It isn't often that any TV show lasts 20 seasons, let alone a reality show about dating, so the fact that this year marked The Bachelor entering its twenties is kind of a big deal. Since the show started in 2002, Chris Harrison, rose ceremonies, and awkward group hot tub dates have kept us coming back for more year after year, so it makes sense that the formula hasn't changed much — it totally works. But even though The Bachelor is a show that is rife with tradition, ABC hasn't let it get behind with the times. The show's format may have stayed the same, but there are a lot of ways The Bachelor has evolved over time as a show.
Think about it: Between the time Alex Michel was behind the wheel in Season 1 and Ben Higgins took the throne in Season 20, there have been a lot of changes. Spinoffs like The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise have been created and added to the lineup, the types of contestants that are cast have changed, and even though the show definitely still has its sexist moments, it's also become even more progressive, too.
Here are all the ways The Bachelor and The Bachelorette has changed over time. And if this makes you want to watch the first season all over again to compare, you'd probably be shocked at how big the difference really is.
1. The Contestants & Stars Are Different
Read: More like "regular" people. In the beginning, the leads of the show didn't always show up with a six pack, a la Ben Higgins, Chris Soules, and Sean Lowe of recent seasons. Alex Michel and Bob Guiney both looked more like normal dudes you'd run into in the grocery store who might ask you on a date, and it felt less contrived. These days, they're definitely going for eye candy — not that I'm complaining. And as for the contestants themselves? As far as the women go, these days, it's the norm for them to show up with eyelash extensions, killer wardrobes, and makeup skills most people can only achieve through cosmetology school, and I can't blame them. Who doesn't want to look her best on TV? But back in the earlier days of The Bachelor, it was far more frequent to see women in every day clothes and makeup.
2. Two Words: Social Media
Live tweeting wasn't always an option, but now, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are dissected in real time every single week. Not only does this affect the way we as viewers enjoy the show, but it also affects the stars, too. Just ask Kaitlyn Bristowe, who had to deal with tons of social media bullying while her season was on the air. It's not easy to put yourself out there in the name of love on national TV, especially when there are thousands of critics waiting to tear you down.
3. Everyone Has Longer To Fall In Love
In the earliest season of The Bachelor, the contestants only had six episodes to fall in love with Alex Michel. Now? The seasons are all about ten episodes long, not counting the Tell All and After The Final Rose specials. Still a whirlwind relationship, but with a little more time to breathe.
4. L-Bombs Are Way More Likely
It used to be unheard of for a lead to tell anyone he loves them before the finale, but this year, Ben Higgins let it it slip that he loved both JoJo Fletcher and Lauren Bushnell during the Fantasy Suite dates... before he decided who he wanted to propose to. Welcome to 2016, I guess!
5. Tradition Gets Broken More Often
If you think The Bachelor sticks to a formula now, this is after it's shirked over a decade of tradition in favor of more spontaneity. In recent seasons, the leads have been more free to follow their hearts, whether that means sending someone home outside of a rose ceremony who they just don't click with or spending time overnight with someone when it feels natural after a date.
6. Travel Is Fancier
Let me put it this way: Did you see anyone swimming with pigs until Ben Higgins' season? That's what I thought.
7. Stars Didn't Always Come From Previous Seasons
In the beginning, all of the male Bachelor leads were brand new. It wasn't until The Bachelorette premiered that the show finally had contestants to start recycling, and thus the current tradition was born.
8. The Ring Hasn't Always Been From Neil Lane
Neil Lane hasn't always been the supplier of Bachelor engagement rings — his diamonds are a relatively recent addition to the show's finale every season. But, as Lane told Stylecast in an interview earlier this year, stars who didn't get one of his rings will often buy an anniversary ring from him so that they can be part of the club, too.
9. They Have A Built In Support System Now
Thanks to social media, it's a lot easier for Bachelor alum to meet and stay in touch — even the ones who were never officially co-stars. And when someone finds out they're going to be on the show, there are tons of people they can go to for advice and support. Plus, the photos of my favorite Bach stars hanging out together are always fun to look at, so that's a bonus, too.
10. There Are Spoilers Everywhere
According to what Reality Steve told Jezebel, he didn't start getting spoilers until Jason Mesnick's season. That means that before that, his play by plays weren't a thing, making it much easier for ABC to surprise their audiences.
11. The Show Itself Is More Progressive
OK, so it still makes some questionable moves (like the time Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson were double Bachelorettes), but all in all, we're seeing more independent women as the stars and contestants... and more men who treat them as their equals. If that's the direction the show is heading in, I'm totally on board.
Some of these changes seem pretty crazy, but just imagine what The Bachelor will be like in Season 30... if it lasts that long. Who am I kidding? Of course it will.