For better or worse, whether you love that you hate it or hate that you love it, The Bachelor is back for its 17th season, or the 738th overall if you count The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad.

This time around, bachelor Sean Lowe will have his choice of 26 conniving, dramatic, backstabbing women who are all simply looking for love (or fame, or to advance their careers, or to be a reality TV star, or to hook up with someone else from a previous show at one of the legendary all-seasons hookup mixers, or to be the next Bachelorette). He gets the standard 25, plus one special former contestant to spice things up.

When we last saw Sean, he was brokenhearted after only winning the bronze in the Emily Maynard Olympics. Since gold medalist Jef has since been stripped of his title (much like the second F he carried in his name during high school) and runner-up Arie appears in this episode to offer “counsel,” I’m betting the 29-year-old Sean and his abs end up the real winners. It literally takes less than 45 seconds before we see them for the first time, and it’s why this guy gets to date multiple Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and I don’t. And yes, Chris Harrison promises Sean will be shirtless much of the time.

Since the odds of this season ending in a marriage are disturbingly slim (Bachelors are 0.5 for 16 in previous seasons, with Jason Mesnick earning the half-point for marrying runner-up Molly Malaney after dumping winner Melissa Rycroft during the “After the Final Rose” show.  Bachelorettes, conversely, are 2 for 8), I think the keys to Sean’s success are the true intentions that will be evident in the types of women he chooses. I’ve noticed over the years that guys seem to go on these shows for one of three reasons: legitimately looking for “the one,” for the challenge or to find that unattainable woman they couldn’t get in real life.

With guys like J.P. and Ryan, it always seemed clear what their intentions were, and it led to seemingly lasting relationships. Then there are the guys who come across as players, like Ed and Kalon, who are more interested in the conquest than the prize. But the majority of Bachelors, it seems, go for the normally unattainable girl who is only interested because the guy is a pseudo-celebrity at the time. It is, in my opinion, why Brad ended up with trophy-wife Emily over Chantel, why Ben picked model Courtney over Lindzi (still weird she ended up with Kalon) and why Jake picked bad-girl Vienna over Tenley.

I mean, I get the draw of these women. But if the guy was truly looking for his best match instead of who seemed hottest or best in the sack, he would go with the girl who was nice and easy to get along with, who would be a good companion. I mean, they’re all attractive, right? But it rarely seems that the guy thinks that way. It’s always “what you could be missing out on” if you pick the nice girl. Anyway, back to the premiere.

Meet Your Suitors

So before we get to cocktail parties and tears and first impressions and rose ceremonies, it’s time to meet the ladies. Three things stand out to me right off the bat. 1. There are a lot of girls who look exactly like Sean, and roughly half match his bright blond hair. So much for opposites attracting. 2. I have to assume it stems from a racial discrimination lawsuit (that was thrown out by a judge), but there are at least four contestants who appear to be African American. That has to be some sort of record. Way to mix it up, producers! I wonder if more than one will make it past the first night, but he’s gotta keep one. And finally, 3. Why are there always so many damn Ashleys? It has to be the most overused last name initial in show history. This time, we have two Ashleys (P. and H.) and an AshLee.
Sean drops all the standard optimistic lines about finding love and being the best man he can be and only getting engaged once, and he does seem very genuine about it. Now we have to see if his choices match his demeanor. Oh, and Arie and Sean drink their Coors Light out of pint glasses. Too classy for bottles, but not too classy for Coors Light. And I don’t even need to get into the segment where Sean practices his rose delivery technique and breakup lines, and Arie gives him tips on kissing. It should be called, “Two of the best looking men in America engage in pre-determined flirty conversation.” Whatever makes the women swoon.

Here are the highlights of the pre-meet biographical introductions/post-limo antics (and a handy-dandy Cheat Sheet from ABC):

Desiree is a 26-year-old bridal stylist who is desperate to meet Prince Charming and sketches herself in a wedding dress with an imaginary groom. She looks like the cute girl next door when she gets out of the limo, and she brings pennies so they can make a wish together in the fountain.

Tierra is 24 and wants a best friend, but she’s had her heart broken repeatedly. She and her tiny Yorkie are on the verge of tears when they find out Sean is the Bachelor. She has an open heart tattoo on her finger, and she hopes that he’ll be the one to complete it. There’s an awkward few seconds of silence when they meet, and then Sean runs off and grabs a rose for her. He is apparently bucking the norm and just giving out roses at will as he sees fit. Apparently, slight desperation is a major turn-on for him.

