I didn't think I could have any more disdain for "The Bachelor" than I already did.
I was wrong.
The long-running series, in which pretty people get to play out their fantasies, made local news this season, thanks to runner-up Michelle Young, a Twin Cities teacher who seemed far too sensible to get lured into this cesspool.
But Young's story was overshadowed by the revelation that eventual "winner" Rachael Kirkconnell attended an "Old South"-themed bash in college wearing a plantation-style costume.
In an effort to defend her, host Chris Harrison — the show's relationship Yoda — did an interview in which he sounded off against the "woke police" and behaved as if Kirkconnell had participated in a racist act back in the 1950s rather than just three short years ago.
After his attempts to apologize fell on deaf ears, Harrison was sidelined as host.
As a 50-something person of color who would be ridiculed by the show's recruit team, I can appreciate the outrage. But putting Harrison on the bench doesn't accomplish much beyond making producers feel like they should be eligible for an NAACP award.
Remember this: It's the suits who waited 25 seasons before promoting a Black Bachelor; who purposely cast a racist to woo a Black Bachelorette; who have never offered up a season of gay romance.
Emmanuel Acho, the former NFL player and author of "Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man," filled in as host of last Monday's "After the Rose Ceremony." Steering the conversations with Kirkconnell and Bachelor Matt James, he did the best job anyone not named Oprah could have done.
But the debriefing could have had an even greater impact if the show had turned the spotlight on itself by bringing Harrison and the show's producers into the conversation. If anyone needs Acho's counseling, it's them.
Producers at least seem to have gotten the message. When the franchise returns this summer, two former Bachelorettes — including Tayshia Adams, who is Black — will step in as co-hosts. (Young will be "The Bachelorette" in a season being planned for the fall.)
For now, Harrison remains on hiatus, his future uncertain. Which is a shame. Imagine his potential awakening in a season set in the South, with a strong Black co-host (Robin Roberts?) and contestants who know all too well the pain of driving past a Confederate flag.
TV can be a great teacher. "All the Family" exposed the buffoonery of bigotry. "Will & Grace" humanized gay characters. Pedro Zamora's season on "The Real World" did more for AIDS awareness than any politician could.
"The Bachelor" may be beyond stupid, but it's a powerful platform. While Harrison may be learning a lot, it would have been better for him — and the audience — if his education had played out on TV. Instead, all he got was shame.
And if this season's Bachelor was interested in talking about race with the supposed love of his life, it wasn't apparent until Monday's interview (the season was filmed before the controversy arose).
Instead of offering to guide Kirkconnell, he indicated he was through with her, refusing even to hug it out. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done," he said. "I have to take a step back and allow her to put in that work."
I'm not sure if James ever truly loved Kirkconnell, but I do know this: It just became a lot harder to love the show.
Neal Justin • Njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431 • Twitter: @nealjustin