Two leading ladies, and 20 men cast over Zoom: The Bachelorette’s EP on why this season could rival Sophie Monk’s

20 men. And, for the first time on Australian TV, two Bachelorettes. The franchise's executive producer, Hilary Innes, chats with Mumbrella's Brittney Rigby about what we can expect from an unprecedented season in an unprecedented year, and why she's hopeful season six could, potentially, replicate Sophie Monk's ratings success.

The sixth season of The Bachelorette will be unlike anything we’ve seen before, promises executive producer Hilary Innes. The group of 20 men were cast over Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some had to travel interstate, and therefore quarantine for two weeks before filming could begin.

And tonight, we’ll see them meet not one, but two Bachelorettes on the red carpet: Elly and Becky Miles. Soon thereafter, they’ll be divided into two groups, reflecting their interest in one of two of the sisters.

While the double-lead format isn’t brand new – The Bachelorette New Zealand cast two Bachelorettes in its series earlier this year, although they didn’t know each other – it’s an Australian-first, meaning that it “just feels a bit different to our regular series”.

The Bachelorette launches tonight on Ten

Casting the lead is always “very tricky because it’s such an unusual role”, Innes tells Mumbrella. “You’ve got to be someone with an X factor. So many boxes have to be ticked. It’s always a very finely tuned, extensive search, and it can go in many different directions.”

One of those directions is the well-documented precedent of installing a previous season’s fan favourite into the main role – think Richie Strahan, Matthew ‘Matty J’ Johnson, Sam Frost, Ali Oetjen, and now, Elly Miles.

“We always keep an eye on some of our past participants who’ve popped out and been fan favourites or been warmly received. There’s been a few of those over the seasons who we keep in touch with, and Elly was one of them,” Innes explains, referring to Miles as a “lovely and warm … breath of fresh air”.

“And we saw some stuff on her socials with her sister and they’ve got such a beautiful dynamic as sisters and best friends.

“The casting team really found the winning combination [with them] and they put them together and interviewed Becky and then together showed them to us. And we were all really won over.”

Elly and Becky are the best of both worlds, Innes contends. Elly is the tried and tested Bachelor personality with almost 150,000 Instagram followers. And her sister is a ‘normal’ person, like Georgia Love or Matt Agnew were going into their series, who “pulls Elly back, I think, to more who she really is”. It was on Agnew’s season of The Bachelor, in fact, that Elly rose to prominence.

“Her sister does give you the feeling of authenticity … I was so happy seeing them on the red carpet on night one, because I thought, ‘Wow, I really believe you guys.”

Becky, Innes adds, is “just a real woman. We’ve all had friends [like Becky] or we know Beckys”.

“You get a bit more of the girls chatting with each other and debriefing after they’ve had dates or after they’re at a cocktail party and they’ll actually touch base with each other,” she says. “Whereas, normally, with one lead, you don’t get that, they come in and out and it’s just an interview.”

This season’s contestants

But despite one pool of men being shared between two women, the sisters weren’t interested in competing, Innes says.

“There was always this sense that, ‘Oh, well, if you really like him, okay, that’s great’. Really early, the guys divide up into the ones that are interested in Elly, the ones that are interested in Becky. And the girls also are very mindful of protecting each other. And if one had a really strong feeling [for one of the men] from night one, then they would support that.

“They have different types of guys that they’re looking for as well [because of, for example] their age differences. I mean, there are moments [of conflict] in there, but it’s not a big storyline.”

This season, the contestants were subject to a number of COVID-19-era alterations to the filming process. While the team didn’t have to shut down production like on Locky Gilbert’s recently-aired season – “restrictions were lifted when we came back to the end of that season” – they did have to adjust the casting process, which took place “just at the tail end” of widespread lockdown conditions.

“We actually cast on Zoom and that was, for me, quite a successful experience, considering we’re normally all in rooms together with large groups of people, at least for part of the casting process,” Innes says.