Two girls, and two mentions of the word desperate. Hmm…

Robyn is a pigeon-feeding engineer who is tired of being single and is obsessed with sticky notes. And she does backflips, but apparently not very well in an evening gown. Luckily, Sean doesn’t seem bothered by her fall.
Diana is the 31-year-old elder stateswoman of the group. She owns a hair salon and thinks that’s pretty cool. She also has two young daughters.

Sarah is 26 and an advertising designer, and anything else I say would be overshadowed by the fact that she only has one arm.
Ashley P. is a 28-year-old cat lady, who is the crazy Fifty Shades of Gray fan from all the previews. She says she wants Sean to rip her clothes off and spank her. And yet she doesn’t understand why she is still single. She pulls a necktie out of her dress and asks Sean to “show her how to use this later.” He says he thinks he gets the symbolism, but I think he thinks she wants him to show her how to tie a tie. It is, after all, a cocktail party.

Lesley M., 25, is a political consultant from Arkansas who works in D.C. and carries a “Lesley Sean 2016” campaign poster. Vote now! Or don’t. She brings a football and pretends to run a play just so she can stare at his backside.
Kristy is a Ford model.
AshLee is an adopted organizer who was raised by a pastor. Everything in her life is organized, except for the love aspect. She gives us the first real tears of the night, talking about her trip through the foster system. If that’s part of your drinking game, take a sip. She’s the first one out of the limo and definitely seems to make a good first impression.

Jackie is a cosmetics consultant who puts on bright red lipstick and “marks her territory” in the season’s first official kiss (though it’s only on the cheek). He doesn’t even try to wipe it off, but then Selma comes along and pulls a hanky out of her cleavage to take care of it for him.

Leslie is a 29-year-old poker dealer who calls Sean “Mr. McSteamy.”

Daniella is 24 and a commercial casting associate. She has an awkward “handshake” that is really just high and low fives, as well as elbow and fist bumps. There is nothing even close to a handshake involved, and she almost hits him in the crotch when they miss a double low five.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kelly is a cruise ship entertainer who wrote a song for Sean.

Katie is a yoga instructor, which means she’s bendy (and barefoot).

Taryn is a 30-year-old health club manager with potential who didn’t watch the last two seasons of the show, so everything she learns about Sean will be new to her. She also forgets to tell him her name.

Catherine, 26, is a graphic designer from Seattle. She calls Sean a hunk and offers him a dance.
Lacey is a grad student/Sean clone, and she gives him a lace heart to remember her by.

Paige, one of the super fans from Bachelor Pad 3, is a 24-year-old JumboTron operator. Random.

Amanda, 26, is a Fit model, giving Sean his choice of models. Rough life. They share a choreographed get-it-out-of-the-way moment of awkwardness, complete with cricket noises.

Holy crap, 29-year-old Keriann is showing a lot of leg. She’s an entrepreneur, and she drove nearly 3,000 miles for a shot at Sean and probably because she didn’t realize ABC would fly her out for free.

Brooke is a community organizer, and she and Sean just tell each other how good they look.

Ashley H. is also a fashion model. Three models? No one deserves three models. That also has to be a record.

Lauren is a 27-year-old journalist, so she is instantly my favorite. Unless she’s a bad journalist. Then she’s my least favorite. Grammar, kids, it’s all about the grammar. She is also Italian and says her dad will break his legs if Sean breaks her heart. Now I’m just not sure about her.

Oh holy hell, substitute teacher Lindsay walks out of the limo in a full wedding dress, says, “Now you may kiss the bride,” and plants an open mouth smooch on his lips. Call the asylum.
That’s 25 women, but wait! It’s time for the first shocker of the season. The mysterious 26th contestant, who called her old buddy Chris Harrison because she specifically wanted a shot at Sean, is none other than Kacie B. She made the final four with Ben last season, but was sent home after the hometown dates.

Let’s Get Caddy

The cocktail party starts off nice and contentious when Tierra walks in with a rose. All the other girls are like, What the F? Catherine called it “an animal attack on the eyeballs.” At least if that’s where the animal strikes, you don’t have to watch the rest. Cause a lot of it isn’t pretty.

The women also don’t take kindly to Kacie’s return. Desperation Desiree, in particular, thinks it’s completely unfair. I’m getting early signals that she is one of the crazies this season, but I hope I’m wrong, for her sake. Wedding dress Lindsay also has a target on her back.

Kacie gets first crack at Sean, and he gives her his jacket after she shivers. Or pretends to. Whatever she needs to do to piss off the other ladies more.

