LA Times reporter Amy Kaufman wrote an engrossing and in-depth peak into all things Bachelor in Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure. It’s required (and enjoyable!) reading for any fan of the series. Here were some of the best things I learned:
What goes into each episode
[*] Each episode has a budget of $2 million.
[*] Production keeps costs “down” by writing to hotels and venues and exchanging a mention of their name for free stays and services.
[*] During casting, the producers pick two girls they think the Bachelor/Bachelorette will really like. The other 23 contestants are cast only because they will make good TV.
[*] The people the producers think has the best chance of winning will be the first and last people out of the limo.
[*] Producers will influence who stays and who gets in the limo ride of shame by introducing certain contestants to the Bachelor/Bachelorette and making sure they have time, through which information they feed to the Bachelor/Bachelorette about each contestant, and by telling the Bachelor/Bachelorette directly of a few contestants they’d like to keep around for TV.
[*] Former co-executive producer Scott Jeffress would ensure they made good TV by rewarding producers who created drama with $100 bills he kept in his pocket. Producers would get the cash by causing a contestant to cry, getting the Bachelor to kiss someone, or catching someone mid-puke.
[*] The other executive producer, Lisa Levenson, is the character UnReal is based on. She was making $10,000 a week.
[*] The production staff often drinks with the contestants, especially expressing faux sympathy and then offering to do a shot with them prior to an interview so that they’ll be less guarded with their answers.
[*] Production staff would routinely function on as little of an hour a sleep a day because they were staying up so late partying.
[*] After years and years (and a lawsuit) of public criticism for not casting diverse leads ABC announced their first lead of color, Rachel Lindsay. Ratings went down about a million viewers from the previous season (Jojo Fletcher’s): “Fletcher’s audience was 86 percent white and 7 percent black; Lindsay’s was 80 percent white and 12 percent black.”
[*] You don’t own the Neil Lane ring unless you are together for two years.
[*] For two years after the show you can’t get married unless you let ABC film. They only pay you $10,000 per hour of TV. (It wasn’t made clear if this was per person or per couple).
[*] The bachelor mansion has 6 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms and the family that owns it actually does live there. Production pays to move everything out of the house and for the family to stay at a hotel for 42 days each season. Here is the house’s (weird) website.
How to get on The Bachelor
[*] If you make it to the final interviews, you’ll get flown to LA, a $50/day stipend, and unlimited alcohol.
[*] There is an STI test you need to pass to get on the show and it’s one of the top reasons finalists don’t get cast. This was the most confusing part of the show for me because the author doesn’t specify which STIs and herpes is so common that doctors don’t even test for it as a standard. It would be hard for me to believe they have SO many casting options after eliminating this pool. Really wish the author would have followed up here.
[*] The producers say they won’t take people with borderline personality or who have had suicidal ideation in the past, but former contestants like Rozlyn Papa have struggled with depression, so it’s not clear what the line is.
[*] The contract you sign means you have to go to “After the Rose” reunions if they want you to appear for up to three years.
[*] It used to be the case that contestants would go into debt buying dresses for the show. Now people get them discounted or free with the promise of showing them on social media.
[*] On the show, you might sleep up to twelve people per room in bunk beds. You will have to do your own laundry and cook your own food.
[*] You’re not allowed to bring music or magazines, but for the most recent seasons contestants were allowed books. Prior to that the only book allowed was the bible. Contestants also usually bring vibrators.
[*] The contestants are so bored that production can bribe them with music or a movie in exchange for gossiping about someone on camera or doing something else that builds the storyline.
[*] Sometimes the cast members will say things in interviews just because they are tired and want to be done with the interview, but they know the producers will keep going until they get something juicy.
[*] One producer explicitly says the show is formed around a storyline the producers create, vs editing what actually happens. They’re quoted as saying “There’s no allegiance to what happened in reality.”
