Cover image for Bachelor nation : inside the world of America's guilty pleasure / Amy Kaufman.
Title:
Bachelor nation : inside the world of America's guilty pleasure / Amy Kaufman.
ISBN:
9781101985908
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Dutton, [2018]

©2018
Physical Description:
viii, 310 pages ; 24 cm
Contents:
A budding idea -- Why I'm a fan: Amy Schumer -- The reality of creating the fantasy -- Why I'm a fan: Allison Williams -- The roots of television romance -- Why I'm a fan: Nikki Glaser -- The road to the mansion -- Why I'm a fan: Heidi and Spencer Pratt -- Drafting a game plan -- Why I'm a fan: Melanie Lynskey -- Inside the bubble -- Why I'm a fan: Diablo Cody -- Method to the madness -- Why I'm a fan: Paul Scheer -- Under the covers -- Why I'm a fan: Joshua Malina -- Falling for the fairy tale -- Why I'm a fan: Donnie Wahlberg -- Basking in the afterglow -- Why I'm a fan: Jason Ritter -- Riding the coattails -- Why I'm a fan: Patti Stanger -- Intoxicated by Happily ever after.
Abstract:
For sixteen years and thirty-five seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in the lives of American television viewers. Since it premiered in 2002, the show's popularity and relevance have only grown. Bestselling writers and famous actors live-tweet about it. Die-hard fans -- dubbed 'Bachelor Nation' -- participate in fantasy leagues and viewing parties. And more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of 2017's season. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise. ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show's inner workings: what it's like to be trapped in the mansion 'bubble'; dark tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the Fantasy Suite. Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors; why we have a subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance; and how this enduring television show has shaped society's feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that's as old as the best of Jane Austen.
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Summary

Summary

*A New York Times Bestseller*

The first definitive, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes cultural history of the Bachelor franchise, America's favorite guilty pleasure.

For sixteen years and thirty-six seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in American TV viewers' lives. Since it premiered in 2002, the show's popularity and relevance have only grown--more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of the most recent season of The Bachelor .

Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise--ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show's inner workings: what it's like to be trapped in the mansion "bubble"; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the Fantasy Suite.

Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors; our subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance; and how this enduring television show has shaped society's feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that's as old as the best of Jane Austen.


Author Notes

Amy Kaufman is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times , where she has covered film, celebrity, and pop culture since 2009. On the beat, she reports from industry events like the Academy Awards, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Grammys. In addition to profiling hundreds of stars--Lady Gaga, Julia Roberts, Stevie Nicks, Jane Goodall--she has broken major investigative stories on sexual harassment in Hollywood. Amy currently lives in Los Angeles with her Australian shepherd, Riggins, and dreams of living in a Laurel Canyon tree house.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Los Angeles Times entertainment journalist Kaufman's eye-opening exposé of the reality TV show The Bachelor offers criticism as well as praise as it explores the reasons why the show has been watched by millions since its 2002 premier. A Bachelor aficionado, Kaufman unpacks the keys to the show's success, even while being barred from ABC press calls and numerous interviews because her coverage of the show in the Times was deemed too negative. Kaufman unveils plenty of unpalatable practices, such as an overabundance of alcohol on the set (though drinking is not mandated), editing/manipulating footage to create a story line that wasn't present during the filming, and sequestering contestants in a mansion "bubble" in which communication with the outside world is banned. Many viewers watch The Bachelor, Kaufman posits, because they are mesmerized by the romantic, chivalrous stories of "brave" singles baring their hearts and souls in search of a perfect mate. Kaufman intersperses her narrative with commentary from various celebrity fans, such as Amy Schumer, who says: "It's kind of awful to watch the show. And it's the thing I most look forward to every week. It's fucked up." Kaufman shares little-known details about the show (hair and makeup styling are offered on the first night only; contestants must apply their own fake eyelashes) that will no doubt fascinate Bachelor fans. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