Desiree does well in her first one-on-one chat, and she gets the second impromptu rose of the evening. Sean is doing great with alienating all the women, particularly Kacie, who had alone time but didn’t get a rose. Scandalous! Everyone hates everyone! Then adopted AshLee gets a rose, followed by cleavage hanky Selma, and the girls start to realize things aren’t quite what they expected. Panic mode sets in, and they all claw at Sean while still trying to appear nice and cordial. Even the girls who have roses bicker over who got the true first impression rose, with AshLee telling Tierra that hers was merely “the first rose” and not the “first impression rose.” Thank God those tedious introductions are over so the real fun can begin.

Other roses go to back-flipping Robyn, yoga Katie, graphic designer Catherine, poker dealer Leslie and lipstick-kiss Jackie. Ashley H. doesn’t get a rose after her one-on-one, which everyone recognizes as a really bad sign, seeing the direction the night is going.

Wedding dress Lindsay is worried that Sean doesn’t understand the joke she was trying to make, and she’s also apparently wasted and can barely stand. Crazy + alcohol = early exit. She wants a do-over, but that only happens for Kacie and not-drunk newbies.

“Fifty Shades of Crazy” Ashley P. has also had a bit too much of the sauce, and she dances around in a way only she thinks is provocative before stealing Sean away from Paige. She pulls out the tie again, and Sean jokes he brought a rape whistle in case he gets in trouble. Ladies, if a guy tells you that the first time he meets you, it is not a good sign. Consider her walking papers signed as well.
I-don’t-watch-the-show Taryn and one-armed Sarah (I really hope it’s not inappropriate to refer to her that way, it is honestly just for identification purposes) struggle with the aggressive nature of the show and don’t want to fight for time with Sean, even though it could mean their eliminations. Taryn in particular turns on the water works after Sean asks to speak with Brooke alone but not her. Sarah is insecure and more self-conscious than we previously thought about her condition, but girl, that’s not the issue, ’cause you’re hot! She finally gets some alone time and gets a rose, reaffirming her confidence. Sean is too good a guy to pass up on her.

Half a Rose Ceremony

Twelve girls already have roses, and seven more will be given out to narrow Sean’s field to 19. That means only seven girls are leaving, and it seems like there should be more. In addition to the previously mentioned roses, community organizer Brooke and single-mom Diana are also deemed safe.

To recap, sticking around are adopted AshLee, lipstick Jackie, cleavage hanky Selma, poker dealer Leslie H., desperate Desiree, pre-house rose Tierra, back-flipping Robyn, yoga Katie, community organizer Brooke, graphic designer Catherine, one-armed Sarah and single-mom Diana.

The rose ceremony roses go to Amanda the Fit model, political consultant Lesley M., former contestant Kacie B., Ford model Kristy, “handshake” Daniella, I-don’t-watch Taryn and, finally, wedding dress Lindsay. Yup. I guess there are second chances for drunk newbies.

That means it’s the end of the line for 50 Shades of Crazy, cruise ship Kelly, lace heart Lacey, superfan Paige, leggy Keriann, fashion model Ashley H. and journalist Lauren.

I definitely find some of his choices interesting, and there are early indications that he’s not taking the shallow route. Gone are nearly all of the Sean/Emily Maynard lookalikes, as well as one of the three fashion models. We didn’t get to see much of anything from Kelly, Lacey and Keriann, all gorgeous women, so we’ll never know what he didn’t see in them. We got the usual “Why can’t I find love?” pleas from Kelly, Paige and Ashley H., but I always think that the people eliminated on the first night suffer from injured pride more than a broken heart.

Compete in Fantasy TV: Make your picks on who you think will be going home. Hurry, you have until Monday January 14 at 12pm PST to cast your vote. 

Thanks for sticking with us on this marathon premiere entry (so much to recap with all the introductions), and here’s to hoping you check back throughout the season as we follow Sean’s quest to find a wife. The previews promise drama, tears, (lots of) make-out sessions, secrets, utterances of “not here for the right reasons,” broken hearts, more tears, girls who “aren’t the same as what Sean sees,” a visit from an (ex?) boyfriend and a trip to the emergency room (for Tierra) — all staples of a successful season of The Bachelor. Hey, maybe there will even be some true love along the way. But let’s not get our hopes up for anything too crazy.

Video: Check out Lauren, Catherine and Sean’s deleted scenes from the premiere

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(Image courtesy of ABC)

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Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order