The Bachelor and Other Delights

This week is starting off classy (with Madonna) and it is about to get classier. Though many of us pride ourselves on our fine taste in music, film, and literature—most of us would also admit to (myself included) occasionally enjoying the tawdry, the lowbrow, and the mainstream.

A few weeks ago I mentioned my love for the reality program The Bachelor. I was not lying. I started watching The Bachelor during a brief stint of living in Berkeley, CA (Ironically, I was there to investigate graduate school programs and higher education, not to develop a television habit. Thanks Berzerkely!). Homesick for the Northwest, I was sucked into The Bachelor by the fact that one of the contestants that season, Meredith, was from Portland. I was rooting for Bachelor Bob Guiney to keep her on the show because then the two of them would return to Portland for what is known as the "hometown date." Well, it happened, and I was able to vicariously view Portland, albeit through Bob and Meredith's eyes, which were mostly focused on each other—though I did get glimpses of Washington Park, the Willamette River, and a scattering of trees.

By the time Meredith was sent packing before the final episode I was hooked. When the next season of the show began, I was back in Portland with no excuse for watching the show at all, yet I still tuned in whenever I could. Admittedly, there are shows in the reality television vein with much more substance and validity. Project Runway showcases people with an actual talent and something like PBS' Manor House provided a more thorough examination of class, social roles, and history; but The Bachelor intrigues me none the less. Maybe we all have that one show, the one guilty pleasure that seems incongruous with our more sophisticated or highfalutin tastes. Yet I don't think it truly is a conflict of interest, or even a fluke. To me, The Bachelor (and this is probably also true of a hundred other reality shows that I don't watch) is fascinating because it exemplifies our acceptance of non-reality as reality. We know that we're not getting to see the whole picture, that the information is being manipulated, and that the story being told is only part of the story. I suppose that sometimes I'd rather just sit back and get that artifice-parading-as-truth from The Bachelor instead of from my government.

Here then is an interview with a friend of mine who worked on The Bachelor. She has asked that I withhold her name for the sake of anonymity.

Question: Describe your role or duties as a producer on 'The Bachelor.'

Answer: I was involved in every aspect of the production; I was heavily involved with casting, interviewing the cast, and following/driving story.

Q: How does the production on a reality television program vary from scripted or more traditional forms?


A: We shoot 100% of the time and air 1% of what we shot. With that said, we roll on a lot of boring sh*t but as soon as you set the camera down is when the good stuff happens, therefore we only stop when they are sleeping and even then there is somebody on standby just in case. Reality TV is known as being down and dirty and on the cheap, so it is very different from scripted [TV] in that one of my roles was to try to get everything for free — if you see us at a resort in Bermuda it is because that said resort is looking for PR and they gave us the whole date for trade out.

Q: Do you feel like the contestants on 'The Bachelor' (and the Bachelor himself) are actually there to find love? Or do they see it as a way of furthering their careers, entering show-biz, or getting their 15 minutes of fame?

A: I am a bit of a hopeless romantic, so without sounding too cheesy I really believe that at our core most of us are looking for true love. Now, why would some go to match.com, a bar, or a reality TV show? The decision to go on TV is telling of their personalities and their motivations are almost never pure for these reality types. They usually want to leverage something. I don't know if it is always a career in acting more than it is fame, recognizability, covers of US Weekly, never having to wait in line at a club, for some it is about hometown celebrity status. Like take the realtor or the banker for example, after bearing all on a reality romance show they are inevitably viewed as an alpha type person and because of this their lives are exponentially better having made themselves a household name. Not to mention that over 50% of the cast, having not found love on TV end up finding it in their real lives immediately after going on the show — somehow the people in their lives see them differently, more attractive even, having done something so ballsy.

Q: Does the editing process do justice to the contestants or is there a vast difference between what happened during the taping and what appears on the broadcast? In other words, does the editing carve out a story line or play up certain personalities in order to make it more interesting? I think this is the general assumption that the audience has.