With this debut, Kaufman weaves information about television history and the origins of reality TV with specific details about how the long-running dating game show The Bachelor emerged. She pays close attention to how this success can and should provide viewers with ways of interrogating the intersections between feminism and popular culture. By interspersing sections titled "Why I'm a Fan" between all of the chapters, the author creates a dialog between real viewers and her theoretical analysis. A key strength of this book is Kaufman's circumspection: she is both a fan and critic of the show, who belongs to "a group of women [trying] to understand the inscrutable, wicked, brilliant thing that is love." As such, she never discounts the program's hold on its viewers or sets herself apart as smarter than consumers. VERDICT Essential for fans of pop culture, this book could play an important role in courses on feminism and gender studies. It's also a fascinating and fun read for anyone who wants to think about how and why viewers continue to tune into shows like The Bachelor.-Emily Bowles, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 A Budding Idea At his family reunions, there was always one person Mike Fleiss gravitated toward: his second cousin, Heidi. As teenagers, the two would meet up at the gatherings and hide out behind the garage, sneaking beers and sharing a joint. Heidi Fleiss, of course, would go on to become known as the notorious "Hollywood Madam," running an illegal prostitution ring that catered to wealthy celebrities like Charlie Sheen-a crime that eventually landed her in prison in her early thirties. Mike Fleiss, meanwhile, hasn't ended up behind bars. But as the creator of The Bachelor, the long-running reality television series on which more than two dozen singles compete for an eligible suitor, he's displayed an understanding of the human desire for love that his cousin was also able to tap into. Growing up in Fullerton, California, where his mother was a nurse and his father owned a Baskin-Robbins ice-cream shop in nearby La Habra, Fleiss never felt like the guy who could get the girl. The young ladies at Sunny Hills High School were "unbelievably hot," he once told Vanity Fair, but he had a reputation as "the alienated, parking-lot stoner" who had long hair and rode a moped. Still, he managed to land the interest of class president Alexandra Vorbeck, his high school sweetheart who would travel with him to study at the University of California-Berkeley. They wed in August 1987 and stayed married for twenty-four years until divorcing in 2012. At Berkeley, he studied journalism and became the executive editor of the college paper, The Daily Cal. His first job out of school was at the now-defunct Sacramento Union, where he was paid $323 a week to write about sports. "I thought it was the dream job," he said years later in an interview with the Contra Costa Times. "I got tears in my eyes the first time I walked into Arco Arena." He got laid off in 1989, but quickly found work at the nearby Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The job, however, was temporary: The reporter who covered the San Francisco 49ers was out on medical leave, so Fleiss could only have the gig for nine months. It was a prime beat, and he was tasked with writing features and game previews about the team that could stand up against the other Bay Area newspapers. "He was a very, very good writer," recalled Glen Crevier, the Democrat's executive sports editor and Fleiss's boss at the time. "He definitely improved the quality of writing in the sports section. He found good stories and told them in a way that was entertaining." So when the 49ers reporter returned from leave, Crevier tried to find a way to keep Fleiss on staff. The only job available in the newsroom, however, was an opening on the copy desk, where the shift ran from four p.m. to midnight. "That didn't go well for him," Crevier said with a laugh. The job didn't allow for much creativity and required a lot of structure, which Fleiss struggled with. Soon, his colleagues noticed him watching Married . . . with Children on the overhead TV when he should have been editing NBA roundups, and Crevier was called in to reprimand him. "These were professional copyeditors who took pride in what they were doing, and they saw Mike just sort of blowing off the assignments," said the editor. "So I had to take him in a room one day and give him a warning, like, 'Hey, you've got to care more about this job. You've got to really engage in it.' " But Fleiss only grew more frustrated at the paper. One night after he got home, he turned on the syndicated Howard Stern Show and found himself envious of the "complete creative freedom" the program's employees seemed to have. "I was being restricted by the facts all the time!" he said in that 2003 Vanity Fair interview. "I felt like I couldn't really do anything creative, because I was always running down what Jose Canseco said." As his behavior in the newsroom continued to deteriorate, Crevier decided he'd have to let Fleiss go. The young sports editor had no writing positions available, and so-for the first time in his career-he fired someone. Fleiss was mad, but it also seemed as if he was resigned to his fate. "He said, 'You know, that's all right,'" remembered Crevier. "'I had some other things I wanted to do anyway. I want to get involved in the television industry. I'm going to move to L.A.'" True to his word, Fleiss retreated to the Northern California