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'The Bachelorette' Concludes Landmark Season As Rachel Lindsay Gives Final Rose


ABC's romance-reality series "The Bachelorette" finished a landmark season last night as star Rachel Lindsay finally sifted through 31 suitors to get her marriage proposal. But NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the show's three-hour live finale left an important question unanswered. And a very important spoiler alert - this story will reveal the results of last night's episode.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: This may have been the most diverse "Bachelorette" finale in the show's history. But romance was the couple's priority when chiropractor Bryan Abasolo produced an engagement ring Monday, repeating live the same marriage proposal he first made in Spain months ago.


BRYAN ABASOLO: I was in love with you when I proposed to you on top of that castle in Spain. And every single day that has passed, I fall deeper and deeper in love with you. And I never want you to take this ring off your finger ever again. Will you remarry me?



DEGGANS: Rachel and Bryan were sitting in a Los Angeles studio watching pre-taped footage. And the success of their relationship must have left ABC executives popping open champagne bottles to celebrate. "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor" franchises are often criticized for their lack of diversity, but this "Bachelorette" cycle found success with its first black woman serving as the star. And she chose a Spanish-speaking man of Colombian heritage as her fiance, ensuring that the show's trademark happy ending was as inclusive as possible.

For a show that seemed ready to reflect the conversations happening in the world about race and romance, however, "The Bachelorette" season led by Rachel seemed just as uncomfortable as ever broaching the subject deeply. Indeed, race wasn't much of a topic in Monday's finale. Third-place finisher Eric Bigger, the last African-American male in the running, was shown the door early in the finale. Instead, viewers saw Rachel torn between eager Bryan and Wisconsin native Peter Kraus, who kept saying he wasn't sure he could propose marriage so quickly. Peter spoke to Rachel live Monday after the program aired footage of their breakup recorded months ago.


PETER KRAUS: I still care about you deeply to this day. And watching that, I was just crying backstage. I come out here, and I - I'm not going to lie. I feel attacked.

DEGGANS: This is the power of so-called reality TV in shaping the perceptions of viewers. Peter's position that he wasn't comfortable proposing marriage after dating someone for a few weeks on a TV show makes perfect sense. But the show treated his hesitancy as a jarring flaw. And Rachel spent lots of time assuring viewers Bryan wasn't just a consolation prize, though it sure seemed that way from the footage.

The biggest success of "The Bachelorette" this season was making a star of Rachel, a poised attorney from Texas who seems ready to capitalize on her heightened profile, appearing on the cover of People magazine and elsewhere. She expertly navigated the expectations of viewers in ways that made her seem like the Obama of bachelor nation. She remained authentic and compelling, even while challenging some people's notion of who a black woman could and should choose to love.

In the end, this season of "The Bachelorette" retained the materialism, manipulation and princess fantasy stuff that's always made the show so damaging. But it did widen - maybe just a little bit - the image of who can stand at the center of the show's romantic fantasies. So let's put this question out there - will producers take what they've learned from Rachel and the men of color who dated her to present the franchise's first black bachelor? I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF POOLSIDE'S "EVERYTHING GOES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.