By Emily Yahr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 9, 2010; C01
If watching impossibly hard-bodied 20- and 30-somethings compete for $250,000 while they drink, fight, cry, hook up, play Twister in bikinis and throw around phrases like "I'm not here to make friends" is not your idea of fun, then you should probably avoid "Bachelor Pad," the second spinoff in the "Bachelor" franchise that reunites 19 former contestants in a battle for the prize money.
But if you're morbidly curious about people who have been through the reality show wringer -- tabloids, public scrutiny, online forums devoted to discussing their every flaw -- and would willingly come back for more, I suggest you tune in for a truly bizarre viewing experience.
The series, which premieres Monday night on ABC, brings back the "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" alumni who didn't meet their soul mates, and gives them what the show calls "a second chance at love" . . . plus the chance to win that quarter-mil if they're the last one standing. Host Chris Harrison is back, along with a co-host, Melissa Rycroft -- the Season 13 "Bachelor" winner who was famously dumped last year when Jason Mesnick confessed that even though he had proposed to her, he was actually in love with her runner-up.
Harrison and Rycroft inform the contestants that they'll be split up into two teams, guys against girls. Each week, the teams will decide together whom they want to vote out of the house. However, the winners of various challenges have the chance to win immunity and take members of the house out on dates, with the option to give their dates a rose (because it's not a "Bachelor" show if a rose isn't involved) if they want a certain gal or guy to stick around for another week.
"Bachelor Pad" comes from a franchise that walks a fine line between sympathizing with and flat-out mocking its contestants. Clearly, the producers here favor the latter, and who could blame them? So much priceless material! Not only can audiences witness the consequences of the shameless in-house hookups, but also all manner of greed-fueled sabotage schemes. There's no choice except to revel in its tawdry entertainment.
The on-screen tensions are enhanced for another reason. Turns out, between seasons, "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" contestants from past shows get together for grand reunions where all kinds of debauchery takes place. (Memo to ABC: Why aren't you filming that? We've already got the title: "Bachelor Party!") Just our luck, these extracurricular activities have resulted in the kind of insanity that can happen only when so many beautiful people are in proximity to one other. Highlights include:
-- "Bachelor" Season 14 castoff Elizabeth and "Bachelorette" Season 5 rejectee Jesse K. had a recent fling that has left Elizabeth head-over-heels and Jesse K. thinking they're "just friends . . . but I'm kind of getting the impression that she thinks of us as more." Sure enough, Elizabeth tells anyone who will listen that she's in love, and Jesse K. looks terrified when she comes within a foot of him.
-- Housemate Nikki hates fellow contestant Juan "with a passion." It emerges that the two slept together -- and according to house gossip Natalie, it was only because Juan wanted a free place to crash while visiting Nikki's home town of Chicago. Ouch. Judging by the deadly glare on Nikki's face when Juan saunters into the house with a guilty look and an offer of an awkward hug, this story is confirmed.
All of this drama combined with the regular "Bachelor" classics -- the premiere includes the aforementioned game of Twister, plus a date that features a private concert with a defeated-looking Alex Band of the Calling -- makes two hours go by surprisingly quickly. "Bachelor Pad" serves as a launching pad to a crazy other world, a planet where people not only think it's acceptable to appear on a reality show, but think it's an even better idea to return.
Bachelor Pad: (two hours) premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.