'The Bachelor' creator on his long-running franchise: 'The romance space is ours'
It’s definitely good to be Mike Fleiss: Not only did the 15th edition of his reality show The Bachelor finish strong on Monday, ABC renewed the unscripted series for a 16th season and picked up The Bachelorette for a seventh (premiering May 23). The network has also granted a second season to Bachelor Pad, meaning it will have some form of Bachelor related programming on its schedule eight months out of the year.
Still in a party mood over Monday’s finale, Fleiss talked to EW about his new bachelorette, that spoiler sport Reality Steve, and why we’ll never see a complete unknown hand out roses ever again.
Why did you choose Ashley H. as your bachelorette? I don’t know, she’s kind of cool, she’s spunky and she’s got a lot personality. It’s also the first time we had an actual professional woman as a bachelorette. She’s not a party planner, she’s a dentist! [Editor’s note: She’s actually a 26-year-old dental student from Madawaska, Maine, but whatevs]. That’s a good step for us. I think it’s a cool good lesson for young ladies out there to see an accomplished woman still struggling to put the personal side of her life together. That’s something a lot of women can relate to. She will be a different kind of bachelorette!
Did you ask Chantal O’Brien? Yeah, Chantal quite possibly would have been our bachelorette, if she hadn’t not, quote-unquote,’ fallen in love with some goofball in Seattle. I’m sure they’ll be together forever.
What about Shawntel Newton, another fan favorite? Yeah, there were a lot of possibilities. We just felt like Ashley had the most fan appeal.
Reality Steve spent most of the season predicting that Chantal will be the winner. Once he owned up to being wrong, fans crowed that he had been `Fleiss’d.’ Did you or anyone involved in the show feed him misinformation? I wish I could take credit but he duped himself. He’s nuts, a goofball. He says these things with 100 percent conviction but he’s right only half of the time. It doesn’t matter that much to us, it’s just that he acts like he knows everything. He’s the Michele Bachmann of reality TV facts. But the leaks are not really coming from production. They’re coming from former cast members. That’s a hard thing to police. The best way to combat him is to let himself shoot himself in the foot.
How far along is casting for the next Bachelor Pad? It’s going to be good. We learned a lot from last season. We had some pretty wild characters come through. We start shooting The Bachelorette tonight, so some of these guys may end up being on Pad too [Sadly, he’s forbidden from divulging who’s joined so far].
Will you ever go back to casting unknown bachelors or bachelorettes? I can’t imagine how we would ever get back to that. This works so well for us. People are invested in these characters, they are who they are tuning in for. We have enough new blood by design. We have one returning character with 25 or 30 new faces. I don’t think we need new blood across the board. Can you imagine if it was someone not like Ashley, who was brand new? It makes the show feel small of all sudden. It would be hard to get people interested.
Will we ever see a bachelor or a bachelorette who is not white? I think Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.
You just finished your 15th edition of The Bachelor. What’s it feel like to survive for so long? There have been so many Bachelor rip-offs. We tell better stories, we cast more relatable people, and we’ve survived when others fell by the wayside. I’m so proud of that. I’m glad we have this big territory. The romance space is ours. We did 20 million viewers on Monday and have another cover of People magazine, despite the fact there is some really important stuff going on [in the world]. There’s a degree of absurdity to that. But I think our ratings are way higher. People watch this show in groups. We know virtually every college campus has a Bachelor screening party. We average good, solid ratings but the number of magazine covers we get sort of tells us a different story. You’d be hard pressed to find people in the country who didn’t know what happened on Monday. For a show to be on 10 years, it’s a miracle!
You know what else is a miracle? That you aren’t following me @EWLynette