Alex Casey reviews the premiere of The Bachelor Australia, where the gowns are glorious and the PhDs are plentiful.
Everyone knows that in both nature and reality television, the Honey Badger is a pretty hard act to follow. Honey Badger don’t care – he’ll eat a snake, he’ll dig a hole, he’ll get to the very end of The Bachelor Australia and decide to choose absolutely no-one for a laugh. Honey Badger, famously, don’t give a shit. “You’re going to pick someone in the end, right?” a producer asks his 2019 replacement Matt Agnew. He grins. “Yes, I’m going to pick someone in the end.” Phew.
An astrophysicist who has devoted his life to searching for a new inhabitable planet, Matt has become worried he is going to miss out on finding love. “I’m a man of science,” he explains, sliding his glasses up his nose, “and you can’t cuddle a PhD.” I’m more worried that Matt being in the mansion instead of the bloody lab is going to hurt our chances of finding a new Earth to move to when this one shits out but nah, sure, have fun at your cocktail party mate.
At the very least, Matt’s unusual profession lends itself to endless narration puns on The Bachelor Australia – say “written in the stars” one more time – as well as endless confusion from the women vying for his attention. Is it “a NASA situation”? Is it a fake job? Is he a Gemini? “I can’t believe he’s smart – that’s so exciting,” exclaims one of the women, a brutal neg on both the previous men of The Bachelor and, almost certainly, men in general.
Not only is he smart, but Matt seems earnest as all holy heck – a welcome change from last year’s larrikin who seemed more committed to selling cheap gruts than finding love. “I love hard and I hurt hard,” Matt tells the camera without a shred of irony. His genuine belief in this extremely unscientific process makes the series teaser all the more exciting – the near future involves him storming off saying “this is bullshit” and explaining to the group that he is “really pissed off.”
Even in episode one, it’s easy to see which women might cause these tears in the fabric of his perfect universe. There’s Nichole, who introduces herself by saying “I’m not the ugliest girl you’ve ever seen” and explains that, just the other day, she had a car of men following her in their car and filming her for their Snapchat. Love that! Or Rachael, who arrives in a wedding dress and does a whole elaborate wedding spiel before asking “what’s his name again?”
I could go on and on about the incredible characters. And I will. Kristin speaks only in Mandarin, Vakoo likens Matt to a chocolate cake and is “dying for a taste,” and Emma has decided she LOVES him on night ONE. Of all the Bachelor franchises, Australia’s is always the most fun and surprising to watch. There’s plenty of otherworldly bravado and bizarro like you’d see in US, but it is always brought back down to Earth with that true blue Antipodean self-consciousness.
Because there are also several humble frontrunners. Elly, a dead ringer for Claudia from The Bachelor NZ, inspired Matt to say that she made “time melt away.” And that’s a physicist saying that! Get NASA on the phone! Abby, a chemist who made Matt a temporary tattoo of oxytocin is another one to watch, as is civil engineer Sogand. There are so many accomplished geniuses this season, even if they don’t find love they might at least find some kind of cure.
In the end, it’s not really about Matt – it’s about me. And the winner of my heart after one episode is Hannah, who was a crucial narrator making sense of the first-night madness. Not only does she have a distinctive laugh, which I have always loved in a reality show, she delivered the best conversation starter I have ever heard in my life. While Matt was recalling his childhood with Helena, she plopped herself drunkenly next to them.
“I have a determining question for you” she butts in holding her hands in prayer, “thoughts on Lord of the Rings?”
Helena says nothing. Matt gurgles something about loving the movies. Hannah continues, despite the invisible daggers being hurtled her way.
“The fact that Tolkein made an actual language out of Elvish…”
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Hannah’s glare continues to bore through her soul, through the heart of Mordor and deep into the fires of Mt Doom.
“… that is phenomenal.”
That’s why I love The Bachelor Australia. For all the novelty introductions, extravagant gowns and gimmicky Golden Ticket prizes that the ever-evolving franchise demands, you just can’t manufacture the physical pain and dreadful sense of recognition that comes from seeing someone botch the conversation with some incredibly ill-timed Lord of the Rings chat. Give her the one ring to rule them all and give it to her now.
The Bachelor Australia starts tonight at 8.30pm on Bravo
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