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ABC bets on Winter Games pretty people play

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The Bachelor Winter Games premieres at 7 p.m. today on ABC with a two-hour episode. Think of it as a wintry mix of Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise. Host Chris Harrison calls it "a global celebration of unity and love" featuring "the thrill of romance and the agony of heartbreak."

There will only be four, two-hour episodes over two weeks. All begin at 7 p.m. In addition to today, the series will also air on Thursday and Feb. 20, and will have its finale Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, the ongoing Bachelor will still air at its regular 7 p.m. Monday time.

The Bachelor Winter Games allows the network to kill a bunch of time relatively inexpensively while a chunk of the audience is siphoned off by the Olympics on NBC.

In Winter Games, 26 singles from around the world gather at The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain in the Vermont Green Mountain town of Manchester to compete in winter-theme athletic challenges and maybe find true, deep, passionate, happily-ever-after, sweet, sweet love.

Or what passes for it on TV.

Just to be clear, there will be Americans competing against men and women from international editions of the Bachelor franchise. This is global.

The Bachelorette Season 1 poster couple Trista and Ryan Sutter serve as grand marshals for the opening festivities, which begins with a parade and singing of the Bachelor "anthem." Seriously.

Unlike the vast majority of Bachelor/Bachelorette final couples, Trista and Ryan not only stayed engaged past the usual expiration date, they got married on TV in 2003 (26 million watched) and now have a couple of kids.

ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm and TV sports reporter Ashley Brewer join Harrison for the action.

Following a performance by rising country music star Ruthie Collins, the singles move into their Bachelor villa and, according to ABC, "the games of love begin."

"Things happen," says one grinning bachelor, "when guys and girls sleep in the same house."

Milking The Bachelor franchise cash cow one more time, ABC says to expect twists and turns "on and off the ski mountain, as well as romance, heartbreak, love and, of course, roses."

The challenges include winter biathlon and ice dancing, with date cards being given to the winners. Ah, yes. And those grueling dates "will test the bachelors' and bachelorettes' perseverance in pursuing relationships while faced with language barriers and cultural differences."

Provocatively, ABC teases that there will be "some amusing issues with intimacy."

There will be guest appearances by U.S. figure skating pairs champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, as well as figure skating legend Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan is in the news again thanks to the success of the film I, Tonya, which follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on Kerrigan.

ABC asks, "Will the first truly international Bachelor couple unite in February?" If they do, let's take bets on how long it lasts. I say until after being interviewed on Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Real Olympics. In case you want to watch the real jocks in action, NBC will be airing the Olympics all evening long today.

Figure skating action will feature the pairs' short program. Meanwhile, Mikaela Shiffrin begins her title defense in women's slalom skiing, and Shaun White goes for a third Olympic snowboard halfpipe gold medal.

State of the Union. Several readers have asked about the ratings for President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address on Jan. 30. Trump Tweeted a couple of days later: "45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history."

According to Nielsen Media, the figure is correct, however, it was not the most watched. Not even close.

President George W. Bush holds the record with 62.1 million in 2003. That's followed by Bill Clinton in 1998 (53.1 million); Bush in 2002 (51.7 million); Barack Obama in 2010 (48 million); and Clinton in 1994 (45.8 million).

Although not an official State of the Union address, the largest TV audience for a presidential speech was Clinton's in 1993 with 66.9 million.

According to NPR, "Nielsen counts the number of people who watch the speeches on broadcast networks, cable and PBS, either live or on the same day." Counting eyeballs remains imprecise. There still is no reliable data to measure the minority who watch via streaming.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 02/13/2018

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