February 20, 2012 12:00 PM

>With Ben Flajnik handing out the roses for season 16, ABC’s reality romance staple is feeling stale. Is it too late to restore the bloom?

PROBLEM 1: BEN

Ah, the elephant in the mansion. He’s cute—Justin Long-y, if less adorably puppyish—but would all these women really swoon straight out of the limo? He’s no Jake Pavelka! If you don’t buy into the pheromonal magic, the show is just a cynical game for opportunists. I hate cynicism. Fix Can we recast midseason? What’s Long up to?

PROBLEM 2: “CAN I BORROW HIM?”

While Ben is in the thick of a one-on-one, a needy/conniving contestant will lead him away for her own chat. This classic gambit always stirs up the hive, but it’s tiresomely obvious. Fix Refuse to address the intruder or make her do something inventive. Maybe balloon sculpting.

PROBLEM 3: RECYCLING

Casting previous participants as the next Bachelor or Bachelorette fosters continuity. It also feels like Groundhog Day for speed daters. Fix Like American Horror Story ghosts, losers should be banished to the mansion basement. Forever.

PROBLEM 4: SWEET NOTHINGS

“I’m ready for love.” “I feel a connection.” “I part my lips and mush comes out.” You all sound like greeting cards! Fix Study Shakespeare’s sonnets. Quote liberally.

PROBLEM 5: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The series is swathed in luxurious exotic settings, the better to heat up the “fairy tale” fantasy. But that’s one reason so many couples then fail—love is easy in a four-star resort. Fix Film a season in Alcatraz.

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