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Meet the man behind ABC's ''The Bachelor''

Meet the man behind ABC’s ”The Bachelor.” Incidentally, he’s also the guy who came up with ”Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”

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The Bachelor
The Bachelor: Craig Sjodin

ABC may be entering new territory with its matchmaking reality show ”The Bachelor,” but it’s old ground for the show’s exec producer, Mike Fleiss. The man behind ABC’s most-watched midseason series to date (it’s averaging 10 million viewers and continues to build weekly on its 18-49 performance) also gave Fox the PR nightmare known as ”Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”

After America learned that the not-so-rich ”millionaire” in question, Rick Rockwell, was once accused of abusing a girlfriend (which Rockwell denied), did Fleiss really expect to play cupid in this town again? ”I got so many calls from network presidents saying how much they loved ‘Multi-Millionaire,’ I wasn’t worried,” he says.

In fact, Fleiss says two other nets were hot for ”The Bachelor” before ABC snapped up the six-episode series, in which 25 gals vie for the chance to marry 31-year-old Alex Michel, a San Francisco management consultant. Thousands of women have already applied for ”Bachelor 2” (for now, ABC’s given Fleiss the green light only to begin casting).

In light of what happened on ”Multi-Millionaire,” Fleiss did a lot more background checking this time around — not that he thinks viewers would particularly care about the Bachelor’s past. ”When they found some little dings in the backgrounds of the [‘Multi-Millionaire’] people, nobody dealt with it before and it was blown out of proportion,” says Fleiss. ”Every show had problems. ‘Survivor’ had the Richard Hatch stuff, there was the ‘Big Brother’ guy with the knife. That ‘Temptation Island’ couple had a baby. Everybody got over that stuff.” Everybody except Darva Conger, maybe.

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