Monday, August 24, 2009

Selling the Fairy Tale

I must admit my naughty little vice. I watch The Bachelor/Bachelorette on ABC. I can not tell a lie. When they first advertised the show...MANY...years ago now, the feminist in me rose up and I swore I would never watch a show with one guy having his pick from 25 obviously desperate women. I stuck to this vow until right before the final rose ceremony of the first season when - well - they got me. ABCFamily aired a marathon run of the season so far and I got caught. I've watched it on and off ever since. Okay, mostly on. I admit it.

You know what this show has taught me? You must know WHO you're marketing to and do it right or you lose the audience. It doesn't matter whether you're writing romance or making TV - even reality TV. After years of watching this show it is obvious to me the production staff doesn't know their market. They THINK they know their market, but they really don't.

Why do I think this? Who am I to judge a production staff that's managed to stay on the air for a bunch of years in a very cut throat business? I'm a fan. Fans get to judge - a thing to remember as an author.

Why do I think they do NOT know their market? Because of the "drama" of the last few seasons. There has always been "drama" on the show which frankly, I could have done without. But ultimately, I was looking for the HEA at the end.

This is where The Bachelor/Bachelorette has screwed up...big time. They aren't delivering the happily ever after the audience is so hoping for. You sometimes get the happy for now ending, but ultimately that hasn't been satisfying because the couples invariably break up.

The show had one golden moment. Fans know whereof I speak...or whomof...Trista and Ryan. Perhaps for the show it might have been better if they hadn't had one HEA because then the audience would not expect a HEA at the end of every season. But they did. The couple lived the fairy tale. And are still living it - married with kids.

So how did they do it? They had a mature heroine and a sensitive hero. Ryan was one of those gamma guys. Normally I like me an alpha but Ryan had me sighing too. Of course Ryan was alpha where it counted for us alpha lovers because he was a hunky firefighter. Excellent casting. Ryan wasn't out there beating his chest with the "manly" men most of the time, but he was the strong silent type that many of us go for. In fact, the production staff managed to stack the deck with a group of men who were cute and for the most part fairly nice guys. And the guys that weren't nice, I don't remember cause I think Trista must have dumped them early in the game. Smart Trista - unlike the latest Bachelorette Jillian but I'll discuss that later.

So they had one super fantabulous HEA then dud after dud after dud. And no, I am not exempting the episodes of The Bachelorette. Production managed to cast likable heroes and heroines for their Bachelor or Bachelorette "characters". People the audience connected with. People the audience rooted for. Good for production and their marketing sense.

Take the last two "seasons." Jason (The Bachelor) and Jillian (The Bachelorette). OMG - sad. Just sad. Jason was cast after having his heart broken on the previous season of The Bachelorette (who broke up with the guy she chose before The Bachelor started). He was an all around good guy. A single dad. Women melted over him. I thought he was pretty cool so I was kind of interested in watching how he'd do as The Bachelor. The answer? Not so hot. Everything seemed fine until you got to "the final rose." He had two women left - Melissa and Molly. Both were very nice women. He'd chosen well. I had not watched ALL the episodes of this one, but as I watched the final show I was pretty sure he'd choose Molly. Don't know why I thought that, but I did.

So what happens? He tells Molly he's fallen for Melissa. She tells him she doesn't understand and that he'll regret not choosing her. She isn't threatening to him, just absolutely positive they should be together. (Unlike past episodes where women were slightly scary - stalker scary if you get my drift). After he walks Molly to the car he comes back inside and starts crying. Sobbing his guts out. At that moment, I knew he'd chosen the wrong woman and if most viewers will admit it they'd say they knew it too. NO man will cry over a woman he doesn't love. No freaking way. I can only guess someone on the production staff wanted some drama and "encouraged" him in another direction.

Why do I say that? Because when the "after the rose" show aired, Mr. Nice-Guy broke up with Melissa on air and asked Molly for a second chance. All of America was up in arms. The poor guy probably was afraid women would come after him with torches and pitchforks. Seriously. Myself, I felt it would be better not to break up in public but he was locked into a contract that required it. Better for Melissa to find out before they walk down the aisle. The production staff wanted drama not the Happily Ever After and completely misjudged their audience. Why? Because they do not know their audience. Romance authors could have counseled them, but they don't appear to be listening.

