Television review: ‘Bachelor Pad’

You could look at it at as another example of the networks going green. “Bachelor Pad,” which premieres Monday night on ABC, is the latest example of reality shows recycling participants from previous episodes. In this case, 19 male and female losers of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are brought together, “Big Brother” style, to do what they do best: plot and flirt and cry, manufacture drama, do a little armchair psychoanalysis and hook up. In other words, high school without, you know, the learning part.

ABC is touting it as an “all star” episode, though perhaps it should have used it as an eco-friendly fundraiser: Rather than creating more D-level-celebrity debris (why are so many of these folks named Jesse?), the network is kindly reusing what’s already there, and isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing?

On top of the obvious relief to the environment, “The Bachelor Pad” has two major attractions. The many fans of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” get to see some of their favorites back in action, including crazy Michelle from Season 14 and the villainous Wes, who admitted he went on “The Bachelorette” to become famous rather than fall in love (can you imagine?). And everyone gets a glimpse at the growing but still intimate world of reality stars.

Because these are no dewy-eyed innocents, my friend, these are professionals. These Nikkis and Ashleys, these Kiptyns and Peytons and all those Jesse/ies are not faint and aflutter with the thrill of love; they’ve been through the mill of love. And now their eyes are firmly fixed on the $250,000 prize.

As the rules are laid out to them, you can see the cold calculations flashing. Each episode will include a challenge; the winner of which will receive not only an immunity rose but also the ability to bestow one on a teammate of the opposite sex. Then, after everyone’s been given enough time to start rumors, backstab and shed strategic tears, the men will vote off a woman and vice versa. It is hard to imagine love, or even friendship, taking hold in this rocky terrain, and most admit quite readily that if they have to flirt or even hook up with someone they loathe to avoid being voted off, then so be it.

So, in many ways, “Bachelor Pad” is a purer version of reality television than its progenitors — all the participants grimly playing parts in a game. The only thing missing from their very matter-of-fact discussion is the fact that they are on television, which can bring its own set of prizes — losers of these shows often become as, if not more, famous than the winners.

Although the cast of “The Bachelor Pad” is skewed very much to the recent — five of the 11 women are from Season 14 of “The Bachelor,” all the men are from Seasons 5 and 6 of “The Bachelorette” — all the participants seem to know each other from various reunions and post-show scandals. So everyone is aware that Jonathan “The Weatherman” will be upset when former rival Craig M. shows up and that Nikki really doesn’t want to see Juan because — and I am paraphrasing here because direct quotes would hurt too much — he slept with her just because he needed a place to stay in Chicago.

As disturbing and coldhearted as including these two might seem, it leads to Nikki telling the camera: “Had Juan won at Twister, it would be a living hell for me,” a poignant reminder of the personal sacrifice that poetry so often requires.

As does an understanding of history. One of the pilot’s more amusing moments occurs during the Champagne and shriek-filled introductions, when Gwen, from Season 2, arrives. Those already present freeze for a moment, as if Elizabeth Cady Stanton or the ghost of Christmas Past had walked into the room. “Wow,” says one of the men, “she’s older than us.”

Yes, yes, she is, and if you’re not careful, that will be you in five or six years. A guy, or gal, named Jesse, still slinging back mimosas, working the room and the circuit.