Contestants Standing on the Stage of ABC's The Proposal
Pop Culture

I Watched The Proposal So You Don’t Have To

If you’ve seen any episode of this season’s The Bachelorette then you’ve also seen about one billion ads for ABC’s new show, The Proposal. If you haven’t (and you’re lucky), here’s the premise: a mystery bachelor (or bachelorette as we’ll see next week) sits in a box and judges a ten-person beauty pageant and picks one of them to propose to at the end of the hour.

It sounds bad, right? Well, that’s because it is. And not in the “so bad it’s good” way. I’ll get into the specifics on why exactly that is in a little bit, but to truly understand how long the producers have been sitting on this shitty idea we have to take a little journey back to the turn of the century…

Contestants Standing on the Stage of ABC's The Proposal

A Reality TV History Lesson:

Despite claims that “nothing like this has ever aired on television”, this show is actually not that new. In fact, Mike Fleiss, creator of The Proposal and The Bachelor, produced an eerily similar show back in 2000 called Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? This was a one-time special featuring a well-off bachelor, 50 women, and a 2-hour block of air time. And the premise was basically the same: Mr. Moneybags judges a pageant and chooses one woman of the 50 to marry on live TV.

Despite booming viewership, the show ended, well… badly. Critics tore it apart as a moral travesty and it turned out Mr. Moneybags was a known domestic abuser, which didn’t go down so well with audiences. The show was never revived as a result, but The Proposal doesn’t seem so far off.

There are obvious differences between the two: The Proposal is serialized, the mystery bachelor/ette isn’t a millionaire (probably), and it’s more ambiguous about the promise of a proposal at the end of the episode. But so much is similar that obviously Mike Fleiss just waited until America sucked enough to run this idea by us again.

(All of this information is from Amy Kaufman’s book, Bachelor Nation, by the way. Highly recommend it if you care about this sort of stuff.)

But enough of the history of the show and onto the episode itself. Clearly it’s terrible. I love some great trash, but this isn’t even good enough. It’s just boring trash. For me, it doesn’t work for several reasons:

  1. There’s no story. Shows like The Bachelor only work because they tell a story and you’re rooting for someone based on their personality or situation, even if it’s not real. The Proposal misses all of that – it happens so fast, you don’t care who anyone is, and it’s hard to even remember the mystery suitor’s name. There’s nothing for an audience to connect to.


  1. The pageant style is too generic. Not only are people given just 30 seconds to answer questions, but they’re doing it in front of a live studio audience. It’s obvious these are just like normal people, so they’re nervous! The sound bites are rushed and generic (I was waiting for someone to wish for world peace) or they just don’t say anything at all. The whole thing is cringey and predictable and there’s really no opportunity to show their personality. Miss America at least has a talent competition!


  1. The proposal is not shocking. Maybe it was shocking to watch people get married on TV back in 2000, but now we see people do it all the time and we know that the vast majority of these relationships don’t last. So when the proposal rolled around it was just so clear it wasn’t real and they were just going to pawn the ring off to some stagehand afterwards. The whole proposal is just so unshocking that it really pulls the rug out from the premise of the show for me. Like we all know it’s a joke, so why even do it?


  1. Mike just kind of sucked. This one is pretty episode specific, but let’s be honest: Mike was the worst. He immediately axed any woman with a visible personality. By the time he got down to the top 4 he had sent home an Olympic weightlifter, multiple author/life coaches, and the woman who did the Wakanda Forever arms. The only woman he kept that had come out with a quirk was the baton twirling neuropsychologist, but she got axed as soon as she revealed she didn’t want children. Boooooooo.


Will I watch next week? Probably, but that’s not a very high compliment lol. I’m mostly curious to see how they treat the male contestants (bet you right now there is a talent portion and no swimwear competition). But after that I just can’t imagine the show will be interesting.

All this to say: The Proposal is all the worst parts of The Bachelor condensed into an hour. The objectification of women, the erasure of their intelligence and education, the reliance on female vulnerability to get good ratings. And it doesn’t even have any of the great drama, villains, or fantasy of The Bachelor franchise. It’s just sort of boring and awkward.

The women seemed cool, though, and way too good for this Mike guy. I hope they were all just sitting backstage drinking margaritas, befriending each other, and talking about their accomplishments. I’d definitely watch that show.


[Photos from TV Insider and Pop Sugar]


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