael Todd is like, "That is a lot of womp." So while Mel and Matt get a backyard concert from the Plain White T's, Rudi complains to her friends at the mansion and sings some soul ballads by the piano. Honestly, as one who was menaced by the song "Hey There Delilah" throughout high school, that sounds like a bullet dodged for Rudi.
Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Chris and Bri are hitting it off. "The Bachelor: All Jeds Edition," however, does not care, so MOVING ON!
After the two dates, it's time for the show's first cocktail party. Faux Bice has his eyes on Julia, even though he awkwardly walks in on her making out with Josh. Still, he manages to steal her away and – you're never going to believe this – play her a song he wrote on the guitar. You see, the problem with making an all-musicians "Bachelor" is that everybody has the same hammy, corny and gag-worthy move. At least on the regular show, there's normally just the one guy busting out the acoustic guitar to woo the leading lady with trite lyrics and basic chords. Now, it's EVERYONE trying to court their significant other with bad John Mayer imitations – or, more realistically, trying to court record labels or some Spotify streams. It's predictable, cliche and nobody on the show has a voice or musical style that I need to hear more of as of now. I say next episode someone spices up the formula by busting out an '80s power-pop number on the keytar. (Looking at you, Michael Todd.)
Elsewhere, Matt is sad because there was no real spark on his date with Mel. (So much for the aphrodisiac-like powers of Plain White T's.) So he makes his way back to Rudi – who is NOT ABOUT IT. She is in full verbal undressing mode, complete with sassy hand gestures, and Matt is taken aback. "I just hope that she doesn't gossip to the rest of the women in the mansion," says Matt, who's clearly never met a woman scorned. After spreading the bad word, Rudi then licks her wounds and recovers by hanging out with sentient cringe Michael Todd. THAT IS A CRY FOR HELP IF I'VE EVER SEEN ONE.
In happier love triangle news, boring Trevor takes Jamie over to a private couch to – and I hope you're sitting down for this twist – play her a song on the acoustic guitar: "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by John Mayer, who apparently joined in with "A Star is Born" on sponsoring this episode. It's all so lovely and magical that Jamie starts crying because her upcoming decision is so stressful. IT IS NIGHT ONE; YOU CANNOT BE CRYING ALREADY. I'm on the edge of being tired of Jamie – especially if she's going to keep slowing down the beat of her songs.
But the Jeds no longer have to wait for their world to change (OOF, that one was a stretch) because it's time for the first rose ceremony. Savannah gives her rose to Brandon, who looks more like a record producer than an actual musician in his puffy jacket. But whatever, yay for love, I guess. Mel gives her rose to Gabe, leaving Matt sweating – though that might be because of his choice of formal scarf. Chris and Bri stick together, while Cheyenne gives her rose to the once-nervous Matt. Considering Cheyenne's sadly only gotten about a sentence to say this entire premiere, I have a feeling this was more the producers' choice than hers.
Julia goes with Faux Bice over the bald "Barry" gangster, and I guess the John Mayer cover worked, because Jamie goes with Trevor over Dark Universe Shawn Mendes. How sad – though considering he has built up some drama on the show while the other remaining Jeds have had a total of maybe four lines, I highly doubt he's gone. And indeed, Rudi hands the final rose to Dark Universe Shawn Mendes, sending Josh, the Other Hat Guy, a Jed in a leather jacket and (*sheds tear*) Michael Todd home. Now I'll NEVER get my keytar song!
To the credit of "The Bachelor: All Jeds Edition," there is one nice new addition to the formula: a hallway reveal during the rose ceremony. Sometimes, instead of showing the standard rose ceremony, the show cuts to a hallway where the newest pairing dramatically reveals themselves by walking down to join the rest of the couples. It's a nice little bit of bonus tension, complete with the reaction of the cast members for bonus cathartic release. (Or, if a person they don't like gets to stay, more simmering drama and instant emotional reaction.)
Minus that, though, this musical "Bachelor" is thus far as lame as feared. It's not really a music competition – it barely cares about the music at all, or what it would be like smashing together people with different tastes, styles and lifestyles; everyone's ground down to Starbucks music – and no one buys the romance angle. So it's just all the cynicism one might have watching a reality dating show combined with the try-hard pretension of a musical theater afterparty. Apparently, like "Paradise," new contestants will come by each episode – so here's to hoping Bluto from "Animal House" comes around next week.
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