“The Bachelor” hopes to inspire romance between the sheets — and on the covers. Monday night’s episode of the ABC reality dating show features a contest sponsored by Harlequin, the giant romance publisher.
Sean Lowe, the 29-year-old Dallas bachelor at the center of this season’s show, will pose with the women competing for his affections in a photo shoot for a Harlequin book cover. The contestant who displays “the most spontaneity, flair and chemistry with Sean” will win a three-book-cover deal with Harlequin — even if she doesn’t win the bachelor’s heart.
Expect the classic elements: scantily dressed cowgirls, antebellum hoop skirts and a Transylvanian seductress, all revolving around Lowe’s Ken-doll good looks. Monday night’s episode in a Los Angeles mansion recalls a short-lived series on the Oxygen network called “Mr. Romance” (2005), in which contestants vied to be the next Fabio.
Harlequin’s Margie Miller directed “The Bachelor” photo shoot, leading Lowe and his female contestants through hair, makeup and wardrobe. “The chemistry was real,” she said via e-mail from the company headquarters in Toronto. “Most of the time we work with people who have only met 10 minutes prior to the shoot and then have to look like they are in love. This time, we saw the possible beginnings of love.”
(Alas, it’s possible that not many other people will see that spark. E! reports that last week’s episode was the franchise’s lowest-rated debut ever.)
To pick a winner, Miller and Harlequin brand representative Michelle Renaud look at each woman’s ability to pose in “a polished and unaffected manner” — not easy to carry off while tied to a pirate ship mast wearing a bustier.
Lowe, who describes himself on Twitter as a lover of Jesus, was a runner-up on last season’s “The Bachelorette,” featuring Emily Maynard. Once the shirt-hating Texan has exhausted his options on reality TV, he might consider a career on book jackets. “We would love to use him as a model in the future, definitely,” Miller said. “He would make a great cover model.”
Harlequin, which publishes more than 110 titles a month, looks for men who have “an alpha sense.” Miller explained that the company’s ideal model “has an element of fantasy about him, but not too much since he has to look like he could exist in your own life. He’s attainable, but just a little bit better than you get in real life.” (Take that, Emily!)
The photos taken during “The Bachelor” won’t be used by Harlequin, but the publisher will stage new photos of the winner and use them on book covers later this year or next.