Past Bachelor/Bachelorette drama
[*] The very first winner of The Bachelor, Amanda Marsh, broke up with the bachelor (Alex Michel) when she learned (months later) that he slept with the runner-up, Trista Rehn, in the fantasy suite.
[*] Sharleen Joynt from Juan Pablo’s season is one of the few former contestants interviewed in the book. I think both Sharleen and the book’s author think she comes off well but each time one of her quotes appeared it made me cringe. Every one was about how she was somehow different/better than the other women on the show. At one point she bragged a producer told her she was the most “analytical” and “reflective” contestant they’ve ever had on the show… which seems like the exact kind of buttering up that a producer says to lots of people over the years to get them to open up more in an interview.
[*] When Desiree Hartsock was on Sean Lowe’s season she was living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have a plan for if she ended up missing a lot of work for the show. Eventually she had to ask producer’s to pay her rent for her (which they did).
[*] Meredith Phillips was the second Bachelorette. She was paid only $10,000 for the whole season.
[*] Now, the bachelor or bachelorette typically receive $100,000+.
[*] The author, Amy Kaufman, has a viewing party in her Los Angeles apartment. Robby Hayes (a castoff from Jojo’s season and purveyor of diet creamer #ads on Instagram) promised to come and made her buy supplies so he could drink Moscow Mules and then ghosted her.
[*] Andrew Baldwin, the “officer and a gentleman” former Bachelor had a somewhat shady response to Kaufman’s request to interview him for the book. He asked for a percentage of the profits in order for him to “spill all”. (I don’t think anyone should spend time doing something for free but he should just decline or not respond. In journalism it’s generally considered unethical to pay someone for an interview because it gives that person an incentive that isn’t truth-telling).
[*] Matt Grant had a better response: “unless your business opportunity can help my daughter’s university fund then I have little interest in getting involved.”
[*] Chris Bukowski only found out he was cast on Emily Maynard’s season 3 weeks before it began. He frantically started working out and kept chicken in his pockets because he was trying to eat so much protein and build muscle. He said: “I would work out before work. I would work out when I got home from work. I’d run, like, six miles before I went to bed. It was ridiculous.”
[*] By 11am on his first day of Bachelor in Paradise Chad Johnson had already consumed 7 shots of Jack Daniels and an entire bottle of wine. Production let him pass out in the sand and allowed crabs to crawl over his face. He eventually was asked to leave after Sarah Herron gave production an ultimatum.
[*] Clare Crawley recalled her famous conversation with Juan Pablo. In the helicopter she was trying to discuss the proposal/ending of the show with him. She asked him how he was feeling about it and he responded, “I don’t know. I liked fucking you.”
[*] The sex Juan was referring to didn’t take place in the ocean. Clare tells a pretty sad story about wanting to go for a midnight swim to celebrate being able to travel and being at a good place in her life after a battle with anxiety when the producers forced her to ask Juan Pablo to join her, made it look like they had sex in the ocean, and then filmed and broadcast a scene where Juan Pablo shamed her for being a bad example for his daughter. (Fuck that guy).
[*] The insane part of being on the show is that you don’t even know what you feel anymore because it’s so disconnected to reality. Chris Bukowski was pressured by Elan Gale and production to propose at the end of Bachelor in Paradise to Elise Mosca. Despite being aware enough of how bad of an idea it was that he told his mom “I don’t know. Should I propose to her? I don’t, like, love her or anything.” he was very close to going through with it.
[*] There was so much negativity about Chris Bukowski on the internet that he and his dad stopped talking for awhile because his dad was so embarrassed by it.
[*] Rozlyn Papa claims she never had any kind of inappropriate relationship with a producer (she was kicked of Jake Pavelka’s season for this reason). It seems convincing enough in the book that it could have been totally made up by production to create a storyline. In retrospect, Papa says “You go on that show and you are meat for the grinder.”
[*] Ben Flajnik basically broke up with his pick Courtney because of what he saw once the season started airing (she was “the villain”).
