I've been a fan of The Bachelor for a while now. I know that Bachelor producers have a hand in some aspects of the show, after reading tell-all books from former contestants like Bachelor Sean Lowe. But, when Lifetime produced UnREAL, the scripted series that showed the ugly side of "reality" television, everything I thought I knew about dating shows was affected. UnREAL changed how I watch The Bachelor in many ways.
Those involved in The Bachelor franchise have not taken to UnREAL well. Bachelor host Chris Harrison, had some choice words for the scripted series at The Men Tell All during Kaitlyn's season, saying:
It’s complete fiction. As much as they would love to jump on our coattails — they were begging for us to talk about it and for people to write about it — at the end of the day, no one is watching. I mean, absolutely nobody is watching that show. Why? It is terrible. It is really terrible.
Despite Harrison's comments about nobody watching, UnREAL was renewed for a second season. And, Constance Zimmer, who plays Quinn King on the show was flattered that Harrison said anything at all. “It means that we’ve popped the bubble, and he’s watching the show," she said during a Paley Center panel in 2015. Co-creator and supervising producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro also addressed the comments, and said, despite her previous job as actual Bachelor producer, that didn't influence UnREAL's content.
“I’ve been a writer since I was five,” Variety reported Shapiro said at the panel. “I had a day job in reality TV, and now that’s my identity somehow. It definitely doesn’t inform what I’m doing at all. Plot-wise the show is 100% fiction. I’m a huge dramatic writer. We sat down to write basically a female Breaking Bad and reality TV is a great place to set it. So fortunately I knew how to put up the wallpaper so the wall looked right, but that’s just about it.”
Still, I can't help but be affected by my viewing of both series. Even if UnREAL's not an accurate depiction of what happens behind the scenes of The Bachelor, it's hard to forget. Here are some of the big takeaways from the show.
UnREAL showed producers who were willing to encourage alcohol (and interfere with medicine) which would be a very extreme thing to happen in real life. But, it's tough to ignore over-alcohol consumption when it seems that the women in The Bachelor premiere were guzzling champagne for the many, many hours of the premiere.
The "Crazy" Edit
Each year, there's one (or more) contestants that get the "crazy" edit. For example, Ashley S., who wasn't "crazy" necessarily but was pretty much shown only talking about onions or talking to birds. Realistically, you can't help but wonder what else the contestants have to offer other than the particular edit the producers are giving them.
On UnREAL, the producers get in the ear of the contestants to amp up the "competition" factor of the show, making the people on the show see the others as contenders. Sometimes, those on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette seem so against each other, you can't help but wonder if something is being whispered to them off camera.
The Personal Story
Some contestants on The Bachelor reveal very personal (often sad) stories on the show. On UnREAL, the producers manipulated personal tragedies in the contestants lives (see: A father's death, an abusive ex-husband) to draw the most viewers. While I'd hope that people wouldn't take advantage of real tragedies in the lives of real contestants, sometimes the stories feel a little forced.
And, then there was the villain. On The Bachelor, there is always at least one villain that the show makes viewers hate. On Ben Higgins' premiere, it was Lace. On UnREAL, producers were given bonuses for finding the season's villain.
The takeaway? UnREAL has made me question a lot about The Bachelor. No matter what is said by producers, hosts, contestants, etc., I'm always going to wonder what is happening when the cameras aren't rolling.
Images: Lifetime, Giphy (5)