A: TOTALLY! Everyone always ask if what we see on TV is really what happened and for the most part it is but, going back to the film 100% and air 1%, the viewer is only getting to see the really good stuff and, even still, if the stories are many we are going to edit them down to the most compelling bits, therefore leaving out (often times) how somebody goes from seemingly normal to totally coo coo pants. We have even gone so far as to "frankenbite," where you take somebody saying, "of course I'd like to say that I love him" and cutting the bite together to say "of course I love him," cutting out the very important "I'd like to say." [It's] definitely very misleading to the viewer and unfair to the cast member, but they sign up for this, fully knowing the reputation of the reality world.

Q: Was there ever an intelligent or reasonably cool Bachelor or contestant?

A: Yes. Intelligent — absolutely most of them are college graduated and some of them prestigious schools like Harvard. But does that make them "cool", no. Were some cool? Absolutely, but I guess that is all in who you ask. Take an associate of mine, if you asked her she would say that none of them were cool. Me, I am a sucker for the human experience, no matter if it is up my alley or not. I liked some of the Bachelors/Bachelorettes but others of them I hated (and I really have to try hard to be moved to hatred.) There are a couple of them that I genuinely care about. Would people like hanging out with these celebrated love seekers? Probably not — unless you take Meredith she actually was one of the more "normal/cool" cast members that we had. Bob was cool by most people's standards, fun loving, kind hearted, a karaoke machine, and now the host of "Trick My Trucker" who wouldn't want to hang out with that type?

Q: What tricks or strategies does the show employ to amp up the drama and tension during the taping of the show?

A: Well, in the private one on one interviews with a producer (like me) it is the producers job to get the sh*t talking started, like "tell me honestly what you think of Sally" — if the interviewee does not want to respond in a catty way then the producer will usually go to the next level, like "well I personally think she is a self absorbed, attention starved skank," and then see if the person will take the bait. Once you start learning who in the house is not well liked it is easy to start seeding conversations and gossip. Also, if the conversations linger too long on favorite movies and stuff the producers will step in a say, "ok we all know we signed up for a TV show — so if you don't start talking about something more topical then you can't have the sushi you requested tonight." The smarter cast members start to realize that everything can be bartered. Like, "I will give you a good one-on-one interview about Sally, IF you let me listen to my iPod for the rest of the day."


Q: Do you feel like 'The Bachelor' already has his lady picked out early on but has to appear undecided due to the nature of the show?


A: Sometimes yes and sometimes no — really, every hero cast member is different; sometimes there is an undeniable chemistry and that has to be well masked throughout the show, as not to give away the ending. But other times they don't "know" until the very last minute.

Q: What is the interview process like to be a contestant on 'The Bachelor', or to be The Bachelor himself?

A: It is pretty crazy, there are several phone interviews first, then they fly him out with others for a competitive casting sessions where they are all put on camera, taken to dinner, interviewed some more, etc. When the execs finally have a cast member that they'd like to work with they meet with the head of ABC to get his blessing. Sometimes it takes awhile, as they are some real douche bags out there.

Q: How does the crew of 'The Bachelor' deal with the craziness and general stupidity of what they are witnessing?


A: Most of the time the crew gets pretty into it! Reality TV is such a grind for the crew, long hours with little pay that they actually look forward to the crazy bits, it helps to pass the time and the executives get so excited that the vibe is felt throughout. The camera man that has been shooting for 12 straight hours of mani/pedis is like, 'I know this shit I am filming is actually gonna make it to air.' It is pretty satisfying to watch the kids go to crazy town especially for those of us that sold out on any hope of a real life ourselves. Also it makes you happy of any drama free life you may be living.

Q: Why is there never any acknowledgment that the contestants are on television? Aside from the one-on-one interview with the camera, I always wonder why people don't talk about how strange the process is, or admit to the surreal nature of the program during their involvement. Is this edited out or do they truly forget the cameras are there?

