There's no question about it: The Bachelor is the biggest reality TV show of our time. Because it's been on air long enough to be a freshman in high school, much like an actual freshman in high school, it's undergone some changes since its inception. The series that perfected the art of finding-love-on-television first premiered back in 2002, before iPhones, the Kardashians, and even the Internet. (Oh wait, no. I guess the Kardashians and the Internet were around in 2002, but it's so long ago who can I even remember, really? Whatever.) In 2002, the world was a different place.
Not everything has altered within the franchise, of course. The Bachelor still remains faithful to its roots: A man vies for the affection of woman, and in the end, hopefully finds matrimonial bliss with just one of them (without pissing off any others along the way). There are roses, emotional vulnerability is encouraged, uncomfortable silences fill the room and the holes in our hearts... you get the picture. Except now, after 20 seasons, we know that, one, matrimonial bliss isn't always guaranteed and that two, there's no way The Bachelor can go through the whole thing without pissing anyone off.
But, let us take a walk back, way way back, before social media, before Chris Harrison was merely an omniscient grandfather presence that only popped up to announce trivial/obvious things like "this is the final rose," and "ladies, say your goodbyes." Back to Season 1, if you will, so we can see how much The Bachelor has changed since we first laid eyes on the cultural phenomenon.
1. The Bachelors Were Selected Based On Different Criteria
It did not matter if you were a "fan favorite" or not, as obviously, people didn't know you from the previous season. Instead, the Bachelors were chosen based on how successful they were in life, how willing and ready they were for love, and yes, how much the cameras loved them. Not until Season 13 in 2009 (except for Bob Guiney in Season 4) did the show start regularly using its past contestants as leads.
2. There Were Only 6 Episodes
During Season 1, the series was split up into six episodes (only seven weeks!) and one "Women Tell All" — yes, surprisingly, the "WTA" was there from the beginning. Nowadays, there are 10 episodes, one "WTA," and it's all filmed in three months time.
3. They Didn't Travel To Exotic Locations
Which means that, nope, the contestants weren't flown off to Europe or paradise, or anywhere really, except for the top four's hometowns.
4. The Overnight Dates Were In Separate States
In Season 1, The Bachelor took his leading four ladies to their respective hometowns, and that's where the "overnight dates" occurred.
5. There Was No Possibility Of Being The Bachelorette
The Bachelorette didn't premiere until January of 2003, after The Bachelor had already gone through two seasons.
6. Motives Were Different
Because social media wasn't a thing back then, the contestants on The Bachelor would have their 15 minutes of fame, but that's all it would be — 15 minutes. There were no "followers" to be gained, no protein supplements to promote on Instagram, no paradisiacal spin-off shows to be a part of, etc. Therefore, a lot more people went on the show actually looking for love, not just to further their career.
7. There Were No Spoilers
8. Villains Weren't On Every Season
Villains didn't start becoming a Bachelor must until Trish Schneider on Season 5.
9. The Show Was Less Explicit
Though The Bachelor tends to sweep the sex talk under the rug, the PDA is much heavier than it used to be.
10. It Was Also Less Self-Aware
In all of the seasons, The Bachelor — and its contestants — are more self aware than ever. The show plays up its inanity by dubbing its contestants things like "Chicken Enthusiast" or listing "Twin" as an occupation. Not only do the contestants realize how crazy this all is, they are allowed to express how crazy it really is. Take JoJo's hesitancy with the whole process in Season 20, for instance, which makes sense now considering that anyone who has watched or heard of the show knows that it usually doesn't end well for all parties involved. Back in the first couple of seasons, the odds weren't so stacked against its contestants.
11. And Finally, There Was No Neil Lane
Even though it seems like he's been a part of this family forever, Neil Lane didn't sign a contract with The Bachelor until 2008. Now, it's hard to imagine a season without his smiley (yet confused face) and book o' rings that's worth more money than I will probably ever see in a lifetime. Bless Neil.
What a wild ride it's been. Here's to 14 more years. Hopefully, Harrison has it in him.
Images: ABC/Matt Dunn; Giphy (11)