Between 1990 and 1994, the Buffalo Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls but never won. In the years that followed, the Bill’s rival, the New England Patriots, installed themselves atop the division, where they have stayed, going to seven Super Bowls, of which they won four. The Bills meanwhile became something of a punchline, and fans were left to imagine what could have been.
I believe that Nick Viall is the Buffalo Bills of reality television.
Nick Viall is a character / human on the popular reality TV franchise, The Bachelor, in which a gaggle of men or women compete for a monogamous, lifelong relationship with a member of the opposite sex, who serves as both referee and prize.
Only a handful of people have appeared on more than one season of The Bachelor or its sister program, The Bachelorette. Nick Viall has not only been on two seasons, but he was runner-up both times. That is to say on two different seasons, Viall made it further than a combined 40 contestants, only to be rejected moments before proposing to two different women on network television. Furthermore, just this summer Viall appeared on Bachelor in Paradise — a sex club dressed as a Bug Juice reboot — where former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants couple off to earn additional days at a beach resort with an open bar and unlimited free pizza. In the season finale, Viall stepped onto the proposal stage — yes, there’s a stage where all of the proposals are required to take place — but opted not take a knee in front of the woman he’d been dating for under a month.
All of which is to say that, in three cases, Viall defied the odds and reached the big game of the biggest dating show in reality television. And three times, he’s shanked a metaphorical field goal, dropped the proverbial ball, or just, you know, said something super creepy that makes a woman think, “Nah, I should pick the other dude.”
Now Viall is getting his fourth shot. This fall, with the support of ABC, he’s recording his fourth Bachelor, this time as the star of The Bachelor, in which a couple dozen women will compete for his love. This is, obviously, ludicrous.
To better understand, let’s imagine an alternate history for the Buffalo Bills: in this timeline, after the third Super Bowl loss in 1993, the NFL and its fans are so blinded by sympathy for the perpetual runner-up, that they concoct a dastardly plan for a guaranteed happy ending. For the 1994 season, the Buffalo Bills will play 26 new teams — none of which have experience playing professional football. The three-time AFC Champions versus a bunch of amateurs.
That would seem unfair at best, maybe a little bit dangerous at worst, right? And yet, that theoretical contortion is, more or less, the setup of the upcoming season of The Bachelor. A 35-year-old man, who has an unparalleled amount of experience on a dating program that hinges on emotional manipulation and melodramatic gamesmanship, will play with a cast of younger, and almost completely inexperienced players.
At least, that’s the outlook if the show sticks to the traditional setup for The Bachelor, an already precarious game of emotional warfare in which 20-some 20-something women try to conceal their flaws, weaknesses, and hesitations long enough to get an engagement ring, or at least a promotion deal for their Instagram account. There is a more healthy alternative. A scenario exists in which Nick Viall doesn’t come across as a apex-predator winnowing a bunch of rookies from the savannah of everlasting love.
This season of The Bachelor should be a battle of the All Stars.
For a season constructed atop the most experienced player in Bachelor history, why shouldn’t the pool of competing women be the most talented, most beloved, most confident players from previous seasons? Imagine a season of The Bachelor featuring contestants that speak candidly, express hesitations, and, if they feel inspired, walk away. In this dream scenario, Viall would fear the possibility of an incomplete the season, because by the finale, there’s a chance no women would want to participate.
Don’t mistake this for cruelty toward Viall, an occasionally icky, but comparably benign member of Bachelor Nation. If anything, this is a precautionary step to not allow the star to become the manipulative lech the season seems designed to let him become. Sure, the odds would be against him, but if Nick loses a fourth Bachelor season, he will not be forgotten. Most football fans can’t remember who won Super Bowl XXI. But nobody forgets the 1990s Buffalo Bills, the greatest losers in history.
Nick Viall, grab the title — it’s yours!