A: Definitely edited out. Whenever anyone is talking about the cameras they get scolded and told to resume more TV friendly chitchat. They are told up front that they have to ignore the cameras and after awhile they really do go away, or if they don't you usually don't last long because if you aren't being "yourself", or at least being emotional and effusive then you won't last long on the show; you will be overshadowed by the ones that can get past the cameras. If you don't bring your personality to the show then you end up looking like a cold stone bitch and the producers make sure of that.

————————-

By the way, the current season of The Bachelor is called "London Calling." That, however, is a whole other blog entry.

Comments

 

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Interesting. Basically, everything I suspected about these shows turned out to be true. I like them as much as I did before. That is, not at all.

Sent by Ryan | 8:48 PM | 4-28-2008

holy crap, this is the best blog entry you've had so far (and I've loved your other entries). It's just that I secretly love this show SO MUCH that it makes me happy to read this interview. Please post more bach entries. Thanks!

Sent by Melinda | 12:41 AM | 4-29-2008

the best bachelor episode i ever saw was the one with the doctor that was dubbed in norwegian. it was very bizarre. i also saw an episode dubbed in french, but i don't speak french and plus, french sounds so much better than the norwegian language (apologies to anyone who is norwegian, but i'm norwegian so no sweat).

Sent by killabot | 8:26 AM | 4-29-2008

That was a pretty interesting interview! I usually watch 3 reality shows throughout the year--Project Runway, Top Chef, and America's Next Top Model...and I have always wondered about the editing process. This pretty much reinforced my suspicions, and in fact it seems that these shows are even *more* contrived than I was expecting! And though those Bravo ones mentioned above somehow seem a little 'classier' than ANTM or The Bachelor on the surface, I'm sure the formula is exactly the same underneath.

Sent by nikki | 8:49 AM | 4-29-2008

Jesus, don't send any more of that reality tv crap poor old London's way. We already have waaaayyy too much of our own.

Sent by Julia | 8:57 AM | 4-29-2008

Thanks for sharing such a fascinating interview. Even knowing how fake it all is, they can have "Hell's Kitchen" when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Sent by SkylarP | 9:17 AM | 4-29-2008

Every season I say I'm not going to watch the Bachelor, and every year I get sucked right back in. It's fascinating to watch people who are so unlike me, and I can't resist the possibility that we might see the Most. Dramatic. Rose. Ceremony. Ever.

And Meredith was one of the cooler Bachelorettes ever. Ian was pretty, too.

Sent by Laura E. | 10:05 AM | 4-29-2008

There's a show on TLC based out of Hillsboro called Little People, Big World about the Roloff family. If you've never seen the show it's about a family made up of dwarves (?) and regular-sized people. The show is just okay, but as an Oregonian I find myself watching it as much as I can just to go "hey, I know where that Fred Meyers is, that's on Barbur." That's as fun as any TV experience.

Sent by Jake | 10:59 AM | 4-29-2008

I have a friend of mine who worked as a producer on Wife Swap and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style. One of her jobs was to help make sure there were tears in the final interviews. Definitely seems to be a theme throughout the genre.

Sent by Brian | 11:11 AM | 4-29-2008

Great interview. London Calling is my first foray into the world of The Bachelor. It is absolutely ridiculous and all consuming at the same time. I have two words for you ... "WALK OFF!"

Sent by caryn | 11:16 AM | 4-29-2008

I've never been the biggest fan, but I can't stop watching A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, for some reason. It's pretty great social commentary, so long as you don't mind your brain rotting.

Interesting interview, though. It definitely confirmed my thoughts on reality tv.

Sent by stephanie | 11:57 AM | 4-29-2008

So, I am trying tot decide if you are considering trying out for the Bachelor or do you have an idea for a reality show that you intend to produce yourself? If it's the latter, you should name it "High Falutin" And if you are hiring camera persons, i would be interested : )

Rock of Love is the holy grail of reality tv.

Sent by highfalutin | 12:07 PM | 4-29-2008

The way I see it, it's okay to let our brains go to mush every once in a while. My favorite mush food is America's Top Model and Top Chef. I hate capitalism but love to watch people in heated, catty competition. Go figure.

