Ah, it feels like just yesterday we were scratching our heads wondering what the hell a Whaboom was when The Bachelor franchise revealed the 31 men who would be competing for Rachel Lindsay's love on The Bachelorette. Oh, and there was also a tickle monster. No, Rachel did not choose either of them, hard as that may be to believe.
So imagine our surprise when the 29 contestants for Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season were announced and there wasn't a hipster, chicken enthusiast or social media influencer. Someone's title was even "recent master's graduate." Along with the serious job descriptions, the show also changed the backdrop for the routine cast photos that will haunt these contestants until their dying day, making them more flattering.
Both moves continue a shift for the franchise since choosing Arie as their new Bachelor over Peter Kraus, the fan-favorite runner-up from Rachel's season. A 36-year-old racecar driver/real estate agent, Arie hasn't appeared on any of the Bachelor shows since 2012, when Emily Maynard chose Jef Holm over him in The Bachelorette finale. He never appeared on Bachelor in Paradise and he's never posted a photo on Instagram sponsored by FitTea.
While it shocked Bachelor Nation, choosing Arie was a bold move by producers, mostly because of how old-fashioned it was. The pool of contestants has gotten more crowded than a hot tub on a group date, with many going on for the sole purpose of establishing their brand and becoming an Instagram personality. And Bachelor Nation was super incestuous off-camera: Do any of these women and men know anyone else? Did they forget everyone they knew before signing their life away to compete for love (and spon-con) on television?
"The rest of us duechbros in the franchise are so lame now, they had to reach back before IG was a thing to find a clean resume," Derek Peth, a Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise alum, tweeted after the announcement.
Amanda Stanton, a Bachelor and two-time BIP vet (and social media star), wrote, "I think it was such a good choice choosing someone who's out of the current Bachelor bubble!"
Of the surprising pick, host Chris Harrison said,"I think he's a very sincere good gentleman." In case the point wasn't clear: Arie. Is. Here. For. The. Right. Reasons.
And the season premiere on Jan. 1 was pretty straight-forward: No one got really drunk and fell in the pool. No one had a super crazy entrance, minus presenting Arie with a mini-hot dog wiener because she's from Wiener, Arkansas.
The first one-on-one date of the season seemed inspired by Pretty Woman, with Becca being gifted with dresses from Rachel Zoe, jewels from Neil Lane and heels from Christian Louboutin, all because Arie wanted to "spoil" her. The second one-on-one date found Arie taking Krystal to his hometown to see his home and meet his parents. Even the music seems to be more romantic, especially during Arie's (many) kissing scenes.
But has the back to basics approach for season 22 been paying off? Let's take a look at the ratings.
Arie's premiere episode attracted 5.5 million total viewers and 1.5 demo rating, down 17 and 29 percent from Nick Viall's premiere one year earlier. (It's definitely worth noting Arie was facing some pretty big competition: The Rose Bowl's thrilling OT ending and the Sugar Bowl. Plus, it was still broadcast's highest-rated outing in the demo on that night.) And the second episode, without fierce football competition, remained steady with 5.5 million viewers and a 1.4 demo rating.
But the good news is last Monday's outing saw season highs, attracting 6.6 million viewers and notching a 1.8 demo rating, which could be the impact of the women, especially stand-outs like Bibiana, Krystal and Chelsea, finally resonating with viewers.
Judging from the reaction on social media, Arie has failed to make much of an impression on some viewers.
"I hate this season of the Bachelor!!! It's almost as if EVERYONE knew Arie would be boring," comedian Fortune Feimster tweeted. "I've fallen asleep like four times and then suddenly awoken by horrific sounds of kissing." (Side-note: A friend of mine actually has to look away or cover her eyes at our viewing parties whenever Arie is kissing someone.)
Former After Paradise host Michelle Collins tweeted, "Arie is not a dork. He's an average white guy. There is a difference."
But watch his self-deprecating interviews and or take a quick scroll through his sarcastic Twitter account and there seems to be a disconnect: where is the guy who called out his own inability to answer a question about what excites him on night one with, "'Excitement excites me, oh and pizza too ' Kill. Me. Now."
After last Monday's episode, filled with a lot of awkward conversations and kissing to make up for awkward silence, Arie tweeted, "Really happy they showed some of the great conversations I had... oh wait
Fingers crossed for that tonight.
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.