By Sally Rawsthorne
After what must have been the most controversial, eventful and talked-about reality TV season in Australia in recent memory, The Bachelor is returning to our screens. Produced by Shine for Ten, The Bachelor’s third season kicked off this week.
Such was the interest in last year’s show that Fairfax exec Sean Aylmer called 2014 bachelor Blake Garvey “Fairfax’s man of the year” due to the volume of content he generated, which Ten’s head of entertainment and factual Stephen Tate said he was thrilled by. “I love that, it’s fantastic! I’m so excited that he continues to have a media career. We clearly got our casting right there.”
Not that Tate and the team at Shine were looking to court the controversy that the show generated when they cast it. Last year’s twists and turns, which included a broken engagement and Garvey professing his love to a contestant that he had previously eliminated, were proof that the truth can be stranger than fiction. But Tate maintains that controversy was the last thing on their minds while casting. “We didn’t set out for that, no. The thing about The Bachelor is that at its core is the premise of an authentic search for love. That’s what we set out to achieve, and the great thing about the path to love is that it’s never smooth. You do get fantastic television from it, no matter how it ends up and no matter what we set out to do,” he explained.
“I’ve cast a lot of shows, as have the team at Shine that we work with, and we all think that casting The Bachelor is by far the most difficult of all the shows that we work on. Specifically, choosing the man to be The Bachelor is very tricky. You get the foremost role wrong, and it impacts on the whole series. If you look to cast an individual who is volatile and flighty, then you have a very unpredictable series – you won’t know what you’re going to get in the end. What we do with The Bachelor is cast for the most eligible person that we can possibly find, who ticks as many boxes for as many different people as possible.”
“Once we have The Bachelor,
we then go on to cast partners that
genuinely have a chance.”
Tate said they look for a range of qualities. “First and foremost, they need to likeable. They need to be ambitious, they need to be accomplished and yes, they do need to be good looking. [But] the most important thing is that they need to be at the right stage of their life to be making a lifelong commitment, and that’s a fairly narrow window.”
He said that once The Bachelor – this year, Tasmanian entrepreneur Sam Wood – was chosen, the rest of the cast fell into place. “We don’t really look for a type. Once we have The Bachelor, we then go on to cast partners that genuinely have a chance. Essentially, he holds up the types of people that he is really attracted to, the types of people that he’s had relationships with in the past that have and haven’t worked, and we try to make sure that we have as many viable contestants as possible,” Tate continued.
As to whether or not Wood will fall in love, Tate said: “There’s a very good chance.” When we asked who with, he very much declined to give an answer. “I couldn’t be drawn on that any more than I could on which of my daughters is my favourite!” he said.
When we asked if some of the contestants were looking for fame rather than love, Tate firmly denied it. “They have gained notoriety. But the casting team works really hard to make sure that the people we choose are there for the right reasons. If we didn’t do that, the audience would understand pretty quickly that people were maybe there for the publicity that it brings. If we didn’t do that, we might not have ended up with the fantastic two relationships that we had from series one and two.”
>> The Bachelor on a budget?
Trips to Africa, seaplanes and a $30,000 engagement ring – it all sounds very expensive. “The production values are extremely important to us. They are all a key part of the fairy tale. The luxury cars, the fashion, the fantastic locations, the yachts – it wouldn’t be The Bachelor without them,” Tate said.
The magic of the show helps it to attract its core demographic, he continued. “The show does skew female, but we try to make a program that everyone can enjoy. There are a lot of male viewers that are into the show, but whether it’s because it’s their guilty pleasure or because they are getting into it via osmosis from their wives and girlfriends is something that I couldn’t tell you. We try to be as all-encompassing as we can be, because love is a universal theme. It’s great to be swept away by the story.”
>> Sponsoring The Bachelor
All-new sponsors Wrigley’s Extra, Nissan, Zamel’s, Lion Dairy and Goulburm Valley have signed up to help air The Bachelor this year. Tate said the program’s life beyond the screen appealed to brands. “It’s quite unique in that it’s so much more than a television program – it is an authentic story of love, and so it contains a lot of reality above and beyond a lot of other shows in the genre. The sponsors are also attracted to how successful we’ve been in putting couples together – even though it wasn’t quite what we thought at the time, the fact that both Blake and Tim [Robards] met the loves of their lives on the show really does resonate with people.”
He also noted that brands are keen to work with shows that garner a big social media presence. With seven million Facebook fans, and over 14m tenplay views of Season 2, the show certainly fits in that category. “It’s one of the nosiest shows on TV. It creates way more conversation than just about anything else I’ve ever worked on. For that reason, there are so many other avenues that clients can use to get their message across.”
Although Nielsen Twitter TV ratings weren’t available in 2014, Tate said he was expecting big numbers there. “We’ve been papped on set since day one! It’s a great problem to have. It’s an indication of the level of interest in The Bachelor – it’s a very popular show.”