Dust off the mercury glass candleholders and hose down the driveway – we’re back at the Bachelor mansion. This season, an overwhelmingly white roster of 30 single women will compete for the affections of some white guy so absolutely milquetoast it’s hardly worth knowing his name. It’s Zach Shallcross. While he gives off strong “37-year-old guy from somewhere in the midwest” vibes, he’s somehow only 26. And according to his ABC bio, he’s a tech exec who splits his time between Orange County and Austin, Texas. If that résumé, and Monday’s premiere, are any indicators, the 27th season of the Bachelor promises to be the dullest in all its lovelorn years.
In case you forgot, Zach is on our television screens because he was a frontrunner on the experimental last season of the Bachelorette, which featured co-leads Gabby and Rachel. He broke up with Rachel after their fantasy suite date, when he said their off-camera time together felt “inauthentic,” whatever that means in the context of a reality show.
But before we get into the premiere, let’s take a look back at how got here. As all of us loyal Bachelor Nation fans know, to love the Bachelor is to hate the Bachelor. For years now, the franchise has said, “Nah, we’ll pass” on increasing representation in casting, even as the rest of popular culture has at least begun paying lip service toward progress on the DEI front. For a short moment in 2021, it seemed like perhaps they had finally reached a turning point when they cast a Black man as their lead (their first in the history of the show and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder). That season included a more diverse cast of women than ever before and prompted conversations amongst contestants about racism and the political climate. At the end of that season, however, Bachelor Matt James chose white woman Rachael Kirkconnell as his final pick, just before photos of her attending an antebellum-themed party surfaced online. Host Harrison then conducted what was supposed to be a face-saving interview with the official first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, during which he talked over her and asked the public for “grace” when condemning Kirkconnell. Naturally, people did not like that, and Harrison soon left the show. The franchise could’ve changed directions from there, but it didn’t, and we don’t know how much more we can take.
Instead of moving the needle forward and learning from past mistakes, this latest season has been built up as something of a return to classic Bachelor values. Zach has promised no “dumb drama,” just a pure-hearted search for “that one true love.” Chris Harrison 2.0, a.k.a. former Bachelor Jesse Palmer, introduced Zach on Monday’s episode, telling audience members, listen, you might think you know this guy, but guess what? He actually played bass in a band in middle school and DJ-ed in college. Wow. We stand corrected! And this guy Zach, he’s just at that point in his life when he’s ready to settle down – ready to find his wife.
And what better way for an authentic, vulnerable, ready-for-marriage, here-for-the-right-reason guy to find his life partner? By choosing from a horde of clout-hungry Instagram models, of course. Writing that, I actually just remembered why I’ve been watching this show for almost 15 years. (By the way, if you’re old like me and want a reminder of that, Sean Lowe makes an appearance on opening night to make Zach seem fun. Did you know he met his wife Catherine on the show 10 years ago? They have three kids and a whole reality show career, and we’re still here, glued to this insane show.) The guaranteed failure can be pretty fun to watch.
Loyal fans know the drill: Premiere night means meeting all of the women one by one. They’re all in their twenties, aside from three who are exactly 30 years old — the designated elders. As they pulled up to the house, the girls psyched each other up to meet Zach, which was honestly kind of cute. You could hear them all chanting, “I am beautiful, I am confident, I am strong,” before the door opened. First up was Jessica (“you can call me Jess”), 23, an adorable dewy-faced actual baby in a pink dress and body glitter who I have to assume came directly from her senior prom.
We got through about four introductions of women in sparkling floor-length gowns before the obligatory gimmicks began. Davia, 25, from Charleston, South Carolina, brought champagne for an early toast. Vanessa, 23, a restaurant marketer from Baton Rouge, came in swinging Mardi Gras beads from her arm. A 25-year-old brought maple syrup from Vermont. Zach took a sip and hated it because, of course, he hates maple syrup, of all things. One of the contestants is Christina Mandrell, a content creator from Nashville who explained that she’s the daughter of one of the musicians from Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters. She was being very, “Don’t make me sing,” so we all know where that’s headed.
Cat Carter could be fun for us. From the jump, she brought a sort of chaotic energy that might actually wake Zach up a little. She’s a 26-year-old who billed herself as a dancer from New York but appears to be mostly professionally hot. She did some kind of a New York “I’m walkin’ here” Italian schtick, despite the fact that her Backstage.com resume says she is half Irish, half Chinese. She kept saying “gabagool” and made Zach have a meatball-eating contest during the getting-to-know-you portion of the evening. She also made another girl lift up her skirt so she could check the label and prove they were, indeed, wearing the same dress in different colors. The other girl got eliminated, which, of the two of them, was the right choice. I’m here for wherever Cat wants to take things next week.
Brianna also rules. She’s a politician, and I’m voting for her. One of just a few Black women on the show, Brianna, 24, from New Jersey, won “America’s First Impression Rose” on a TV appearance ahead of the season. For night one, she showed up in a rose-red gown, the picture of poise and grace. She told Zach that speaking with him “reinvigorated” her, a word he took a moment to process. It’s quickly obvious that adding a 26-year-old former college football player to her life will only slow her down as an entrepreneur. That said, she should absolutely get all the social media followers and brand deals she can and be on her way to further success.
When all the women were finally out of the limousines and into the mansion, it was time for Zach to take charge. He walked into the living area — which viewers can always count on to look like a candlelit Pier One showroom — with the women all crammed around a big sectional sofa. He said they were all beautiful – “Holy [bleep],” he gushed, with all the game of Adam Levine sliding into a woman’s DMs. “I should not be cussing right now,” he blushed.
But almost as soon as he started talking, I felt my eyelids get heavy. He simply isn’t charismatic enough to command a room on his own. “I’m just a dude who loves family, football, and frozen pizza,” he said – and I fell asleep. It was just for a minute, but watching him speechify felt like going under general anesthesia. To his credit, he did promise no drama. I shook myself awake and buckled down to get through the episode.
The rest of the night was the traditional scramble for the women to get time to talk to Zach before the sun rose and five girls got eliminated. Somebody told the host to “Go back to ESPN” when he put the first impression rose on the coffee table, which was pretty funny. (Palmer was a college football analyst before this gig.) Zach kissed a bunch of people, which is more fun than when they won’t kiss anybody. One woman, Madison, 26, cornered Zach into a kiss that didn’t go well, but instead of loudly insisting that she’d win his heart, she read the room, got sad that it hadn’t gone better, cried a little, then pulled him aside and essentially excused herself from the show. It was honestly shockingly sane.
Unfortunately, multiple people, including our lead, referred to themselves in the third person throughout the night, which was horrifying: “Greer is bold,” “Zach is just a regular dude.” It was all pretty upsetting. Greer got Zach’s first impression rose, though, so unfortunately, we could be in for more of that nonsense.
Zach’s hope for a drama-free journey aside, I’m sure plenty of tears, poor judgment, and bizarre arguments await us, loyal viewers. We’re basically guaranteed to see that thing where one person tells Zach that another person is there for the wrong reasons, but then the tattletale winds up consumed by their own vendetta and self-sabotages. It’s nice to have a train wreck we can depend on, and that’s really what Bachelor is all about. Hopefully, the producers know who they’ve chosen in Zach and will do what’s right to give the season a prayer of being worth watching: Send Zach to the back. Let the women do the talking.
One other novel tidbit: before a commercial break, there was a casting call to nominate grandparents for the show. And while we know a spinoff senior season of the show is in the works, we might prefer if they were secretly helping cast for the next season of MILF Manor. Here’s dreaming. I wonder if they’ll accept more racial representation among a group that’s closer to death.