Chris Harrison has never been one to shy away from hyperbole and while I’m usually loath to follow in his footsteps, I have no problem saying that this was the most boring “Tell All” episode ever.
This season’s “Men Tell All” was remarkable only in its lack of remarkability. What has typically been a forum for a Festivus-style Airing of the Grievances has mostly degenerated into a clip show with a few bouts of poorly engineered yelling and ham-fisted attempts at redemption stories, both of which the episode had in spades.
While it was nice to be reminded that Kenny has a daughter (have you heard?), Chris Harrison and company spent a great deal of time acknowledging the racist elephant in the room. It’s always odd to find that a reality dating show is being used as a moral compass, but this bookie will give praise where it’s due: a major television network took the opportunity to say, “Racism and misogyny are wrong. We don’t stand for it. You shouldn’t either. And if you do, you need to change your ways.”
That is the right message. Thank you, ABC. But don’t go breaking your arm patting yourself on the back.
The show’s after-the-fact attempts at taking a stand against Lee’s racist/misogynist attitude could have just as easily happened without Lee being present, and certainly without an attempt to redeem him in the process. While it was rewarding to see the rest of the contestants – many of whom are people of color – be able to speak their piece, it was uncomfortable to see Chris Harrison guiding Lee through an apology (and giving us the play by play on Lee’s body language to make it all seem genuine) that should have preceded all of the evidence against Lee’s character, not followed it. The main – and fair – point the rest of the men made is that it’s easy to apologize once you’ve been caught. Granted, maybe the show wasn’t set up in such a way to allow that, but Lee had many, many weeks after the revelations surfaced to make a public apology and he chose not to; it’s unclear what makes Lee so special that ABC believes his is the American life which deserves a second act.
Also troubling, at least from this bookie’s point of view, is that the show itself was taking a stand only once it had been caught, but without the on-air apology it wrung out of Lee. ABC claimed to have no knowledge of Lee’s Twitter history and the things he’d said on the platform – and if you’re continuing to buy that, I’ve still got that waterfront property in Deadwood you can grab on the cheap. The reality is one of two things happened: either the show’s producers knew about it and chose to ignore it, or they were negligent. Either way, they have their own apologies to make. Maybe highlighting the issue is their version of that. Maybe in my old age I’m becoming less capable of letting things slide. All I know is that a mea culpa from the people at the top never hurt anybody.
And that, unfortunately, is the big take away from “Men Tell All”. Sure, I had an honest, “Who’s that guy?” moment when Jamey spoke for the first time and it was great to see Kenny’s daughter clear the over on her prop bet by physically being there to remind us of her existence (in case anyone forgot), but for the most part so little happened that just about every bet hit the under. It may have lined my pockets, but it probably cost me a few customers. The goal isn’t to fleece people (except the Geek), it’s to turn a buck or two and have a good time in the process.
Which is probably why I’m still feeling salty: when all was said and done last night I didn’t walk away with any sense of entertainment or even completion, just an impression that there are fewer and fewer people in this world doing anything for the right reasons.