How Joey Graziadei Gave Us the Best ‘Bachelor’ Season of All Time

Disney/Gizelle Hernandez
Disney/Gizelle Hernandez

The past few years have been rough for The Bachelor fans. Season after season on the franchise’s flagship series, we’ve faced uncharismatic leads, racism scandals, and problematic cads. Emotional intelligence has been nowhere to be found, and too often, any sense of real humor has proven just as elusive. In other words, the bar was through the floor. But then, in walked Joey Graziadei.

Joey’s Bachelor season wrapped up on Monday night with a historic finale that brought out the tears in the best way possible. I’ve already praised Joey as the best Bachelor we’ve had in recent history, but now that his run is complete, I think we can all agree that his season was actually the best of all time. As someone who has been watching The Bachelor religiously since middle school but has felt her devotion waver, this man has single-handedly restored my faith in televised romance.

Bachelor host Jesse Palmer has dubbed this phenomenon “Joey Mania.” But what was it that made this tennis coach’s season so compelling? Does the explanation begin with those green eyes and end with that gorgeous head of wavy hair? Bachelor Nation has been starved for a real hunk for far too long, but I suspect there’s also something deeper at play.

The first factor working in Joey’s favor, apart from his good looks, is that he actually knows how to communicate. Too often on The Bachelor, we get stuck watching woman after woman opening up to a monosyllabic dud. (Does anyone else remember Arie Luyendyk Jr. and his two favorite catchphrases, “I love that” and “that’s amazing”?) Our guy Joey, meanwhile, is all about the active listening. He showed up to each and every conversation with the eye contact of a rom-com hero and the follow-up questions to match. While some of us might wish that such qualities could feel less surprising in they ear of our lord 2024, they still very much are.

Photo still of Joey Graziadei

Joey Graziadei

Disney/John Fleenor

Beyond actually knowing how to act interested in the women he’s dating, Joey was also a strikingly considerate Bachelor—and not just because he volunteered to do that humiliating sausage challenge alongside them in Malta. In the past, some of our leads have struggled to navigate the interpersonal drama that comes with dating dozens of women; Peter Weber, for instance, floundered so hard that his own contestants came back to roast him during his finale.

Still, even with the biggest dating pool in Bachelor history, Joey managed to referee like a pro. He refused to jump to conclusions during that exhausting, weeks-long showdown between Sydney Gordon and Maria Georgas, and in the end, he trusted his gut and sent Sydney home. On a drama level, this seemed like the right call, and on a personal level, Joey was wise enough to know that he should send home the person with whom he felt less of a connection.

Similarly, when Jess Edwards told Joey during a group date that she was falling for him and he could not reciprocate, he let her go right then and there. To some, that move might’ve seemed surprising, but it beats spitting out a bunch of platitudes and biding his time until the rose ceremony—which is what most leads in his position, male or female, might’ve done. Throughout his season, and particularly toward the end, Joey emphasized how important it was for him to make sure that his words mattered, which set him apart from most of his recent peers.

For years now, we’ve watched Bachelors (and Golden Bachelors) profess their love for multiple women, which inevitably leads to tears and shocked heartbreak during the show’s final moments. Joey, meanwhile, decided to share that special word with only one person. In the end (warning: spoilers!), when he proposed to Kelsey Anderson on the beach in Tulum, his “I love you” meant all the more for it. His emotional honesty also allowed his runner-up, Daisy Kent, to realize ahead of time that she was not “the one.” Because of that, she did not find herself blindsided or humiliated during the finale; instead, she left the show with her head held high and even embraced Kelsey on her way out. It was a historic outcome for all the right reasons.

(Okay. Spoilers over.) In addition to his thoughtfulness toward the women he dated, it must be said that Joey is also the most fun Bachelor we’ve seen in a while, or possibly ever. No matter what he did this season, Joey embraced all facets of the job.

Photo still of Joey and Kelsey

Joey and Kelsey

Disney/John Fleenor

When forced into ridiculous costumes, he seized the opportunity for self deprecation. In his HelloFresh ad spots, he showed off his gift for cheeky humor. During his shopping date with Maria, he made a meal out of feasting on macarons for the camera—a moment that producers made sure to air during his “Women Tell All” reunion last week, to the delight of the entire audience. Next Thursday, he’ll even make an appearance on ABC’s 9-1-1—further confirmation of his preternatural ease before the camera. While some leads take themselves far too seriously, Joey’s willingness to play the goofball has been perhaps the most refreshing vibe shift of all.

And speaking of refreshing, can we talk about that Bachelorette pick? Monday’s finale revealed that next season, Jennifer “Jenn” Tran will become the franchise’s first Asian American lead. The announcement felt like a triumphant capper on a revitalizing Bachelor season, and while Joey might not be responsible for the selection, it was his reassuring presence that Jenn has credited with allowing her to open up.

“Going into it, I really just wanted to put everything on the line,” Jenn told Jesse Palmer during last week’s reunion. “I wanted to put my whole heart into the experience and be vulnerable and talk about the things that make me me—like my past with my dad and my family. I’ve had a lot of previous relationships where I didn’t put everything on the line, and for the first time, I was able to do that with Joey.”

The final advantage that set Joey’s season apart has nothing to do with him an everything to do with the show’s producers and editors. From the recognizable music choices (Billie Eilish! Feist! Michael Bolton!) to the tongue-in-cheek flash-forwards peppered throughout the season, the team behind this series has clearly been having fun. As a viewer, you can feel that energy, and with any luck, it’ll carry over into next season and beyond. Let’s just hope that Jenn Tran’s crop of men offers a similarly exciting Bachelor and continue the streak.

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