Ten hopes to romance audiences with a back-to-basics Bachelor

The Bachelor is back for 2019, premiering last night to 828,000 metro viewers. Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston speaks with executive producer Hilary Innes ahead of the episode to find out why Ten is confident it can restore viewer faith in the franchise after 2018’s disappointing conclusion.

It was the episode that launched a thousand irate Twitter rampages. Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins walked away from Brittany Hockley and Sophie Tieman in the final episode of the sixth season of The Bachelor, opting to leave the show alone rather than pick a woman he wasn’t sure about a future with.

While nobody could deny that Cummins had made the right choice, deciding not to lead either of the women on further when he had no plans of a future with them, it instantly called into question everything The Bachelor franchise holds sacred. How long had he known there was no future? Had he come into the show for the right reason? Had they? Do reality dating formats even work?

2019’s Bachelor, Matt Agnew

It makes sense then that with season seven, Ten decided to get back to basics. Enter Matt Agnew, an astrophysicist from Melbourne who Bachelor executive producer Hilary Innes is confident Australian audiences will fall in love with.

“With any of these reality franchises you’ve got to keep moving the dial. We always work hard to workshop new tangents or how we can go in different directions. In this case we decided to go back to basics. Back to old-school romance, an old-school bachelor. All the research we’ve done, this is my fourth season on The Bachelor, and it all points to our core audience really wanting someone who is unknown so they can take that journey of discovery,” says Innes.

Ten certainly has a better hit rate with unknown Bachelors. Season one’s Tim Robards is still with Anna Heinrich, season three’s Sam Wood and Snezana Markoski married in 2018 and now have two children together, and season five’s Matty J and Laura Byrne recently welcomed their first child together.

Season two’s Blake Garvey and season four’s Richie Strahan didn’t find their happy endings on the show, but The Bachelorette’s foray into celebrity didn’t end in romance either, with Sophie Monk and Stu Laundy lasting just a few months before calling it quits.

As long-time host Osher Günsberg told Mumbrella about Bachelor in Paradise – the franchise has romance at its heart. So with a slightly spotty record for couples staying together, and a Bachelor who walked away from love last season, how did Innes tackle this season?

“After all those years, you have to keep working on new content ideas and fresh approaches. This series has a much more organic feel, the content is very easily being driven by the evolutions of the people inside the mansion. We’ve got people on the production team who have done this from day one, so they know what to watch out for, and we’re always workshopping as we go, we keep on evolving,” says Innes.

“We’re all invested in romance and love, and it feels like real life. These are things that could happen to you or your best friend, things you can gossip about in the office. That’s why the show does so well on social media, each year the number of people talking about it on Twitter and Facebook rises and we’re expecting that to continue.”

Despite the focus in the early clips on Agnew’s job, Innes says they didn’t set out to find someone with a quirky career. Although he’s provided comedy gold (“I’m an astrophysicist.” “Oh, I’m a Gemini.” blew up offices around the country), Innes says the focus is more on his down-to-Earth nature and relatability, rather than his lofty title. Although he did just become a doctor.

“Matt fell into our laps, he applied, and we got lucky because he’s a catch. But we do go through a very fine-tuned process of finding people, because they have to be the right type of person. The whole thing is a jigsaw puzzle and we have to find the perfect piece. But Matt’s an old-school bachelor, he’s a classic, and that’s what we wanted for this season, we wanted to bring it all back to love, and the hunt for something substantial in life.”

The best thing about the Bachelor franchise, says Innes, is its wide-reaching audience. As offices around the country prepare for the Bachelor sweepstakes, Innes says she’s been told of 90-year-olds getting their snacks ready for Bachelor viewing parties at nursing homes.

“There’s no age cap on it, when he’s just a nice, charming man, he can be someone you fancy or someone you’d like to take home to mum, or even someone mums would want their daughters to bring home. The Bachelor is a lot of different things to different people.”

After Ten parted ways with its Masterchef hosts earlier this week, there’s been a lot of discussion about how important the right host is to a franchise. The Bachelor has had Günsberg at its helm since day one, and he’s often praised on social media for what he brings to the show.

“It’s a really pertinent thing for our show, because there’s not a rose ceremony that goes by, or a date card that goes by where we don’t think, ‘Wow, he’s good’. He brings that empathy, you know, he knows the right time for the right moment, and while he doesn’t have that much time on screen he’s pivotal in the way he directs the action and how he creates the tone across the whole show. You look at him and you can see him feel with the contestants and I think he’s critical to the show we want to create.”

One thing Innes says there’s been a focus on this season is ensuring the bachelorettes are there for the right reason. In the past, the show has been accused of hiring people just for the drama, people who are looking to be the ‘villain’ of the season rather than to find a long-lasting love match. But that isn’t the case this season, says Innes.

“What you’re seeing on TV is all them, it’s the way their minds are working. This series has a really organic feel to it, it’s very natural and very real. I think of Richie’s series and I think of Kiera [Maguire] and I think of last year and I think of Alisha [Aitken-Radburn], Romy [Poulier] and Cat [Henesy-Smith], and I think they’ve come in and they’ve already printed themselves as an archetype. This year I feel like it’s a lot more subtle, in a good way. Subtle isn’t a word to be afraid of, it’s a word to embrace, because it feels real. It feels like the girls who are in there, their characters evolve and their personalities evolve from being in the show rather than they’ve come into the show already being a bit knowing. This show feels amazingly refreshing from where we’ve been in recent times. Back to basics.”


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