apartment he shared with his then-pregnant wife, churning out one spec script after another. But no one was biting. After roughly a year of being unemployed, he heard about a low-paying gig at Totally Hidden Video, a Fox hidden-camera series where actors pulled pranks on unsuspecting victims. In order to get the job, Fleiss was asked by the show's producers to write five sample stunts; instead, he came up with forty. He found out he'd landed the position just as his wife was going into labor with the couple's first of two children, Aaron, named after TV impresario Aaron Spelling and baseball legend Hank Aaron. Fleiss was so thrilled that he agreed to take the job, even though it paid $400 a week-less than half of what he'd been making at the Democrat. Soon, the family piled into their Jetta and decamped to Los Angeles. A year later, however, Fleiss was out of another job when Totally Hidden Video was canceled in 1992. Fortunately, he now had become acquainted with Bruce Nash, a producer best known for making TV specials filled with outrageous clips. While working for Nash, Fleiss helped put together World's Deadliest Volcanoes, World's Scariest Police Shootouts, and Greatest Sports Moments of All Time. The biggest hit, though, was 1997's Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. Mike Darnell-who served as the president of alternative entertainment at Fox for nineteen years, overseeing hits like American Idol and Family Guy-decided to buy the magic special after meeting Fleiss. They shared the same vision for the show: an irreverent approach that poked fun at the magicians. A friendship was born between the two Mikes, and so was a ratings boom. Despite being sued multiple times over exposing trade secrets and for copyright infringement, Fox would go on to air five more of the magic specials. Darnell proceeded to purchase Fleiss's next big pitch-an idea he was calling The World's Meanest People Caught on Tape. The show, Fleiss explained, would feature people doing despicable things-and he already had secured a clip of a bartender stirring a martini with his penis. "Mike Darnell made that happen for me," he told Vanity Fair about the special, which was eventually renamed Shocking Behavior Caught on Tape. "Even though it was a sleazy, disgusting little show, with a bartender stirring a drink with his penis, I was proud!" Clearly, Fleiss excelled at pushing the envelope. He and Darnell almost pulled off crashing a plane in the desert on a special aptly named Jumbo Jet Crash: The Ultimate Safety Test, but Fox blinked as production was about to get under way. While many television producers were fixated on creating prestige programming bound for awards glory, Fleiss wasn't ashamed of the fact that many critics considered his shows trashy. On the contrary, he got off on making headlines-and getting ratings-as a result of tapping into a viewer's basest nature. Darnell, meanwhile, was itching for Fox's next big hit, seething over the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on ABC. While at a wedding in the summer of 1999, he found himself checking the Millionaire ratings nonstop. The romantic environment and his jealousy over the ABC hit led him to his next outlandish TV idea: why not find a single millionaire, introduce him to fifty women, and have him propose to one of them at the end of a two-hour special? Darnell brought the idea to Dick Clark. But the veteran producer and game-show host was worried the project might tarnish his wholesome reputation. "Dick said, 'Look, I've been married three times. This is a show that's condemning the institution of marriage, and I don't want to be the guy to do that,'" said John Ferriter, a William Morris agent who represented Clark and Fleiss. But when it was Fleiss's turn to meet with Darnell, he won over the Fox executive after he said he envisioned the special as a version of a Miss America pageant. He was given ten weeks to put the special together before it aired in February 2000. In December 1999, the announcement went out wide: "Calling All Brides . . . a Nationwide Search Begins for Potential Brides Willing to Marry a Millionaire Live from Las Vegas on Network Television." "Are you looking for the man of your dreams?" the press release asked, "Is he tall, is he dark, and is he handsome? Most importantly, is he RICH? . . . During the next month, the search is on for any and all women (over the age of 18) who would be willing to marry a rich man on live television and become 'Mrs. Multi-Millionaire.' A minimum of 50 daring candidates will be selected and flown to Las Vegas for an all-expenses-paid trip to compete for the opportunity to marry Mr. Moneybags during the two-hour television special." Mr. Moneybags, Fleiss had decided, would be none other than Rick Rockwell, a forty-three-year-old writer and comedian who'd invested the money he made performing in real estate. "Well, I'm worth about $1.5 . . . [million]," Rockwell responded to a November 1999 email from Fleiss. "It's quite possible he was the only person on the planet who was willing to do it," Fleiss later admitted to Vanity Fair. "Our backup millionaire basically wanted me to buy him a Mercedes 500E free and clear." On television, however, Rockwell delivered. He got down on his knee and proposed to a stranger with a three-carat, $35,000 wedding ring the network had supplied. His new bride was Darva Conger, an emergency room nurse who'd served in the air force for five years. According to their prenuptial agreement, she'd also walk