[*] Ben was the runner-up on Ashley Hebert’s season of The Bachelorette. He said of proposing to Ashley “I liked Ashley enough. You’re not really in love with a person. But Ashley was super cool, and I was like, ‘Who knows where this is gonna go?’ If she says yes, I’ll just do a very long engagement.”
[*] Lauren Bushnell’s $100,000 Neil Lane ring was the most expensive in the series history. She had to give it back when her and Ben Higgins broke up.
[*] A lot of couples don’t get to know each other much more than we see on TV when they get engaged. Melissa Rycroft says when she started talking to Jason Mesnick after the show ended (and they were engaged), they’d never discussed his job, or whether she would move from Dallas to Seattle.
[*] Donnie Wahlberg told the cutest story about being a Bachelor fan: “I will literally walk on-set after lunch and say, “OK, it’s Monday. Bachelor in Paradise tonight. Let’s get the hell out of here so everyone can watch it.”
[*] Of criticism Catherine Lowe has faced for turning her happily ever after/family into #ads, she says “As much as I don’t want to do the ads, it’s like, ‘Well, I have a beautiful home and a child that I have to pay for, and I don’t have to go to an office every day,’”
[*] Ashely Iaconetti defended her sponsored Instagram ads by saying she uses it as her “day job” while she tries to create her own career: “Yes, I get money from ads, but I’m also working every day on jobs that don’t pay anything.”
[*] Bachelor alum can basically quit their day jobs and live off Instagram if they play it right. They can arrange vacations around which places will pay them for appearances, comp a stay, or pay them to post social media tagging the location.
[*] Mike Fleiss is the producer and creator of The Bachelor. His second cousin is famed Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.
[*] Mike is a decent writer and started his career as a journalist. However, he was jealous of people like Howard Stern, who had more creative freedom. He discovered that he didn’t like to be “restricted” by facts.
[*] Fleiss got his start in raunchy reality specials like Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, a precursor to The Bachelor that he pitched as like a “Miss America pageant”.
[*] Mike sounds exactly like the character on UnReal based on him: a total nightmare to work with. His former assistant said of working with him:
“We’d refer to him as ‘The Dude,’ because he was just like The Big Lebowski in his slippers and his sweats and his leather jacket, smoking and playing the guitar… Keeping a conversation with him in his office was a challenge, because he’s on the other side playing the guitar, feet up on the desk.”
[*] ABC originally passed on The Bachelor when it was pitched to them. They only bought it when Fleiss added on a proper ending for the season: the bachelor would propose.
[*] After the show became a big success, Fleiss would smoke a joint during meetings with ABC and no one would say anything.
[*] He named his son Aaron, in part after Aaron Spelling.
[*] Mike Fleiss’ first impression of Chris Harrison was that “He looked like a guy barfed on by an 8-year-old.”
[*] He became Twitter famous after he got caught making up a story about a woman on the same flight as him and the story went viral.
[*] After seeing him in person coaching a contestant to cry on camera and reporting on it, the book’s author was “no longer invited” to Bachelor events by ABC.
[*] Many former cast members spoke to her about how they protected (and feared) the status of their friendship with Gale.
Why we watch
[*] From a young age we learn that the most valuable feedback (says our culture, not reality) women get is about their attractiveness to straight men.
[*] Dating is something basically everyone has in common. We love to share dating “war stories” because it’s a way to bond, discuss, and check-in with each other about social norms. The Bachelor makes this an even more social experience.
[*] The fantasy of the show is that it subverts the expectation women have for men, instead of “no expectations” the men talk about their emotions, “plan” fantasy dates, and are all looking for commitment.
[*] Allison Williams has a good argument in the book (each chapter is bookended by celebrity essays) about how we don’t just learn about feminism from pro-women content, but from watching and discussing real life scenarios that aren’t exactly intended to be intellectual.