By RODNEY HOemail@example.com, originally filed January 30, 2015
Over 13 years and 19 seasons, ABC's "The Bachelor" has never cast a black person as their guy. Two black men even sued in 2012 over the issue though the case was dismissed.
So WE-TV has taken matters into its own hands by creating a similar show called "Match Made in Heaven" featuring a 33-year-old black entrepreneur from Philadelphia Shawn Bullard. It debuts Feb. 4, chasing after the heavily sought after (and socially active) black female audience which enjoys WE-TV's "SWV Revisited," "Braxton Family Values" and "Mary May."
The basic concept is identical to "The Bachelor." Man seeks wife among 24 women, some there for the same reason, some there for some precious TV time. They go on individual and group dates and are pared down week after week. The women live in a huge mansion with free liquor where drama naturally ensues, much of it irrelevant to the cause.
In this case, there are a couple of twists. The host is pastor Ken Johnson, the Indianapolis Colts spiritual advisor who will guide Bullard through his "journey." (Because it's always about the journey on these shows, right?). Johnson gets to pick a woman each week for Bullard to save, someone he thinks is on the right path to God.
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"My job is to find the divine," said Johnson (known as Pastor J) on the show. "My job is to influence" and have him look beyond looks but into the soul.
An even twist: Bullard's mom shows up to help advise her son on who to select.
"The big boobs, the big butts may go for Shawn but it doesn't go for me," said Mama Bullard.
The first episode features a track star, a German music producer ("I will never leave my man horny or hungry"), an inveterate weed smoker, a rapper, a self-proclaimed "Barbie," a white stripper, a woman who has only slept with women (who Bullard really liked on first impression), a lady who can twist her body into a pretzel and a blonde obsessed with Louboutin shoes. ("My shoes are my babies," she said. She also wants a man of a certain, um, size.)
And with no roses to hand out, each episode, he instead sends the women texts to inform them if they are staying, leaving or in the twilight zone. He then gathers those women he's on the fence about face to face and decides who stays and who goes.
Bullard came into Atlanta Thursday to talk to press and promote the show at a screening hosted by none other than Claudia Jordan, the radio host and new reality show star of "Real Housewives of Atlanta."
Curiously, if you Google Shawn Bullard's name right now, this story comes up: a rumor that he and Claudia are an item.
"We are really good friends," he said at the Lobby at the Twelve Hotel in Atlantic Station Thursday. "She's a great person." But lovers? "No."
He kept his descriptives vague about how they met. "Our people connected us one day," he said. "We just connected."
Is he annoyed that gossip sites presumed they were an item?
"I'm not so much okay with it," he said coyly. "I understand it happens."
If it were true, it certainly would throw off the narrative WE-TV wants: that he met the woman of his dreams on "Match Made in Heaven." And he said he did, though they have had to stay out of the public eye the past couple of months. "Who you think I might pick, it will be a surprise," he teased.
But WE-TV isn't stupid. They don't mind free publicity. So Jordan of all people hosted the Q&A after the screening in Atlanta Thursday night.
On the show, Bullard said he is worth at least $5 million, mostly from real estate investment. On the show and in person he's amiable, handsome and well spoken. So why hasn't he found love without the need of a reality show?
"I am picky," he said to me. "And I was engaged before for two years. I let love slip away. I told myself I wasn't going to do that again." Did his ex like the fact he is fishing for love on a reality show? "She doesn't like it."
He doesn't appear nervous at all when he first shows up on TV.
"You guys look amazing," he said when he meets the 24 ladies. "I'm weak at my knees. I've truly been blessed. I've had a lot of success. There's one thing missing in my life: my dream girl. I know in my heart that she's in front of me right now."
He said to me more realistically he figured going in he had a 50/50 shot at finding someone he might marry. He also said he told producers if nobody fit the bill, he wouldn't force a ring on anybody just to ensure the show had a "happy ending." (As we know on "The Bachelor" and "Bachelorette," a vast majority of the relationships crumble rather quickly once the couple get out into the real world.)
This show was a long time coming. A friend referred Bullard to the production company two years ago.
He said he provided the casting director with some preferences: "I like a voluptuous, curvy, intelligent woman. I like someone outspoken. I like women who are not complacent." He said he had no age preference, though it appeared most of the women on the show were younger than him. He also expressed no racial preference, so several of the 24 women were white and at least one was Latina. (No Asians, though.)
One white woman also from Philly said she only dates black dudes: "I feel they are so sexy. I have tried to date white guys but they are so corny to me... You can't make me eat brussel sprouts. You can't make me date white guys."
He said when his buddies heard he was doing this, they laughed at him.
But he knows otherwise: "They're all envious of me."
"Match Made in Heaven," 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4, WE-TV