Brad Womack is possibly the best ‘Bachelor’ that ABC’s megahit franchise has ever had. He may not have found a bride on the show (although, to be fair, almost none of the show’s relationships work out, even when a proposal is involved), but his Kelly Taylor-esque “I Choose Me” in the finale was a moment of actual reality in an otherwise contrived reality show. He admitted that proposing to a woman he’d only known for a couple of weeks was absurd, and he refused to do it. The buzz that followed the finale of his season launched the show into a whole new stratosphere of pop culture water cooler discussion and injected new life into the stale series. When one of his unchosen prospects, DeAnna Pappas, was cast as the next Bachelorette, it led to a new series of Bachelors and Bachelorettes chosen from rejects of the previous season: DeAnna begat Jason, who begat Jillian, who begat Jake, who begat Ali. Now, a ridiculously juicy rumor is swirling that Womack will be returning to The Bachelor to try his luck finding his true love on reality TV. If it’s true, what will that mean for The Bachelor, and for the reality romance genre?
If Womack really is coming back to The Bachelor, it’s a brilliant gambit by ABC. They’ll get a ton of publicity, and it’ll be another new direction for the show, which is always struggling to stay fresh while not veering too far from its formula. But, to be honest, I can’t understand why Womack would do it. The show turned him into a villain after he refused to play by the rules – the entire ad campaign for DeAnna’s Bachelorette season was based around how she had been wronged by Brad’s cruelty and deserved love from someone who wouldn’t dis her on national television. Bringing Womack back on the show would require a hell of a redemption arc, and that might be more than The Bachelor is capable of doing. Furthermore, the stakes would be incredibly high – if Womack didn’t find love a second time around, it might be enough to make even the most diehard fans of the show realize how wobbly its premise is. There have only been two marriages in the history of the franchise – original Bachelorette Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, and Bachelor Jason Mesnick and his runnerup Molly Malaney – which doesn’t work out statistically in the show’s favor. (More of the show’s heroes have found love off of TV than on it.)
Womack’s “I Choose Me” moment almost blew the entire show out of the water, and despite the gimmickry of bringing Womack back, I can’t believe the show would risk letting him do it again. After his season, several rumors circulated that the show’s contract had been revised, requiring all Bachelors to propose in the final episode or else. Why would Womack, who managed to come out of the show with his dignity intact, risk it all again just for the chance to go on some cheesy planned dates with a bunch of pharmaceutical sales reps? Whatever they’re paying him, I hope it’s worth it.