While the relationships fostered on ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’ have more often than not ended in public hysterics and humiliation long before the final rose has withered (Case in point: Jake and Vienna.), it recently came to exec producer Mike Fleiss’ attention that once the cameras stopped rolling, former contestants were meeting at reunions and finding love of a lasting kind.
Fleiss decided to capitalize on this phenomenon. The result: ABC’s ‘The Bachelor Pad’ (Aug 9, 8/7c), a so-called sexy hybrid of ‘Big Brother’ and ‘The Bachelor’ that Fleiss refers to simply as “an orgy.”
“Everybody is sexy and everybody is hooking up,” he says. 19 fan favorites that range from sweet Tenley to villainous Wes, will share a house in search of true love and a quarter million dollars. But after 20 seasons, and nearly as many failed relationships, the question is, why are people still giving reality-love a shot? And how much of it is real?
All of it is, says Fleiss. “The sincere people are the sincere people on show. The duplicitous people are the duplicitous characters,” he says. “I always tell people that everything is slightly heightened because it’s on television.” It all starts in casting, an area where Mystic Art Pictures’ Katy Wallin (ABC’s ‘Dating in the Dark,’ ‘Wipeout’) has perfected the task of combining matchmaking and entertainment.
“You want to have that human roller coaster ride, which relationships are,” she says. “In order to have that, you need a cast of characters.” After the casting director makes her cut, the contestants go through a series of tests to weed out the amusingly disastrous from the rotten apples, resulting in a clean dating pool.
Who’s already made someone cry?
“The amount of background checks that we do is extraordinary. People go through a medical, a psych test and a criminal investigation. Sometimes they also have a private investigator do a check as well,” says Wallin. Safety concerns rose to the forefront after Ryan Jenkins, a former contestant on VH1’s dating show ‘Megan Wants a Millionaire’ was suspected of killing his wife and himself in August 2009.
“They were asking for it because those shows required irresponsible casting in order to exist,” says Fleiss, who after the incident asked ABC to increase the already substantial screening budget by 30%. “If you’d vetted your cast members, you wouldn’t have the crazy stuff that made those shows successful for that brief period of time. You had to look the other way and say, this person’s unstable, but let’s put them on anyway. I think that borders on criminal.”
But once the cast has been vetted and approved, any show with good looking folks in tight quarters appears to be a breeding ground for drama. Or is it? A male source who competed on season 13 of the ‘Bachelorette’ tells us the show is highly produced. “I figured reality TV would be life as it happens, but the producers set stuff up,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Hey, can you talk about that again? Can you say this?’ So it’s more like acting.” After he was booted off the show, he was asked the same question 45 times, but refused to change his answer.
Erica Rose, a contestant on season 6 of ‘The Bachelor’, says the producers created a character for her to play, long before she met Prince Lorenzo Borghese. She, of course, complied and played the spoiled rich girl to perfection. “I really risked my reputation to make a good show,” she says. “It was their idea to go up to Chris Harrison and complain about there not being any maids. Anyone who knows anything about TV knows you don’t complain to the host of the show if there’s a problem. They have no control over it.”
Rose says even her confessionals were directed. “I would just repeat what they wanted me to say because you’d have to do it until you did,” she says.
SallyAnn Salsano, a former producer on ‘The Bachelor’ who now helms ‘Jersey Shore,‘ says she would never tell a contestant what to say, but likes creating situations for them to react to. “Yeah, I serve the ball, and if they choose to swing at it, they swing at it,” she says. “How they swing at it, that’s up to them.”
Both Rose and our ‘Bachelorette’ source say the reason they participated on the show was to find love, but after his experience on ‘The Bachelorette’, our source decided the only reason he would have returned to ‘The Bachelor Pad’ was for the money.
Rose, who currently appears on VH1’s ‘You’re Cut Off’, admits it was a good career opportunity but turned down the opportunity to return to the Pad. “It was an easy decision, “ she says. “Who wants to go and play a character and never live down their reputation?”
She has felt the repercussions on her dating life. “I’ve had horrible relationships since I’ve done ‘The Bachelor,” says Rose. “I didn’t realize how seriously people take it. They don’t realize it’s entertainment. It’s not real life.”
So why risk your reputation and future love life by dating in front of the cameras? Because occasionally, if you get lucky, there is true love to be found. “If half the couples got married, it would seem like bullsh*t. If no couples got married, it would be a drag,” says Fleiss. “The fact that it happens every once in a while, makes it special and something to root for.” Salsano, who watched Trista and Ryan fall in love in front of her eyes concurs. “It sounds cheesy. Like, ‘Oh, you really believe that?’ But you do believe it. Because it doesn’t happen all the time, but just like in real life, when it happens, it really happens.”