Wondering how The Bachelor and The Bachelorette — those earnestly fantasy-soaked searches for love in faraway lands and the underside of a month — begat Bachelor Pad, last summer’s most irresistible hothouse of hook-ups, connivery and a quarter million bucks in cash?
Easy. Look in the mirror.
“We had talked for years about how do we take advantage of these quote-unquote all-stars,” says Chris Harrison, the soothing voice of reason on all three Bachelor series, “Once we amassed enough all-stars, we finally figured out let’s just do a fun summer game show. … It’s the last six weeks of summer. This isn’t The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. This is just really fun and kind of an homage to our fans and our all-stars, to put it all out there and have some fun.”
Beginning Aug. 8, the network will debut Bachelor Pad 2 starring a lively mix of current and former lovers, an infamous leaver (Justin Rego, the duplicitous wrestler wannabe who fled through bushes to avoid the wrath of a raging Ali Fedotowsky) — and Michelle Money, the take-no-prisoners Womack-worshipper who woke up a mystery shiner.
And because this is a houseful of singletons who found their 15 or more moments of fame seeking love on TV, going home a winner does not necessarily involve cash. “It’s not technically about finding love — there’s a catch to it in that there’s a prize of $250,000,” says Harrison, “but ironically enough, more love and couples and relationships come out of [Pad] than even The Bachelor, because it’s set up where more people can find love, where The Bachelor can only create one couple. So last season on the Bachelor Pad, we had several couples hook up, but Kiptyn and Tenley are still together and it’s interesting to see this season as well. Relationships are building.”
We quizzed Harrison about life at The Pad as he drove his kids to summer camp during some rare downtime (“Daddy doesn’t sleep much”).
CG: First of all, congratulations on the continued success of all of the series. Did you ever think, when you took The Bachelor job that you would still be at it almost ten years and two spin-offs later?
CH: No. Never. Honestly I had trepidations about evening taking the job because of what it was reality TV was so new. I know it sounds silly now, but it was new. There was Survivor and that was it. [Executive producer] Mike Fleiss had done Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire? which was critically panned even though it was a success as far as the ratings go. So I was a little worried about getting into that arena.
I was hoping it would go at least six episodes so I could meet a few people at the network and it might turn into a real job someday [laugh]. Honestly, even halfway through it I was talking to my agent about, you know, The Bachelor is probably going away so what’s next — and now it’s come back stronger than ever and we’ve launched another series and it’s just been amazing.
Are you surprised that [infamous Season 14 flameouts] Jake and Vienna both agreed to do the show?
I am always unbelievably surprised when [contestants] come back, but I think it is the nature of these people. It kind of feeds the beast and feeds their insatiable appetite to be in the limelight, to continue their 15 minutes of fame. But the thing is, too, it really is fun. Being on The Bachelor/Bachelorette is an incredible experience — especially now. I mean, when Trista and Ryan did it, I think we went to Sedona. Now, this season we’re in Cheng Mai and then we’re going to Hong Kong, Tai Pei and then we end up in Fiji. It’s unbelievable the places and experiences these people get to see and do.
Vienna’s current flame, Kasey Kahl, is also on board. Do they guard and protect each other’s hearts, or does the need for Vienna to be Vienna take over?
The short answer is yes. The will to be Vienna will definitely win over. That insatiable appetite to just be Vienna — she knows no other way. So that will happen. But ironically enough, I think that their relationship will work. It’s an interesting dynamic, but she and Kasey just have this thing. Kasey jokes about “guarding and protecting” but he really is kind of old school. He really protects her and he really gets upset when people get on her. And her being attacked — even though it’s her doing and I don’t know if she really ever sees that — really just brings them closer together and makes him more defensive. So it’s a really interesting dynamic that I think, oddly enough, will work.
It’s funny because Kasey has become this real cool cat and kind of a dominating figure. He was a pretty low-profile — not geeky — guy, but kind of a low profile character on the season and was dumped on a glacier in the middle of Iceland. And he got the tattoo. He was kind of the cocktail joke of that season and now he’s this strong, brooding figure who protects Vienna and fights crime and it’s really funny how his persona has changed and how he was able to do that. And even in Bachelor Pad, he is a strong central figure in the house instead of the quiet guy that was taken advantage of during The Bachelorette. I don’t know if he has learned some things, but he’s a different man for sure.
Where does that leave Jake, who morphed from fan-favorite Bachelorette contender to popular Bachelor to a camera-chasing legend in his own mind?
Jake is someone who … it’s hard to explain. He’s a good guy, he means well, but he’s a little bit — and they all are to an extent — a little bit delusional about their fame and their scope and how long this is going to last.
I try to tell all these people, “Take advantage of all this. Use this to enhance your life, whatever that is. If that means going to open up a bridal shop or going to open up a club, that’s fine. Maybe turn it into a great way to promote your real estate business or be a better pilot, you know for Jake … but he really got caught up in it. He really, really got caught up in it and enjoyed it. And he’s someone who came on [Bachelor Pad] to try to turn the tide and change everybody’s opinion of him. And he really has a hard time with that.
