(image credit: ABC)

For fans of reality shows and likely-to-fail relationships that unfold on national television, the start of the new year hails the beginning of another season of The Bachelor, America’s favorite love-to-hate-it love circus, featuring Arie Luyendyk Jr.

Long-term fans may remember him as runner up on Emily’s season, and then again, they may not. Regardless of how long you have been watching the show, you’re probably still just wondering why the bachelor isn’t Peter as you scroll through his Instagram work out videos and cry because love is dead.

But never fear! Last appearing on the show five years ago during season 8, Arie is back now at 36 to find love… and a barrage of kind of ageist comments about his greying hair, old(er) age and inability to maintain a relationship since leaving the show.

Tuning in to the first episode brought many Bachelor franchise first episode tropes and expectations: The entrances. The dresses. The drama. Where last season showcased the hoopla of the red dress, this year it brings the tragedy of too many women named Lauren. I know. Really tackling some big issues here.

Also unlike previous seasons, this opening episode did not feature outrageous (fake) careers for the leading women – we assumedly have Bachelorette’s walking billboard Whaboom and the Tickle Monster to thank for that. It did, however, feature a large amount of real estate agents and run of the mill, made for TV weirdos. I’m looking at you Manic Pixie Taxidermy Dream Girl playing the ukulele to a dead rodent. Doesn’t that make you want to watch it right now?

After the premiering episode, it’s hard to not only be incredibly excited for the fabricated drama we know is coming, while also being slightly disappointed by it. Already, villain arcs are being established, the absurdity is high, and one can only wonder how much of the show is real and how much of it is dictated by a producer off-camera who knows it will stir the pot to give Chelsea the first impression rose.

If you aren’t watching The Bachelor, I don’t blame you. It’s not exactly the most socially aware, despite being one of the most socially relevant. It is forced, at times fake, and can be downright cringy. Yet there is still something beyond the entertainment factor that makes it worth the watch.

If you are looking for predictions, you have come to the wrong place. While the previews for the entire season give us a pretty good idea of who’s sticking around and what trouble they’ll cause, I have no intel other than what one can find with a simple Google search. I’m not Reality Steve or Jimmy Kimmel after all. Just a television cynic and hopeless romantic.

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