away with an Isuzu Trooper, a pair of diamond earrings, and a $2,500 jewelry spending spree. Viewers were stunned. Ferriter, who was in Nashville on business when Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? aired, stopped into a steakhouse that night to get a sense of the local reaction. "I walk in and everyone's packed around the bar," he told me when I went to visit him at his office in LA. "I couldn't get to the ma"tre d' to go grab my table because nobody was working. They were all around the bar. I said, 'What's going on?' And everyone was like, 'These people are getting married on TV and they've never met each other!' So I sidle up to the side of the bar and guys are watching, shaking their heads. Women watching, nodding their heads. I went, 'Oh my God, this is going to be a hit. This is going to be a big hit.'" Indeed, a whopping 23 million people tuned in to watch Conger and Rockwell get married on TV. To give you a sense of how big of an audience that is, during the 2016-2017 television season, the most-watched program was NBC's Sunday Night Football, which attracted 19.6 million viewers. On network television, hit shows like NCIS and The Big Bang Theory average around 14 million viewers these days. Despite its popularity, however, Multi-Millionaire drew harsh reviews from critics. The president of Viewers for Quality Television called the special an "all-time low" in the American public's viewing taste. Salon's Carina Chocano argued it put "moral bankruptcy on parade. And if you're going to put it on parade, put it on parade, enough with the muted grays and wholesome questions. Include a talent show. Have the girls perform a song-and-dance number. Hold a pie-baking race. Make them blow a banana. But try to dress it all up in the cloak of respectability and the air goes out of the balloon and distracts us from what's really important-gawking at people who are very, very ill." Within days, Fox would have much bigger problems on its hands than some nasty reviews. After their hasty nuptials, Rockwell and Conger were immediately sent on a honeymoon cruise to Barbados. It was there, Rockwell would later tell the press, that Conger revealed she'd only wed him in order to go on the free trip. Back in the United States, Fleiss was busy putting together a follow-up special-Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire: A Television Phenomenon-that Darnell had ordered to capitalize on the water-cooler chatter. On February 20, the newlyweds flew back to California and filmed an interview for the special with Fox weatherman Mark Thompson-annulling their marriage shortly afterward. Following the interview, Rockwell and Fleiss hopped in a limo together, and that's where all hell broke loose. During the ride, Fleiss got a call from Thompson, who was one of his closest friends. He informed Fleiss that The Smoking Gun had published an article called "Millionaire Groom's Dirty Secret," revealing that Rockwell had "slapped and hit" an ex-girlfriend, according to a 1991 restraining order. As a result of the incident, the Los Angeles court had ordered Rockwell to keep at least one hundred yards from his ex. Fleiss immediately began to lose it. He'd spent the past couple of months talking to Rockwell at least once a day, developing a nine-page questionnaire for Rockwell's potential wives. As Fleiss would later tell Vanity Fair, he turned to Rockwell and began to plead: "That's not true, right? That's not true, right?" Rockwell acknowledged the report's validity, but tried to downplay it, insisting he'd never done anything to his ex other than let the air out of her car's tires. "I was laying down," Fleiss told the magazine. "I was so upset. I said, 'Yeah, Rick is saying that it's true.'" In the following days, it would come to light that there appeared to be other holes in Rockwell's story too. His 1,200-square-foot home had an old toilet in the backyard and hardly appeared to be the lush pad of a wealthy bachelor. It also seemed he'd long aspired to become a famous performer: In 1982, he'd earned a spot in The Guinness Book of Records for "longest continuous comedy routine" after telling jokes for thirty hours straight. "He struck me as totally honest," Fleiss insisted to the New York Times as the fiasco was unfolding. "I had no questions about his sincerity. If that was a performance, he should have a couple of Emmy Awards already." Excerpted from Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Amy SchumerAllison WilliamsNikki GlaserMelanie LynskeyDiablo CodyPaul ScheerJoshua MalinaDonnie WahlbergJason RitterPatti Stanger
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 A Budding Ideap. 15
Why I'm a Fanp. 33
Chapter 2 The Reality of Creating the Fantasyp. 35
Why I'm a Fanp. 53
Chapter 3 The Roots of Television Romancep. 55
Why I'm a Fanp. 75
Chapter 4 The Road to the Mansionp. 77
Why I'm a Fan: Heidi and Spencer Prattp. 94
Chapter 5 Drafting a Game Planp. 97
Why I'm a Fanp. 112
Chapter 6 Inside the Bubblep. 115
Why I'm a Fanp. 140
Chapter 7 Method to the Madnessp. 143
Why I'm a Fanp. 168
Chapter 8 Under the Coversp. 171
Why I'm a Fanp. 183
Chapter 9 Falling for the Fairy Talep. 185
Why I'm a Fanp. 209
Chapter 10 Basking in the Afterglowp. 211
Why I'm a Fanp. 223
Chapter 11 Riding the Coattailsp. 225
Why I'm a Fanp. 245
Chapter 12 Intoxicated by Happily Ever Afterp. 247
Acknowledgmentsp. 267
List of Bachelors and Bachelorettesp. 271
A Note on Sourcesp. 279
Interview Listp. 281
Selected Bibliographyp. 285
Indexp. 295
About the Authorp. 310