First Published by the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 2003

So the breasts won. I am of course talking about Amanda, one of The Bachelor’s 25 wannabe brides, who attributed her freakishly voluminous chest to the result of a childhood love for Dolly Parton. This week Amanda won the race for Alex’s love (imagine JFK jnr without the bone structure).

The Bachelor is the latest reality show to hit our small screens, and it illustrates some fascinating connections between this new entertainment genre and the world of work, careers and job interviews.

Each week Alex, the one-man selection panel, whittled down candidates vying for the wife job. In a bizarre group marriage ritual he offered roses to the survivors of each week’s round of group dates, individual dates, necking and, in one episode, a rose-less contestant’s panic attack that required ambulance attendance. The bachelorettes – who included lawyers, nannies, accountants and a Julia Roberts look-alike – strove (and often failed terribly) to put their best bride face forward.

On the show’s website the bachelorettes listed their best qualities as if they were writing a killer resume. “I am comfortable in most all situations from elegant, upscale gatherings, to veging out in sweats watching football,” said one.

“I finished college with honours while holding two majors and a minor, and went for my MA in grad school and have a strong business sense,” said another.

In the modern workplace, success in a psychometric test can take you to the next level of interviews. In The Bachelor, bachelorettes whose preshow interviews indicated a personality fit with Alex scored an extra date.

It has become part of reality TV show lore that the shows are just one big job interview, as aspiring actors, exhibitionists and eccentrics seek to parlay their moment of humiliation into a slighter longer moment of real acting gigs (or at least a lucrative product endorsement). But, as a Monash University academic, Simon Cooper, has written, there is a more interesting connection between the world of reality TV and the world of work.

He believes the latest generation of game shows – where skill, knowledge and physical ability have been replaced by deceit, treachery and rapidly shifting alliances – are a “grim parody of [most people’s] working lives”.

In reality TV and the modern workplace a bunch of strangers, often with little in common, are thrown together and asked to get along. Reality TV contestants, like many employees, spend day after day with each other in an artificially constructed environment. Meanwhile, a faceless and seemingly omnipotent power asks them to co-operate in all sorts of complex and often meaningless tasks.

Reality TV producers now face the job of inventing ever more complicated ruses and inventive forms of torture as savvy contestants twig to the format. Similarly, the modern employer needs to think up new ways to trap job candidates into blurting out embarrassing facts and exposing themselves as unsuitable.

Last night Channel Seven screened the first instalment of the newest show in the genre, Joe Millionaire. The premise is the same as The Bachelor – except that “Joe” is not a millionaire, but a 28-year-old construction worker: he’s the nightmare job candidate who fakes his CV so outrageously that no one questions his credentials and he gets the job.

In an era of perpetual downsizing and restructuring, someone is always being voted off the island. In both the workplace and the reality game show, the ability to continually reinvent yourself and build new alliances is the key to survival.

It should have come as no surprise, says Cooper, “that the winner of the first Survivor was a management consultant”. In fact, it was management consultants who practically invented the reality TV genre. Before anyone had ever heard the words “the tribe has spoken”, management consultants were sending groups of executives off on weekend bonding camps where they were asked to carry each other blindfolded over hot coals while reciting their core values backwards.

The Bachelor’s Alex was also a management consultant. With Amanda describing her preshow job as “party planner and events manager”, they are a priest and priestess of two modern-day uber-professions – change management and image management.

So it almost came as a relief to hear the early reports from the internet (the US is already screening a new series) that Amanda and Alex really had found true love. That they were refusing all offers to endorse home loan packages for newlyweds or support bras.

But then came reports that all was not well in this made-on-TV romance. One internet report had Amanda shocked to discover, post-show, that her perfect match was “desperate for fame” and had even auditioned for Survivor before turning his sights on The Bachelor for his big Hollywood break.

“I guess I really don’t know him well at all,” she told Entertainment Tonight Online. Latest reports had Amanda scoring a job in her home town in Kansas as a DJ on a rock station.

But runner-up Trista proved that losing out on that job you really wanted often turns out to be for the best. She’s starring in The Bachelorette, and this time she gets to choose between 25 bachelors vying for her favours.

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