Part one of “The Bachelor” season 35 finale is on the books, but tonight, part two airs, concluding Arie’s run as the titular bachelor. This season may not have been the most exciting thing to grace our televisions, but the show is an absolute powerhouse. It’s more than just a TV show—it’s a 15-year tradition that reflects America’s culture and fantasies. In her book, Bachelor Nation, journalist and die-hard Bachelor franchise fan Amy Kaufman interviews producers, contestants and fans who spill the details about what goes on behind the scenes, while also exploring what America’s obsession with this matchmaking show says about romance and femininity in America.
What do you think of the current season of “The Bachelor” so far?
Heading into the season, I was not stoked on Arie as our leading man. Given the Peter flame-out, Arie felt like a really obvious desperation move on the part of producers. So many of my friends swore they wouldn’t even tune into his season. Fortunately, many of those naysayers have still shown up at our weekly viewing parties—but none of us are into Arie. His female contestants are completely carrying the season. If it weren’t for women like Bekah M., Krystal and Tia, this thing would be seriously unwatchable.
In the pantheon of Bachelor and Bachelorette villains, where would you rank Krystal?
Honestly? We’ve had way better villains. I mean, Courtney Robertson? I miss the days when the villain was so villainous that she actually got the Bachelor himself to fall under her spell. I think Arie could see through Krystal’s act pretty quickly. I was also a huge fan of Chad Johnson, because you could tell he was actually a softie deep down and he also compared Evan Bass to Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element.
When it comes down to it, whom do you blame more for bad behavior on the show—the contestants or the producers?
This is a tricky one. The contract that the contestants sign to get on the show is really extensive, noting that producers maintain the right to reveal information “which may be embarrassing, unfavorable, shocking, humiliating, disparaging, and/or derogatory” about the cast members. So, yes, they’re signing up for this—but is there really a way for the cast members to know what they’re in for? So many people told me they went on the show thinking “OK, if I don’t drink too much and I don’t say anything controversial, I won’t look bad.” But unfortunately, you just don’t know how you might behave in such extenuating circumstances—or how editing might make it seem like you behaved.
You conducted a lot of interviews with Bachelor alumni and former crew—which one was the most surprising?
One of the most surprising interviews I did was with Michael Carroll, a producer who worked on the franchise during its early years. As part of his job, he’d conduct ITM interviews with cast members—those “in-the-moment” interviews that give viewers insight into how a contestant is feeling on a date, or in a departing limo. I asked Carroll how he’d come up with his line of questioning, and we decided to do a role play scenario where he grilled me as if I was on the show. I was shocked by how nervous he made me feel, and how much I felt like I had to give juicy answers to his questions. To see how it all unfolded, though, you’ll have to read the book.
What are your top three all-time favorite Bachelor franchise moments?
1. I’m sorry, Melissa Rycroft, but my number-one Bach moment is when Jason Mesnick dumped you on the “After the Final Rose” special. When Jason told runner-up Molly Malaney that he was still in love with her mere weeks after he’d proposed to Melissa, my mind was blown. The idea that something this dramatic and emotional could unfold on live television made a lifelong Bach fan.
2. Kaitlyn Bristowe sleeping with Nick Viall pre-Fantasy Suite. Way to break down those Bachelor social mores, girl!
3. Sharleen Joynt leaving Juan Pablo Galavis’ season early because she just wasn’t that into him. It was the first time on the franchise when we saw a cool, smart woman realize that this so-called prize at the center of the show wasn’t really all that valuable.
What do you think is it about the Bachelor franchise that you, and so many others, find so compelling?
So many fans of “The Bachelor” are quick to say they love to watch it because it’s a train wreck, and it’s fun to make fun of the over-the-top characters we see on TV. Live-snarking is definitely a huge part of Bachelor Nation, and I know my friends and I can get pretty judgmental on Monday nights. But I think there’s more to our obsession with the show—namely, that even in a time when we’re moving away from so-called traditional courtship (Tinder, anyone?), many of us still crave an old-school ideal of romance.
Why do you think the Bachelor franchise has lasted as long as it has? How do you think the show will evolve in the coming years?
The producers of “The Bachelor” have to maintain a difficult balance. So much of what fans love about the show are the predictable tropes that we see every season and relish laughing at, like two-on-one dates or Chris Harrison’s invitations to the Fantasy Suites. There are “traditional” elements of the franchise that I don’t think the producers should ever do away with—just look at how Bachelor Nation revolts on Twitter when we don’t get our normally scheduled rose ceremonies! That being said, I think they need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to casting the lead. The most important priority for the franchise, in my opinion, should be to continue to diversify the cast with different races, body types and sexual orientations. But what about picking a Bachelor or Bachelorette who isn’t from an old season? I get that there’s a built-in fan base at the ready when you go that route, but that’s also how we ended up with Arie. How cool would it have been if we had an actor or pro athlete or musician instead of a dude from six years ago who sometimes races cars? Let’s spice it up!
Photo credit Colin Douglas Gray