Wow! I would have expected him to come in certain he’s the star of the show and ruler of the roost!
Oh absolutely. Absolutely, I would agree with that. He definitely came in with that swagger and that feel. But they all do.
I was talking to our stylist, this great guy, Cary Fetman, who has literally worked every diva in the world from Oprah all the way up, Joan Rivers, he’s done everybody and he dresses all the Bachelorettes, all these girls, Trista to Jillian to Ali. And it’s not that they didn’t have a sense of style, but once they were on The Bachelorette and he dresses them and we do the hair and makeup and they look so cute and everyone thinks of them as fashion moguls and they go out and basically act like that was them — like “that was me, that was my own persona.” I always want to send them a tape of their pre-interview, when they were left to their own devices and say, “No, this was you! This is the new you … courtesy of us.”
But Jake wants to continue his 15 minutes. He loves TV, he wants to act, and he loves that limelight for sure. He can, and probably will go back to flying planes, but that’s not what he wants to do. And I think to a certain extent, because he knew that Vienna was going to be there, he also saw this as an opportunity to rehabilitate his public persona, apologize, try to mend what was broken and move on amicably. Kind of what we tried to do in the first meeting at that house that went tragically wrong [laughs].
I think genuinely he really doesn’t like to be disliked. He loved Vienna. They were engaged. I know it was a big mess on TV for everybody — but these were two people who were engaged. And he loved her. And I think everybody forgets that. But he loved her and I think he’s trying to get at least her to forgive him. Maybe that interview was just too soon. And now he really wants to move on and get some closure. I mean, even with Kasey, he’s like, “I don’t love her any more, I just want her to be happy and to move on.” And I think he feels that maybe now that he has a relationship and she’s happy maybe he can be happy and just move on.
Does it, ahem, help that Vienna’s former rival for Jake’s affections Gia Allemande is the sole returning first season alum?
[Laughs] Gia was such a fan favorite from last season; she resonated so well with our fans. We talked about, “Who do we bring back? Do we bring back anybody?” And we thought just sliding one person back in from last season — someone who is in the know — might be interesting to the game and to the house. Somebody who had the inside scoop and can let people know and stir things up along the way. And Gia’s an emotional character; she’s a great character, so it was kind of a no-brainer. I mean obviously she’s beautiful and she’s attractive. I thought it was a good call to bring her back.
Any other surprise change-ups in personality?
I don’t know what people are expecting from Michelle Money. In my opinion, she got a bad rap. She was a lot more loving and caring than she came off. She joked around a lot and some people took that the wrong way and made her the bad girl. Most of the people would agree that she’s a good girl and everyone liked her. I think people will find her more engaging and a lot nicer than on last season.
Did Pad 2 contribute to Holly Durst and Michael Stagliano’s broken engagement?
The show had nothing to do with it. I know them personally and I know they were on again off again long before the show ever approached them. When they agreed to do it, they were off. Before we asked them. I know for sure. But it’s amazing the dynamic between those two. Talk about a 180 from Jake and Vienna. These two are very likeable and it’s interesting to see how their relationship is evolving while they’re on the show. Fans are going to find that very interesting to watch.
Speaking of engagements, despite what a few optimistic tabs are saying, current Bachelorette Ashley doesn’t exactly seem like she is headed for one…
In the last few deliberations with her, you see a lot less of a “TV deliberation” and more of a friend sitting down with a friend and going, “What are you doing? What do you see in this guy?” and trying to genuinely help her out. In Cheng Mai, we got to the point in the show — and I know people are angry we brought Bentley back — but we got the point in the show where we realized the show is not going to have a successful ending. There’s no way things were going to be happy at the end of this. So we had to do something and we had to get her to come to that conclusion of something has to happen or this is going to be a disaster for everybody.
So Bentley came back …
I was surprised and a little bit disappointed. I don’t know what it was, or what it is about human nature, but you just get hung up on somebody and the closer she got to some of these other guys, the more she thought about what if and, “I still don’t know about Bentley” and so we finally just had to pull the plug and say, “Look, you’ve got to end it with this guy — or not — either way, but you’ve got to have some kind of closure so we can move on.”
Pretty much everyone has someone who was so horrible to them and horrible for them that they stayed with for far too long, but, man, when it is a someone on TV with a dozen other guys dying to be with her, it is sooooo easily to be judgmental!
That’s what makes the show so relatable. So when people say, “I’m mad and I’m pissed off at the producers and you for doing this …” it’s only because they can relate so much — because it’s happened to them. They’ve been there.
There’s still one “mystery man” slot from Ashley’s season open on Bachelor Pad — any chance that those of us who would like to see Bentley show up and get his arse handed to him by the pros might get some satisfaction. Unless he didn’t get his arse handed to him…
As far as Bentley, I mean who knows. Because we’re still in production, so you never know if he will rear his ugly head on Bachelor Pad. I really want him to show up on the Bachelors Tell All for sure. I hope so. We’ll see!
Photos: Craig Sjodin/ABC