CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
TV Review: Emily Maynard Tries to Bring Personality to ‘The Bachelorette’
CHICAGO – “I may have had a head injury, but there’s nothing wrong with my heart.” If you find that line too cheesy to be realistic, you probably won’t be interested in tonight’s premiere of the eighth season of “The Bachelorette.” If you think that kind of material is more sweet than stale, welcome to one of the dorkiest season premieres of a dating reality show in history. The gorgeous Emily Maynard has brought out a bizarre cavalcade of personalities…and I mean that as a compliment.
TV Rating: 3.0/5.0
TV dating shows are all about personalities. The fact is that if these shows were realistic, they’d be no fun to watch. Check out a real first date next time you’re in a fancy restaurant if you can spot one. We want the producers to walk a fine line — emotion that feels honest in which we can invest in the love stories and larger-than-life personalities that keep those love stories from getting boring.
The last few seasons of the show have pushed this search for personality to extreme levels often because there was none in the title role. Sorry Ashley fans but last season was awful and the reason it became so sadistic and even misogynistic (they basically made Ashley cry every episode) was because the lead wasn’t interesting herself. We never really cared what happened to her. Emily Maynard is a GIANT step up in this department. She’s charming. She’s beautiful. It’s easy to see people getting invested in her fate.
Photo credit: ABC
If they can get past the awkwardness of so many of this season’s contestants. Where do I begin? In an effort to make a first impression in a format that is getting stale, so many of the guys do ridiculous things when they get out of the limo and meet Emily for the first time. There’s the guy who brings an ostrich egg that symbolizes the union between Emily and her daughter and how he’ll protect it like a fragile egg. How about the guy who pulls up on a skateboard hanging off the back of the limo? The one brings a boom box and does a dance? The guy with the glass slipper who introduces himself as Prince Charming? Or this DOOZY — “I’m a high school Biology teacher…but I’m here to have chemistry with you.”
Photo credit: ABC
Of course, most of these guys will be gone before the end of the first episode (which they don’t let critics see as if we’re all going to run out and spoil the rose ceremony). Who will be left? Chris Harrison and the team behind “The Bachelorette” stress two important elements of this season throughout the premiere — Emily is a single mother who lost the love of her life in a tragic accident and the show this season is taking place in her hometown. I like the location change — it adds a little comfort to the bachelorette’s role to make the guys come into her world.
As for the motherhood aspect, it feels a bit manipulative. The show opens with scenes of Emily playing with her daughter and she’s crying about her love for her before the first commercial break. If you really think about what it must be like for a single mother to open up herself to love again, using that to pull at viewer heartstrings feels a little gross.
It will clearly be a theme for the season. Emily herself talks about how she’s not just looking for a husband, she’s looking for a father for her daughter. There do seem to be a few solid candidates — a few guys who could fit the bill without cheesy lines, handsy greetings, or other tricks to get on TV. There’s a villain, of course, who feels like he’s scripted just from the way he arrives. But this season seems to be populated by more, well, dorks, which could be a problem for some viewers until they realize that Emily herself is a little dorky in a sweet way.
Most importantly, it’s easy to root for Emily Maynard. I hope they tone down the fatherhood aspect so Emily’s daughter doesn’t feel quite so much like a device to get viewers to cry and earn more ratings. But I like Emily and I like some of the guys trying to win her heart this season. It’s been a while since there’s been a “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” as likable and down-to-Earth as Emily Maynard. Let’s hope the producers and the men they cast treat her right.