‘The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart’ (ABC, 2020)

Reviews

I’ve been faithfully watching “The Bachelor” and all its spinoff shows since 2007. I eagerly await each new season; I attend finale viewing parties; and I even started a Bachelor fantasy league for KO faculty (wait, what?). So, yes, my interest runs deep. Am I embarrassed by this? A tad, ok, sure. But embarrassed enough to turn down Niki Taylor’s offer to review reality TV? Not on your life. 

When I saw the terribly repetitive previews for “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart,” however, I thought, “meh,” and basically forgot all about it until some trusted friends recommended it. I’m so glad I watched it. While deeply flawed and only six episodes long, it’s a pretty brilliant premise that works to solve a lot of issues the “Bachelor” franchise has been suffering from lately––namely, an influx of shallow contestants whose only ambitions are to become social media influencers. These “LTYH” contestants, however, are genuinely talented and a pleasure to hear perform. I was actually shocked at how good several of them were and at their range of skills––voice, piano, guitar, cello, songwriting. 

Here’s the premise: Ambitious singer/songwriters meet at the (new and improved!) Bachelor Mansion and begin to couple up based on romantic connections. After two weeks of musically-themed dates and love-triangle drama, five couples emerge in “solidified” relationships. From there, a couple is eliminated each week after they all perform duets in front of a live audience and a panel of Bachelor Nation couples and celebrity judges: Toni Braxton, Kesha, Jason Mraz, Jewel, Rita Wilson, and Taye Diggs, to name a few. For a franchise in the habit of enlisting only B-list country singers, it’s an especially appealing list. The judges are supposed to be looking for couples that exhibit both romantic and musical strength. Before the finale, the host, Chris Harrison, puts pressure on the remaining three couples to decide if they truly want a future together beyond music. Does this bizarre pressure turn them into diamonds or into crumbled piles of sad rubble? You’ll have to watch and see. The winning couple will get to work with a “noted” producer and then go on tour (or eventually, maybe? womp womp, COVID-19…). 

As I see it, there are two major flaws with this new show:

  1. Judging the success of any relationship from the outside is nearly impossible. Not only are these “relationships” nascent in the extreme, having formed a mere couple of weeks before, but the judges watch the couples together for just a few minutes on stage. The format of the show insists that couples be authentic and “listen to their hearts,” but too much is on the line. Who wouldn’t be tempted to fake their love in the hope of getting a record deal and tour? The format practically demands performative affection and makes it challenging for viewers to trust the couples’ authenticity.
  2. A successful romantic relationship and a successful musical partnership rarely go hand-in-hand. Ike and Tina, Sonny and Cher, Johnny and June, Kurt and Courtney, John and Katy, Jay-Z and Beyonce: they aren’t exactly famous for their stable, fairytale marriages. Fireworks and tug-of-war make for a much better show than goodwill and peace among men. Without wanting to spoil too much, the most interesting musicians on the show don’t actually make it to the finale because they’re “just not there” romantically. And it’s a real shame. It would have made for far more interesting performances in the end. Even a friendship where there are occasional sparks is more interesting to witness if the music’s great, than an ordinary partnership. It’s why romantic comedies always end when the couple actually commits to each other. Happy marriages are pretty boring to everyone except those two people in them. 

So do I recommend “Listen to Your Heart”? Absolutely. The lovesong duets are delightful. And if you enjoy “The Bachelor” shows, you’ll certainly appreciate this excellent attempt at a new direction. Still unsure? Hey, just listen to your heart.