In a strange bid for network synergy and a more wholesome extension of the Bachelor brand than the lurid and painfully tone-deaf Bachelor in Paradise, ABC has a new reality series this Olympics season: The Bachelor Winter Games, premiering February 13. It features former contestants from across the franchise, including familiar faces from the American seasons and a handful of contestants from the international franchises. In four episodes, they compete in “winter-themed challenges,” look for potential love, and create a “global celebration of unity.” Plus, it’s a chance for the franchise to include some new people and to inject some much-needed diversity into the notoriously homogenous American series. Cute!
So let’s take a quick look at the contestants, who are split into men and women from the United States and from international seasons. The “USA Men” category features several men from Rachel Lindsay’s season, including Eric (great!), Josiah (we’ll see?), and Dean (dear Bachelor: please stop trying to make Dean happen). The “USA Women” category is much slimmer, but does feature the seemingly inevitably resurgence of Ashley I. In the “International Women” division, there are representatives from New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, Japan, China, and the U.K. And then over in “International Men,” we’ve got Benoit and Kevin from Canada, Christian from “Switzerland and Germany,” Courtney from Australia, and Jordan from New Zealand.
Look, this is a four-episode spinoff meant to tie-in to TV Olympics hype and give Chris Harrison something to do, because if that man doesn’t get to count a televised table of roses at least three times a month he starts heckling local florists. It is not going to change the world, and its total consequence even within the pool of reality television is going to be fairly minor.
But c’mon, Bachelor Winter Games — you’ve got five international men, and they’re all white, and four of them are from English-speaking countries. Two of them are from Canada. (Okay, sure, according to his bio, Benoit from Montreal does have “a sexy French accent.”) There are women from Sweden and Finland and China and Japan, many of whom will surely be the subject of what the Bachelor Winter Games press release cheekily refers to as “language barriers and cultural differences.” Only three of the women are from the American seasons, and two of them (Clare and Ashley I.) have been frequently branded as “crazy” within their series. Most of the women, in other words, will likely be either desperate crazies trying to finally land a husband or exoticized beauties from far-off lands, and the mostly English-speaking men will enjoy the process of trying to, you know, talk to them.
Some of the imbalance in the contestant pool is an inevitable result of the available personalities from the international franchises — there have been far more non-American Bachelor seasons than Bachelorettes, and the most successful international Bachelorette franchise is Australian. There’s also the issue of watchability for an American audience — it’s hard to imagine The Bachelor franchise would be thrilled with subtitling entire episodes. But there have been Bachelorette seasons from India and Romania. Surely the category of “international men” could’ve looked at least a little broader.
And there could be so many benefits from a more diverse contestant group! The lone international man from a non-English-speaking country, Christian, has a bio that begins, “Ich bin nicht Mr Nice Guy”! I want more of that.
There’s at least one other concerning phrase from the Bachelor Winter Games press announcement: In addition to the presence of Nancy Kerrigan, Trista Sutter, and what will surely be a brief, hand-waving appearance by current Bachelor Arie, the four episodes will feature “some amusing issues with intimacy.” Great! So fun to know that The Bachelor has decided to really lean into its happy history with amusing issues with intimacy.
My hope is that Bachelor Winter Games ends up being a mostly nothingburger of a four-episode time waster, something to let Chris Harrison try on some outerwear and spice up what could well be an otherwise pretty boring Bachelor winter. But it’s hard to trust the franchise with something as potentially sensitive as “language barriers and cultural differences.” It’s frustrating that the cast looks so skewed toward English-speaking men. And it’s hard to imagine any version of “amusing issues with intimacy” that’s not cringeworthy. Here’s hoping we’ll at least get some mildly funny shots of Chris Harrison being pummeled with snowballs, because I have a feeling that’ll be the highlight.