“That was one of the things we had to adjust. Because obviously we cast from around the country, so we couldn’t travel, we couldn’t have groups together. So all those things, we had to work around.

“Everyone was tested [for COVID-19]. I mean, we had to test all the talent … Some of the guys who came in had to go into quarantine for a couple of weeks before we started shooting. We had to be scrupulous that all these people were COVID free before we set them into their little Bachelorette bubble, as well as all the cast and crew protocols. So all those kinds of things are in place and we’ve just gotten used to working around it all.”

The Bachelorette usually rates lower than The Bachelor. Last season, Angie Kent’s final decision pulled more than 1m metro viewers, better than Georgia Love (972,000), Ali Oetjen (926,000), and the 879,000 who recently tuned in to watch Locky Gilbert choose Irena Srbinovska.

But Kent’s finale result was worse than every other season of The Bachelor: Matt Agnew (1.17m), Nick Cummins (1.241m), Matty J (1.116m), Richie Strahan (1.324m), Sam Wood (1.482m), Blake Garvey (1.374m), and Tim Robards (1.186m).

There have been only a couple of notable exceptions to the rule: Sam Frost, whose decision attracted a huge 1.52m viewers, and Sophie Monk. Monk’s 2017 premiere to 951,000 metro viewers was The Bachelorette’s biggest launch, and her finale gave Ten its biggest audience of the year: a whopping 1.64m metro viewers for the final decision, and 1.316m on average across the episode.

When asked about ratings for Elly and Becky’s season, Innes acknowledges she’s “always hoping for an increase in numbers”.

“It’s interesting. Sometimes The Bachelorette has done really well. Sophie’s season was a case in point and that was an interesting way to go because it was the first time we’d had a person with a big profile in the role,” she says.

Casting Monk worked, the EP explains, even though “it could have backfired”, and her season’s success could foreshadow a similar result for the Miles sisters.

The sisters on the red carpet with host Osher Gunsberg

“In [Sophie’s] case, it’s because she had such honesty and self deprecating humour, and you just feel like you know her. And I think that those ingredients are what will help us with this series as well,” Innes adds.

“I always hope that the audience is gonna latch on and go, ‘Yeah, this is great. We’re into this’. But you never really know. I just think that these two girls [work], tonally for the times we’re living in, where you just want to see some happiness and joy. Not to the exclusion of drama or investigating some dating type issues, which always comes up in The Bachelor and can cause a bit of drama. Not to the exclusion of that, but I think, primarily, we’re looking to feel good and to actually celebrate love.

“I feel like this season has got a really good shot because it’s got this [joy] about it, this feel good, peaceful, joyful romp about it with the two girls, and the guys that we cast around them.”

And, of course, the season will feature a number of the integrations the franchise is known for, and that “you won’t be able to miss”. As Viacom CBS’ partnerships director – effect, Tamar Hovagimian, puts it, the opportunity for advertisers is the show’s ability to “seamlessly combine brand stories with love stories”.

This year, Masterchef has been the jewel in Ten’s slate. The Back to Win format – complete with a new set of hosts – regularly sat above the 1m metro viewers mark throughout its season, and pulled more than 1.5m metro viewers for the winners announcement, and 1.261m across the final episode. The Masked Singer was down on last year’s inaugural run, and Survivor: All Stars performed strongly at the start of the year, but experienced a year-on-year drop in the finale.

Bachelor in Paradise, the lowest performing series of the Bachelor franchise, secured 480,000 metro viewers for the final moments of its last episode, which aired in August.

The network’s commercial share for the year to date is 25%, a slight improvement on last year. Ten’s shares in the key demographics are at their highest levels since 2011, up from 25.6% to 29.4% in 25-54s and from 26.1% 30.9% in 16-39s.

Contact the journalist:

Have more information on the article? Want to share an opinion? Just want to reach out? Email Brittney on brittney@mumbrella.com.au or get in touch via LinkedIn.


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