Sent by Leilani | 12:27 PM | 4-29-2008

I got hooked on Real World: San Diego a few years ago. I never watched Real World before, and I haven't watched it since. For some reason I really enjoyed San Diego, and it has nothing to do with a whale's vagina.

Sent by Nick L. | 1:16 PM | 4-29-2008

reading the comments makes me almost as sad as reading your post, Carrie.

i've read your blog since NPR brought you in, despite not being a listener to your band. your posts are opinionated, informed, funny, revealing...all of which is why this post not only sucked hard, but also made me sad, in that it revealed your Achilles' heel: your taste can be suckered by Corporate America's crapfest marketing machine, no different than anyone else's. next up you'll post about your secret love for McDonald's; after all, that's what reality TV is: pabulum for the mind.

at least your secret interviewee hit the nail on the head with, "as they are some real douche bags out there." [sic] unfortunately, the interviewee missed the fact that having a career based on churning out reality TV makes one the douche in question.

i hope there is a 12 step program for all you reality TV watchers...you're going to need it!

Sent by bcd | 2:14 PM | 4-29-2008

I think the previous poster misses the point--which is not to promote "The Bachelor" as a good show (at all) but to dig at the artifice behind the so-called reality and also to wonder why smart, culturally aware people can find themselves hooked on it/distracted by it despite "knowing better." Of course it's pabulum! Who doesn't know that? What's interesting, and worth writing/talking about, is WHY we still can't help enjoying it.

"The Bachelor" is a heinous show--sexist, fake, ludicrous, etc. And yet I myself, a lesbian feminist leftist multiple-degree-toting whatever, watched two full seasons, unable to tear my eyes away from the psychodrama. It's television's version of a summer beach read.

Now I prefer Top Model. But that is a whole other cycle of self-loathing and unapologetic pleasure.

Sent by CJ | 3:03 PM | 4-29-2008

The interview was pretty revolting. I'm not a indie-liberal who prizes sincerity, but the level of emotional expolitation and manipulation that the producers of these shows engage in is truly cynical.

Sent by John | 4:18 PM | 4-29-2008

What this says to me is that too many people have too much free time to waste on lame tv shows. I gave up tv over two years ago and I can say I don't miss it at all. I'm happy not to have these "water cooler" reference points in my life. Please focus on music!!! No more mainstream music (or tv) please, it already gets enough exposure.

Sent by dk | 5:28 PM | 4-29-2008

i am not kidding here- i got a TV- and cable woo hoo- about a month and a half ago. it is making me ill. i am not kidding. i am not imagining it. i try to figure it out, but i can't.
--scared of pop culture in, nyc

Sent by bailey | 5:30 PM | 4-29-2008

ok, i see that someone mentioned Tila Tequila up there in the comments and I have a question. and please if someone can/will answer it, please do.

this is a show where a woman makes out with guys and girls and then decides "which team she's going to play for"

is there such a how out there that has a guy do the same? i would love to see a guy dry hump men and women as much as she does. I really would. It would help me to believe that the fascination with that show is not so much bulls@#t.
thanks

Sent by will angus | 5:35 PM | 4-29-2008

Good Lord, Carrie! I guess if you are going to go, go big. The only reality show more revolting than "The Bachelor" is "Flava of Love" which is damaging to an entire race of people. At least "The Bachelor" only demeans women.
That said, I love you for confessing that you watch the show. Even though I hate myself for it, I can't stop watching "the Hills". Like CJ said, I can't figure out why I and seemingly millions of other intelligent, well adjusted people enjoy it so much, and that's what is really facinating about the reality television phenomena.

Sent by Breezer | 5:38 PM | 4-29-2008

I really cant stand reality TV for a number or reasons... So I REALLY try to not watch any of it...
that said of course...
the one with Gene Simmons was entertaining...

Growing up a Randy Savage fan, I did once watch an episode of Hogan Knows Best, hoping the Macho Man would show up and put a folding chair to the end of that dreaded show...

