Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

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The Bachelor is my go to guilty pleasure TV – it’s romantic, funny, and dramatic. Plus, I’ve been able to set up a viewing party with my friends, so it’s now become a social habit for me. Naturally, I wanted to find a way to dive deeper into the series and find out how this bizarre TV show is made. Plenty of previous contestants have written tell-all books in the past, but most of them felt like quick cash grabs and a way to hang onto fame. While Bachelor Nation goes a little deeper than the individual contestant books, it still lacks the depth and juicy details that most Bachelor fans would hope for.

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.

This book starts from the beginnings of Mike Fleiss’ career – which definitely leaves a bad taste in the mouth considering the recent domestic abuse allegations against him. Anyways, starting with the very earliest parts of Fleiss’ career makes sense, but it really luxuriates in the irrelevant details. It takes forever to get to The Bachelor’s inception, and as this book is marketed as a book that spills all the juicy behind the scenes details about the infamous series, it’s misleading that so much of the time is dedicated to Mike Fleiss’ resume. I don’t want to read a hundred pages about an abuser with a string of failed and problematic (one featured another domestic abuser as the lead) shows.

Once Amy Kaufman finally meandered into the inception The Bachelor, the tea spilled was tepid at best. The information she has comes from a variety of sources: her time covering and attending Bachelor events, interviews with former contestants, and interviews with former show staff members. One thing that didn’t sit well with me was how the author constantly named and called out previous contestants who refused to comment. It just felt like she was further calling out and smearing the names of people who often just wanted to escape the franchise or wanted to avoid the wrath that breaking their contracts or just didn’t want to burn bridges with the franchise.

The most interesting information was how the culture of producer manipulation was established. The book details the original producers and the original powerhouses behind the first seasons. It’s fascinating to hear about different producers and how they ran the show and got in the heads of different contestants. This is where the book truly shines and puts a spotlight on the show itself: in the interviews with previous contestants about the producers and with ex-producers about how they did their job. Unfortunately, it was a relatively small fraction of the book that was actually spent discussing the producers and their tactics. This book had a very bad habit of focussing less on the actual show and more on the obscure, uninteresting details. More of the book is spent on Fleiss’ background and on the cringe worthy events that the Bachelor alum throw to try to stay relevant. This lack of attention on the actual show itself felt a bit deceptive – it’s not what I was promised going into the book.

If you’ve only ever watched a season or two of The Bachelor then this book might contain some revelations you’re not aware of. If you’ve read more than a handful of tabloid articles, follow a few of the contestants online, or are just aware of the nature of reality TV, there probably isn’t a lot in this book for you. I’d recommend bypassing this book and just watching the show Unreal – it’s a fictional show about a Bachelor-esque show and the producers who manufacture the drama. It’s created and show run by an ex-Bachelor producer and demonstrates how producers manipulate contestants and it honestly feels like it spills more juicy details than Bachelor Nation does. 2/5

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