Checking Out The Choice Was a Bad Choice (Surprise, Surprise)

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The Choice S01E1: "DJ Paul D, Romeo, Jeremy Bloom, and Jason Cook"


I’m pretty sure the working title for The Choice was So Which of You Bitches Is Going to Give me a Hand Job In My Limo? How else would you describe four semi-famous bachelors selecting from a pool of suggestively dressed ladies after a couple shouted questions and a 10-second deliberation?

Let’s quickly review the show's process, because it seemed remarkably complicated for a meat market and never paused to explain itself (Cat Deely, the hostess, has better things to do, like get this show in the can and move on to her next hosting gig. How many mortgages is this girl juggling?). The Choice loosely follows the format of NBC's The Voice in that it involves giant spinning chairs and celebrities playing "King for a Day" by judging mere mortals.

Basically four “celebrity” bachelors (The Choice promises there will also be celebrity bachelorettes later on) sit in chairs facing away from a stage. A lady comes out and has 40 seconds to start saying anything about herself to attract them. If the men are intrigued, they pull a handle on the chair and swing around. If two men choose the lady, she gets to pick between them. Once the celebrities have each collected three chosen ladies, those women then compete in a mini-pageant, answering their bachelor’s questions until he decides who he wants to take back to the limo for a quick BJ on a dream date! (Do people really even date anymore? Or do young people just go to raves together and dance around until their genitals line up?)

If you are expecting The Choice to be any kind of investigation into being attracted to someone for what’s inside versus their appearance, I’d direct you to the failed series Dating in the Dark, ABC’s ultimate elaboration on that thesis—and which, in comparison to The Choice, suddenly seems like it should have won an Oscar for documentary filmmaking. If The Choice was ever intended to be a show about women being judged on anything other than looks (HIGHLY DOUBTFUL), that lofty goal was struck down by the first boisterous hoot when the first contestant’s wildly shimmying silhouette danced on the 30-foot tall projection screen in the center of the stage.

The Choice is not trying to say that basing attraction on looks is superficial, it’s predicated on the idea you can ONLY be attracted to someone based on looks, and when you can’t look for yourself, you have to use every clue available to make sure she is, in fact, hot before you pull that “love handle.” The women onstage spent their precious seconds trying to convince the bachelors that they were good looking, describing themselves like prized show dogs. “I’m leggy! Long blonde hair! Big eyes! I look like a doll!” while the audience, who could see the contestants, registered their opinion with raucous cat calls. As in the case of the lovely Elyze, the audience response was so overpowering the bachelors couldn’t hear her voice at all and merely whipped their chairs around to see what all the hollering was about.

And, by the way, ALL the ladies were GORGEOUS. Obviously if the producers had thrown in a 350-pound woman with an acne beard and a good heart it would have been a debacle, and let’s hope they never do, because it would turn the superficiality of the series into something sinister. The Choice is all about rewarding the good-looking, and the fact that such a set-up implicitly punishes fugly innocents is not something it wants to discuss.

The Choice keeps its tone light, its girls beautiful, and its audience therefore reasonably polite. However even the show's efforts to sidestep bullying by only letting the audience rank 9s and 10s could not avoid a weird racial tension that floated below the surface. Like in the case of one bubbly girl who came out and introduced herself as “Asia” and then quickly assured Pauly D, “but I am NOT Asian.” Or the ultimate winner, Nia, a stunning black woman who answered a straightforward question about how she’d mend a broken heart by suggesting the white bachelor “put some coffee in his cream.” That answer was underlined even further when Annapurna, Nia's fellow contestant who hadn’t heard Nia’s answer, suggested “chocolate” as a good cure for a broken heart to the wild applause of the audience. It’s hard to imagine another context on TV where the emphasis on race in judging people would be as acceptable, but The Choice is very much about crystallizing sexual objects into their most obvious physical signifiers. “Typical California blonde.” “Eastern European beauty.” “Princess Jasmine-type” were all actual phrases used by the girls to to baldly advertise their race—a criteria for judging people that The Choice could have transcended if it were a smarter show.

What was probably weirdest moment of the evening was a round of shouted one-on-one questions (also conducted while the bachelors were still in their spinning chairs, in front of the pep-rally-caliber audience). Make no mistake, the guys (and eventually girls?) have ALL the power in this hour-long beauty pageant. They choose their three and then they whittle down from there, and at no point is any attempt made to see if the contestants necessarily even like the person they’ve been claimed by once assigned. However, some weird kind of attempt to ask the “celebrities” questions was made by each of the contestants during the shouted one-on-one time. It really felt like the producers backstage hammered it into the girls heads that they ask the bachelors questions to make it seem like each side was considering the other. This memo probably did not make it to the executive or network level, as there was no question about the girls turning down their Eligible Celebrity Bachelors for their Dream Limo Sexual Assault Date. So it made the rapid-fire exchange more confusing than anything else.

The Choice is grotesque and socially irresponsible on many levels. I feel like I can waive their promises of gender parity aside for the moment, because while there allegedly will be bachelorette episodes, Fox introduced the concept with guys judging girls and that’s significant. This show feeds sexual stereotypes, demeans women, encourages entitled performers and our cultish worship of them above, say, the doctors who are curing AIDS with stem cell research and encourages our already rampant societal emphasis on looks. Otherwise it’s light fun and frankly, ideal summer programming.


QUESTIONS:

1. Do people still date?

2. Who do you feel worse for: the bachelors who agreed to be on this show, or the contestants who agreed to be on this show?

3. What did you think of The Choice?

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