Jillian, the most recent Bachelorette made it to Jason's final four. America loved her so she was chosen to be the next heroine. Poor Jillian. We think we torture our heroes and heroines? We've got nothing on ABC's The Bachelorette. At least romance authors guarantee the hero, the heroine and the reader a happily ever after. Poor Jillian had so much drama this season it's a wonder the girl didn't suffer from a heart attack.

One guy was there solely to advance his country music career and she KEPT him even after one of the other guys (one of the DUMPED guys mind you) came to her and told her the bad boy musician had a girlfriend now living (sorry - just had to allude to Mr. Rochester - but Rochester had far more character than this guy). Country music guy should FIRE his manager who told him to play the shell game on Jillian. Every male country music artist has a ton of FEMALE fans. Yeah, they sing cheating songs, but in the songs they are the victims done wrong. Not the doers. Jillian kept the jerk around until the final four.

She finally gets her "happily ever after" but then in the last few weeks magazines are coming out with stories that Ed cheated on her during their time apart. I most sincerely hope this is just tabloid crapola - for her sake. But with this show's track record, I'm just not sure.

Where the show consistently screws up in both The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette is who they cast in the pool of possible mates for the person handing out the roses. Time after time they choose men and women in those pools of candidates who frankly needed therapy more than they needed to find love. Bad casting. Very bad. Anger management issues. Drama between the women, chest beating between the men. Bleh.

This casting would have been fine if the audience had been looking for a train wreck - you know the basic common denominator in reality TV. The only thing that was interesting watching this part of the show was from an anthropological perspective. Talk about your scientific experiment. Get a group of women and men confined in a tight space while they fight for a mate. Like I said, the scenario is great if you study anthropology but lousy if you're watching for a happy ending and that's my big contention here. They don't know WHO their audience is.

The audience that watches this show isn't your usual reality TV audience. They don't want a train wreck, they want romance. Whether they read romance or not, they are romance readers. The audience for this show are women 20-50 (give or take a few years on either side) who believe in love triumphant...or they WANT to believe in it. They want the hero or heroine to find the love of their life and at the end of this public courtship they want a marriage proposal. When it doesn't work that way they get disgusted, discouraged and disheartened.

The Bachelor/Bachelorette production staff needs to find a group of romance readers or romance authors and use them as consultants. If you had readers or authors pick the group of candidates for your hero or heroine, I can very nearly guarantee you that the show would have a
happily ever after. There would be another Ryan and Trista story and once that happened the ratings would sky rocket just like romance sales have.

Then the final rose would really mean something.


Laurann Dohner said...

I totally agree! I watched it for a while but... I got disgusted with the bad decisions. I walked away and now watch TrueBlood. LOL. At least there's a good romance there, both on and off screen. LOL.

Savanna Kougar said...

Francesca, great analysis. I'm so glad you did it and not me. Frankly, I couldn't stomach the hype from the beginning, so never really watched. Just caught snippets. I mean, what I saw was usually so demeaning to humanity, in general, I just couldn't take it, even with the romance carrot held out.

Crystal Kauffman said...

oooo Laurann is after my own heart. I love True Blood! I have to admit I was fed up during the very first show of its kind with Evan the super dumb underwear model posing as a prince. My husband has a BS factor rule which states I'm not allowed to watch certain programs that make him want to puke, and almost all reality tv fits into that rule. I have to admit I hate most of it too.

I totally get what you're saying, though. And since a lot of the dumber percentage of our population take their que from tv, romance experts could do a lot to influence better behavior in people if they were just given a voice. Take John & Kate. That woman was downright mean. I would never treat my husband that way (of course, I actually love mine) no wonder he left her. It should have come as no surprise to her.

Serena Shay said...

Hey Francesca,
Great blog! I've never watched either show, but I like how you liken the casting to a train wreck - I'd probably be more prone to trying to watch it if I knew the contestants were there to honestly look for love and not the biggest deal they can get elsewhere. ;)

Paris said...


I like your analogy about knowing your audience--who you are marketing to. Romance authors know better than to try to pull off a "set up" situation and sell it as a happily ever after.

I'm going to have to find a place that rents "True Blood" and watch the first season. You guys have intrigued me;-)