As summer changes to fall and favorite TV shows begin to return from hiatus, it seemed like the right time to bring back this weekly celebration of the best TV has to offer.
What inspired the early return of this feature? Believe it or not, it was Bachelor in Paradise—a silly little reality show that somehow managed to feel very real and anything but silly by the time it ended with a two-part finale on Sunday and Monday.
On a show about rejects from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette finding summer love in Mexico, it turned out that the most profound relationship we were shown wasn’t a romantic one; it was actually the friendship between some of the women on the show that moved me to tears.
Female friendship is a powerful force, but it’s still a force we don’t see very often in the media. Healthy depictions of women supporting, defending, and protecting other women are still rare sights on television—although thankfully they’re becoming less rare. So imagine my surprise when Carly Waddell was dumped by her Paradise beau, Kirk DeWindt, and we were suddenly shown Jade Roper and Tenley Molzahn literally running to comfort their friend. What could have been a moment of solitary sadness was suddenly a moment of shared sorrow—something incredibly relatable for any of us who’ve helped a friend through a breakup (or had friends help us through one).
When Carly called out to Jade as she ran from Kirk and Jade yelled “I’m here!” in reply before hugging her, I honestly got choked up—more than I have at 90% of the proposals this franchise has shown over the years. And when Carly started to cry while packing and Jade and Tenley hugged her and cried along with her, I cried, too. It was one of the most real moments I’ve ever seen on reality TV. And I cheered when Tenley and Jade laid down the law with Kirk in the way we all want to when someone hurts one of our friends.
For a few moving minutes, romance wasn’t the focal point of Bachelor in Paradise, and the show was elevated to something special because of that. Finding love on reality TV is great, but finding friendship is probably a lot more likely—and lot more likely to last. Every girl needs friends like Jade and Tenley in their darkest moments, and seeing that kind of friendship on display on this kind of show was the best surprise of the summer for me as a TV viewer.
There was still time for romance on the Bachelor in Paradise finale, too, and I was so glad Jade seemed to find genuine happiness with Tanner Tolbert. After seeing her be such a good friend to Carly, all I wanted was for her to be happy. And when she talked so sincerely about Tanner making her feel like every part of her is lovable, this show got suddenly real once again. I think we all want to find that in a romantic relationship—someone who makes us feel loved for everything we are, understood in ways no one else understands us, and worthy of lasting happiness. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I really believe Jade found that with Tanner, and I hope those two crazy kids make it.
It’s moments like these that keep me coming back to the Bachelor franchise. Love should be celebrated—whether it’s the kind of love that leads to a man proposing on the beach or the kind of love that leads to a woman protecting her friend from the man who broke her heart. Both platonic and romantic love are important, and I was happy to see both get time in the spotlight on the season finale of Bachelor in Paradise.
What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?