Friday, People featured a touching story about how Bret Michaels’ recent brain hemorrhage has strengthened his relationship with his girlfriend of sixteen years, Kristi Gibson. Wait, what? The man who spent three seasons searching for the groupie of his dreams on VH1’s ‘Rock of Love’ was in a relationship the whole time? None of his numerous make-out sessions were based on genuine emotions? Poor Rodeo never had a chance. Granted, the article describes Michaels and Gibson’s relationship as on-again, off again, but it looks like the whole series was fake. What a scandal! Not.
Few who watch reality dating shows can honestly believe that the casts are sincerely looking for the loves of their lives on camera. In 16(!) seasons of ‘The Bachelor‘ and ‘The Bachelorette,‘ there have only been two marriages. (The jury’s still out on Ed and Jillian.) Most of the winning couples quietly break up a few months after the final rose ceremony airs. The franchise, along with all of the other dating shows, has succeeded at creating far more reality personalities. New York got her start as a contestant on ‘Flavor of Love.‘ Melissa Rycroft surely thinks enduring the public humiliation of being dumped by Jason Mesnick was worth it since it led to not only to her successful run on ‘Dancing With The Stars‘ but a legitimate career as a television correspondent with credits including ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ Given that she had already appeared on CMT’s ‘Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making The Team,’ it’s a safe bet that she had an agenda beyond living happily ever after with Jason Mesnick — if that is not in itself an oxymoron.
Guess what: it does not matter. ‘Bachelor’ creator Mike Fleiss knew what he was doing when he ordered all the participants in the show to refer to what amounts to ‘Survivor‘ with kissing as “the process” and “the journey.” That is what is interesting to the audience. What happens after the ‘After the Final Rose’ special does not matter. People watch for the drama of the competition and the larger than life personalities. As the Brothers Grimm figured out long ago, the interesting part of the story is how the girl and the prince got together. Their subsequent relationship can be summed up as “happily ever after.”
There’s also an element of schadenfreude. Whether you have been dateless for months or have been married so long that the romance has died , watching a pharmaceutical sales representative burst into tears about how sure she is that a man she has had two real conversations with is the love of her life is bound to make you feel better about your personal life. That may be why the shows have stopped pretending that they are creating true love. The multiple seasons of ‘Rock of Love,’ ‘Flavor of Love,’ and ‘Shot at Love‘ dispense with the pretense that the celebrity is going to find a long term relationship. ‘The Bachelor’ has shifted from focusing on so-called “dream men” who were technically professional athletes, actors and royalty to being a continuous, personality driven soap opera with a cast of characters who migrate from season to season. The unofficial competition is not to win the final rose, but to be the next ‘Bachelor’ or ‘Bachelorette.’
So, when Bret Michaels fully recovers, it will not be surprising if, with his girlfriend’s blessing, ‘Rock of Love: Back From The Brink’ premieres on VH1. It will probably be the show’s highest rated season.