And I have seen a few episodes of the stupid Shot of Love with Tila "attention whore" Nguyen.. oops i mean Tilquila I forgot she changed her name after she did playboy and Rock of Love with Brett Michaels...

Id love to meet Tila and ask her, why she kicks off people on her show for kissing each other, saying thats disrespectful to her... yet she kisses virtually everyone on the show???
I saw a few mins of the new seasons, in which she made some guy shave off his goatee for her... I hope he feels like an idiot when he gets cut off the show for being a pawn to her ego

Sent by Kramer | 6:43 PM | 4-29-2008

"Good Lord, Carrie! I guess if you are going to go, go big. The only reality show more revolting than "The Bachelor" is "Flava of Love" which is damaging to an entire race of people. At least "The Bachelor" only demeans women."

haha! hahahaha!

Sent by breezy | 7:22 PM | 4-29-2008

Honestly it's a little hypocritical to be so into reality shows yet think one is above pop music (like Madonna's). But I've known many music snobs who love dumb reality shows.

Sent by marina | 8:09 PM | 4-29-2008

I've never seen The Bachelor, and don't currently have a TV, so I take in a pretty limited amount of this stuff. But I think the question, "why do we like this?" is a fascinating one. I can't help but think that this trend of TV shows flaunting their over-the-top emotional content must mean that we are craving something.

I guess I generally feel that people are far more emotionally complex than they are willing or able to express in their day-to-day interactions. And so it's a seductive form of escapism, to have an emotional outlet that we have no responsibility for, but that we can exert some remote control over (that pun was intended). We can experience emotion vicariously, voyeuristically, and then we can shut it off.

In terms of the incentive for someone to actually want to appear on a reality show, I think it's the desire to market yourself to a larger audience. I mean, how far can we get just being noticed (or unnoticed) by the ten or fifteen people we interact with daily? Don't we have a greater opportunity of finding love, employment, whatever, if we can showcase ourselves for millions of viewers?

I think the topic of appropriation that you hint at with the reality show called "London Calling" would be really interesting.

Lastly, I'd like to give a shout out to the PDX Film Fest. Portlanders: "Wild Combination," a documentary about musician Arthur Russell, is screening tomorrow night @ Hollywood Theater at 7:30.

Sent by Carolyn | 8:12 PM | 4-29-2008

what do you think of bad girls and the biggest loser? these are my favorites.

Sent by ld | 9:47 PM | 4-29-2008

Probably the worst one I'm guilty of watching is Flava of Love. If someone walks in the room when it's on, I'll quickly change the channel and pretend I was watching the news or something.

"She has asked that I withhold her name for the sake of anonymity."

Suuuure she did. It's ok Carrie, you don't need to be ashamed, we've all done things just to pay the bills before.

Sent by Karissa | 10:45 PM | 4-29-2008

Man I have to agree with some of the negative posts re. yr. entry.. I am so disappointed about the shameless plug esp. on something as lame as reality television. I think alot ppl tune in to read yr. blog as a refreshment of the typical media bullshit. what?????? Carrie Brownstein doing this?... ouch... it hurts mama 4 real.

Sent by Marissa Dailey | 2:19 AM | 4-30-2008

HOW DARE YOU CARRIE!!!

Kidding...just trying to sum up all of the comments so far into one quick quip. I think it shows a real defensiveness in your own taste to quickly attack someone for their's. So hoorah to Carrie for being so open about her love of the Bachelor. My own secret reality TV love - Big Brother.

Let he who is without pop culture sin throw the first stone...oh, did you glance at Star Magazine, just for fun - then you are an unqualified stone-tosser.

Sent by Clemente | 2:49 PM | 4-30-2008

It appears that I touched upon a nerve with my most recent post. First of all, good, not everything has to feel comfortable. Much of my writing on this blog aims to unearth the underlying reasons for our urges, whether they are evil, saintly, or just plain asinine. Everyone has different lines that they draw in the sand, ones they refuse to cross in one realm but that they will blithely cross in another. Why, for instance, am I unnerved by Madonna but can tolerate a single reality TV show? Only one of them pretends to be making art.

