In writing her book, Bachelor Nation, LA Times journalist Amy Kaufman came to a rather unsettling realisation: the interviews that happen on the set of The Bachelor are strikingly similar to a police interrogation. The subject is isolated, made to feel the interview will continue until they comply. The interviewer cycles between sympathy and hostility to reinforce the desired behaviour…
And the list goes on. Whether deliberate or accidental, producer tactics like these are a big part of what contributes to the ratings success of the American TV juggernaut. They’re behind the drama, the tears, and often even the love story.
After two years of research and dozens of interviews with those involved in the show, Kaufman was given unprecedented insight into how these manipulations unfold.
“It’s a very tricky relationship,” she told Mia Freedman on Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast.
“So many contestants during the process really come to trust the producers – they call them their best friends, they have at times called them their therapists, even. They forget that these people are doing jobs and have an entertaining television show to make; they just think, ‘Wow, this person is letting me confide in them, perhaps even sharing their own personal details’ (even though those personal details won’t be broadcast on national television).”
For more about what goes in to making The Bachelor sausage, listen to Mia Freedman’s chat with Amy Kaufman. (Post continues below…)
The reason they forget is something Kaufman refers to as The Bachelor “bubble”. As well as being physically isolated inside the boundaries of the Bachelor mansion, contestants are also stripped of all electronic devices – that means no phone, no internet, to television, no music. With no external reference or support, the real world – their sense of what’s normal – begins to slip away.
The only person in the contestants’ corner are the producers, who forge relationships via what’s known as ITMs – in-the-moment interviews. These are the segments in which the man or women is talking alone to the camera. Producers pick the opportune moment for ITMs to ensure the most desired reaction.
“It might be at the end of a long day, where you’re a little bit tipsy, or you’re certainly tired and they’re asking you, ‘Do you think you’re in love with the Bachelor?’ And you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know. It’s only been a few weeks; I’m not there yet.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, every other girl’s said they’re in love with the Bachelor, and I know that in your last relationship it was your lack of emotional vulnerability that really caused things to break down, so I feel like The Bachelor really needs to hear this from you.’ … And they keep peppering you and hammering you, and eventually you sort of give in.”
At some point in the US franchise’s 22-season history, finding the opportune moment meant tracking contestants’ menstrual cycles.
“I really hope they still don’t do this,” Kaufman said. “But basically, living in this house, all the women’s periods start to sync up. Producers catch wind of that, and would schedule interviews when these girls would be PMS-ing, so they would be particularly emotional and more inclined to give the juicy sound bites.”
If that wasn’t enough, cash was thrown in the mix.
“In the early years, one executive producer told me that before the night of filming would begin, he would go to his team and say, ‘Alright guys, we need some good stuff tonight, so whoever catches a girl puking on camera [gets] $100. You get a girl crying about the Bachelor – $100. You get these two people to hook up – $100’,” Kaufman said. “And so these staffers aren’t necessarily making a tonne of bank, so $100 in cash is a good incentive for them.”
Given all this, why would anyone go on the show and why do we still watch? Amy Kaufman answers that and more on No Filter. Follow the link or download the episode on your favourite podcast app.