Colton Underwood now has the distinct and strange fortune that only 22 other men before him have had — that of being The Bachelor, the most eligible man in the country as decreed by creator Mike Fleiss and a team of drama-loving producers. If you’re late to the Bachelor game or feel a daunting, crushing need to recap every season of The Bachelor before Colton takes the stage, don’t worry. It’s not too late. In fact, all of the seasons of The Bachelor can be summed up in just one sentence each. It's that easy.
The Bachelor as we know it now is very, very different than the one that debuted in 2002; the production values are sleeker, the contestants are savvier, and the hair and makeup has gotten way, way better. Being on The Bachelor is a business today. Back then, you gave up your life for six weeks and then went back to the way everything was when you (most likely) got sent home. That was that. Now, there are Instagram sponsorships to be had and spinoffs to join. The core of the show has stayed the same in that there are 25 (or 30, depending on the year) women looking for love with one man. But the subtexts and unwritten rules, well, they’re a little different.
So why is The Bachelor still a part of the cultural zeitgeist? “The simple answer is, it strikes a chord about the one thing we all relate to and we can all empathize with, and that's relationships and companionship,” host Chris Harrison told The Hollywood Reporter. “And no matter where you are in the world and what you do, you get that.”
Colton has little-to-no relationship experience, so his season is going to be a bumpy ride. He will also probably rewrite some Bachelor rules of his own, but before we see where we’ve yet to go, Bachelor fans have to see where we came from.
Season 1: Alex Michel
Chris Harrison’s suits didn’t fit, Alex Michel had no idea what he was getting into (he disappeared from public life after), and the world was introduced to the first Bachelorette, Trista Rehn.
Season 2: Aaron Buerge
The Bachelor that bought his own ring (sorry, Neil Lane).
Season 3: Andrew Firestone
A tire-maker heir made like rubber and bounced from Jen Schefft after only a few months.
Season 4: Bob Guiney
Season 5: Jesse Palmer
A New York Giant finished the season not with a wife but with an eventual contributing gig on Good Morning America.
Season 6: Byron Velvick + Jay Overbye
The Bachelor made contestants choose who the Bachelor would be, but no one remembers them.
Season 7: Charlie O’Connell
Jerry O'Connell's younger brother failed to propose to anyone.
Season 8: Travis Lane Stork
Hot doctor flatlines with his love a week after the finale, but he did get his own TV show out of it.
Season 9: Lorenzo Borghese
The show moved to Rome so an Italian prince could take center stage.
Season 10: Andrew Baldwin
An officer and gentleman proposed to Tessa Horst before giving her an honorable discharge.
Season 11: Brad Womack
He did the reasonable thing and picked no one, although America hated him for it.
Season 12: Matt Grant
The British guy picked Lorenzo Lamas’ daughter.
Season 13: Jason Mesnick
The franchise’s first single parent chose one winner, only to break up with her on national television in favor of his runner-up.
Season 14: Jake Pavelka
Pilot Jake flew to Vienna, and a contestant was kicked off for “fraternizing” with a producer.
Season 15: Brad Womack (again)
Fool us once, shame on you, but fool us twice, shame on us.
Season 16: Ben Flajnik
A winemaker chose the villain of his season, so it was no surprise when they split up, but he later dated Kris Jenner (allegedly).
Season 17: Sean Lowe
The only season that worked as intended — Sean and Catherine are still married.
Season 18: Juan Pablo Galavis
A homophobic Venezuelan soccer player hooked up with women, made them feel bad about it, and then refused to say “I love you” to his winner (“it’s okay” made the cut, though).
Season 19: Chris Soules
Prince Farming tried to get a woman to move to Iowa, and the world was introduced to Ashley Iaconetti.
Season 20: Ben Higgins
Ben said “I love you” to two women, breaking an unwritten Bachelor rule.
Season 21: Nick Viall
Four words: Nick Viall comeback tour.
Season 22: Arie Luyendyk, Jr.
Arie saw Jason Mesnick and said, “Hold my beer.”
How will Colton’s season be summed up? With plenty of tears and plenty of talk about his virginity, for sure, but we’ll have to stay tuned to Season 23 of The Bachelor to see how it all ends.