In earlier posts, I've discussed the artistic spheres in my life that hold a more sacred place, music and literature for instance. For some reason, I have an easier time tolerating lowbrow movies and television; I am able to vacillate between the sillier and the more edifying forms of those genres. Yet I'd still choose Five Easy Pieces over Superbad and The Wire over 30 Rock. I also hate falling into a prescriptivist mode of thinking when it comes to art (though I still do), wherein there is an implied right or wrong way in which to view something, or qualitative values assigned to one's likes and dislikes. I feel like it's much more interesting, or at least equally valid, to be descriptive, to have an interesting discussion about what people actually are watching, listening to, and buying---and to seek out reasons why. I don't think it is anathema to intellectual discourse to examine folly. One can have an idiotic conversation about Pierre Bourdieu and a stimulating conversation about American Idol, it boils down to who's talking and what is being said. In other words, subject matter shouldn't be definitive of value--whether one despises the subject or not.

Sent by Carrie Brownstein | 2:54 PM | 4-30-2008

I love it when you use big words ;-)

Sent by Anon-ee-mouse | 5:08 PM | 4-30-2008

So now I'm wondering (after the Pierre Bourdieu name-drop) what kind of graduate school stuff you were looking into! I myself spent a few years in the academy, keenly desiring get to mix low and high culture, etc., etc., but boy, it was really not that much fun! And now I work at a bike shop. Danger, grad school can be bad for your health!

I was looking into getting a PhD in Rhetoric at Berkeley. But I read Bourdieu as an undergrad when I studied Sociolinguistics-CB

Sent by Zoe | 9:01 PM | 4-30-2008

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for your well-reasoned response to the many negative posts your last entry occasioned (including my own). I have only one question: why should cultural artefacts and the effects they have on us as individuals be spared 'prescriptivist' critique? Surely we don't expect, say, political inclinations and beliefs to be immune to criticism, so why do you believe that one must resort to a purely 'descriptive' strategy when navigating the world of culture?

I can't believe I'm quoting Dan Bejar: "We must stay critical or die".

In the context of this blog, I like to navigate things from a descriptive standpoint, which tends to be more inclusive. But I welcome critique, and was glad to receive it, though I would have loved for the criticism to be directed at reality tv and not merely my choice of topics. I am very critical, overly so, as I'm sure many of my readers also are, so it is a interesting challenge to dissect the 'why' when it comes to pop culture. Yet as you point out, there are times when putting one's foot down and taking a stand is the only noble way to go. -CB

Sent by John | 9:21 PM | 4-30-2008

Your points are certainly well taken. It is definitely refreshing to read an intelligent discussion about the underlying reasons for our fascinations with high and low culture.

Sent by marina | 10:29 PM | 4-30-2008

Thanks for posting this enlightening interview, Carrie...it's fun to get a peek behind the reality show curtains. Whoa, wait, they get sushi just for bitching about their housemates on camera? Where can I sign up!?!

(P.S. Sorry to be a stickler, John, but that Dan Bejar line is actually "You've got to stay critical or die." To quote another precious and pretentious, yet awesome, artist - Wes Anderson, via Jason Schwartzman: Every line matters!)

Sent by Sara | 12:34 AM | 5-2-2008

I'm a little stunned he went with Shayne...she's so Young! And her babytalk is supa annoying. However, I didn't really like Chelsea particularly...and I'll be honest, I didn't keep up as close as I have with other Bachelors...it's just that, everytime Shayne came on screen, I'd roll my eyes and walk out of the room...Carrie, if you are still keeping up, what do you think about his choice? And do you suspect it's true love???

psst...I've watched every show, bachelor/bachelorette too. ;) And I watch them with my sister...makes it even MORE catty...fun fun fun

Sent by Patti | 12:33 PM | 5-15-2008

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