The Bachelor: Romance, Roses, and Romance in the New York Times
<p><b><font size=4><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/arts/television/the-bachelor-played-for-laughs-onstage-and-online.html?_r=1">
The Roses! The Romance! The Roasts!</a></b></font><br>
By MEGAN ANGELO
“The Bachelor: Romance, Roses and Romance” at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Chelsea.<br>
Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
<p>ON a recent evening the Chelsea basement theater of the Upright Citizens Brigade was packed, with people and tension. Six women paced the stage, fists clenched, eyes watering, on the brink of tears, or possibly murder. There might not have been anything funny about that the scene if they hadn’t all been wearing evening gowns. And if they weren’t all clamoring for the attention of a dense but eligible hunk. And if, of course, there wasn’t a reality-television show in which all of these things actually happen.
<p>The writing team behind <a href="http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/shows/view/2965">
“The Bachelor: Romance, Roses and Romance,”</a> <a href="http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/talent/view/10018">
Leila Cohan-Miccio</a>, 28, and <a href="http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/talent/view/8235">
Caitlin Bitzegaio</a>, 29, rarely miss an episode of the ABC series that inspired them to create the sketch show and to live-tweet commentary on running episodes as well. But their devotion doesn’t mean they’re fans of the show, in the conventional sense.
<p>“I had friends in college who were really into it,” Ms. Bitzegaio said, “but a little too genuinely.”
<p>No, the writers are rooting not for love but for source material, and they’re far from alone. In its 10-year history “The Bachelor” has spawned an abundant comedic subculture that ranges from affectionate satire to scathing analysis. In the current season 25 women are vying for the heart of a California winemaker named Ben Flajnik, and as soon as his Jack Russell terrier, Scotch, made an appearance, a Twitter account impersonating the dog cropped up. There’s also one for “the final rose,” the bloom given at the end of each episode to the last contestant to make the cut.
<p>“The show is just ridiculous,” said the stand-up comedian Annie Lederman. Ms. Lederman, 28, writes and appears in weekly video recaps of the show for The Daily, the newspaper delivered via electronic tablets. “These women are crying. Real tears are coming out of their eyes. But half of them just want to be actresses. Or they’re aiming for second place.” (The last contestant rejected on “The Bachelor” typically becomes the star of the next installment of the companion series “The Bachelorette.”)
<p>For Ms. Lederman, Monday night’s workload begins long before dejected hopefuls go home in the show’s weekly rose ceremony. She watches the broadcast from a studio, scribbling jokes as she goes. She spends a half-hour polishing her material, loads it into a prompter and shoots the four-minute video. A team of editors completes the short overnight.
<p>“It’s super fun, because it’s a great show to love to hate,” Ms. Lederman said.
<p>On Tuesday mornings, when Ms. Lederman’s recaps have already hit the Web, Kelly Reeves is up early to tend to her own corner of “Bachelor” comedy before heading to her day job as a marketing manager. Ms. Reeves, 28, is the woman behind “Forever Alone: Faces of Rejected Bachelorettes,” a popular Tumblr blog that posts screen shots of devastated (and often drunk) “Bachelor” castoffs, their faces crumpled by rejection.
<p>“The rose ceremony is the golden opportunity,” Ms. Reeves said, referring to the final-rose sequence. “I just let it roll and fire away with the screen shots.”
<p>What tends to win out are the wistful, disappointed expressions. “The best is when they’re looking off into the distance, wondering why he didn’t like them,” Ms. Reeves said. “Crying is always great, but it’s almost too easy.”
<p>One might suspect that calculated mockery of his life’s work would bother the executive producer Mike Fleiss, who created “The Bachelor” in 2002 and later followed it up with “The Bachelorette.” One would be wrong. “It’s a serious show, but we recognize that there’s a place for comedy,” Mr. Fleiss said.
<p>That’s not to say you’ll catch him digging into Ms. Lederman’s recaps or Ms. Reeves’s Tumblr. He does check out Twitter reaction to the show: “I try not to take it too seriously, whether people are saying, ‘This is my favorite season,’ or ‘I’m never watching this show again,’ ” Mr. Fleiss said. “What I look at is the sheer volume of the response.”
<p>Helping to set the tone for that response is the show’s increasingly open relationship with its viewers. The central bachelors — or bachelorettes — and their ultimate choices were once kept secret as their seasons were broadcast, but paparazzi and blogs chipped away at the practicality of that approach.
<p>“When we started, not even MySpace existed,” said the series’s host, Chris Harrison. “Now the audience expects to be let behind the curtain, and in this day and age they’re going to find out what really goes on no matter what.” Mr. Flajnik has more than 67,000 Twitter followers and has been photographed at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere in public, throughout his season.
<p>There’s also the notion that as comedic “Bachelor” chatter grows, producers have handed satirists more fuel. Though Mr. Fleiss doesn’t have slapstick in mind when he plots setups, he didn’t deny the built-in physical comedy of some of this season’s conceits. “We had the girls skiing in bikinis in San Francisco,” he said. “There was definitely some snow burn” on their posteriors. “But I don’t think it’s good for them” — the contestants, not the rear ends, that is — “to be mired in drama 100 percent of the time.”
<p>The bikinis and the drama appear to be connected. If there’s one thing “Bachelor” creators and roasters alike can agree on, it’s that there isn’t that much to work with on “The Bachelorette,” when 25 men are thrown together, all competing for one woman. “The lighter moments are funnier with the girls, because there’s so much tension,” Mr. Fleiss said. “With the guys, they’re goofing around all the time. It’s a frat house.”
<p>Ms. Reeves concurred: “I tried doing faces of rejected bachelors,” she said. “It was never as good. They don’t wear their hearts on their faces.”
<p>Of course that could always change. “I can tell you that we cast a guy for the upcoming ‘Bachelorette’ who’s way more likely to provide comedy than legitimate romance,” Mr. Fleiss said.
<p>When pressed on what made the man funny — perhaps a mask, as one male contestant tried a few seasons back — he hesitated. “I don’t think it’s intentional comedy.” That job is best left to the viewers.