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Ratings over real reality—ABC’s out of focus on “The Bachelor”

30 Aug

Since it’s 2002 debut, ABC’s reality dating show “The Bachelor,” and female counterpart “The Bachelorette,” has seen more Jerry Springer-type throw downs and drama than actual lasting fairytale romances.

Of the hundreds of hopeful romantics and attention seekers on the show, a precious handful have miraculously married and had children with someone they met during their bachelor land journey. Fewer than a dozen lasting high-profile couples have emerged in 11 years, but each time that has happened, you can be sure the couple’s photos have been blasted around the tabloid magazines, internet gossip sites and even established news networks.

Show host Chris Harrison is often the mouthpiece for such events, but what happens when bad-good publicity goes beyond the form of a high-profile contestant breakup?

Gia Allemand - Source: icydk.com

Gia Allemand – Source: icydk.com

Gia Allemond made headlines across the world when she died August 14 after a suicide attempt at her home in New Orleans. Allemond was second runner-up for bachelor Jake Pavelka during season 14 and later returned for two seasons of the spinoff show, “Bachelor Pad,” where contestants play for love and money, neither which Allemond took home during her time in the “Bachelor Pad” house. In fact, she chose to take herself out of the game during her second stay because she couldn’t handle the emotional catfights from fellow contestants.

ABC execs posted a splashy headline reading “Remembering Gia Allemand” on “The Bachelor” home page. Of course the photo they choose to remember her by at the top of the masthead is an official flawless ABC stock photo of her in a bikini. Way to keep it classy, ABC. The post on the page asks viewers to share their favorite memories of the tragic departed. As of today, there are only 18 comments.

ABC is owned by The Disney/ABC Television Group. According to the careers website, responsibilities for a public relations/communications employee “might include managing the reputation of The Walt Disney Company, developing strategic, cohesive and internal communications; and managing large-scale, high-visibility projects.”

If ABC hired me to do public relations, I would advise them to create a new spinoff show called “The Bachelor: Therapy Addition” or “Rehab Addition.” There have been some crazy ladies and gents over the years who could probably benefited more from solid counseling than booze-fueled cruises and reunion parties.

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Bridezilla Kirsten Walker tries to save her marriage on “Boot Camp: Bridezillas” – Source: xfinity.comcast.net

“Marriage Bootcamp: Bridezillas”—another train wreck of a show you now know I watch—is the spin-off to WE tv’s “Bridezillas,” a successful reality show following overly dramatic brides to their big day. Five of the most in-need ‘zillas and their husbands get the chance to work with trained mental health and relationship professionals over the course of a few weeks.

Sure there’s drunk ranting, name calling and furniture throwing, but the goal is for these couples to genuinely work their issues out, giving them the tools they need to work out their marriage long-term. Yes, it’s about making money, but at least the exes of this show attempt to act like they actually care what happens to their cash cows after they’ve been sacrificed on the alter of ratings.

To be fair, bachelor Brad Womack had a therapist on hand during season 15 after he ended up choosing neither of his final two lady loves, a first in bachelor history, at the end of his season 11 reign. I think that took a lot of guts, and I wish more of them would do the same.

One of the smartest public relations moves came from one of the biggest giant slaps in the face when season 13 bachelor Jason Mesnick dumped his former fiancé Melissa Rycroft for runner-up Molly Malaney on the live television during the final episode.

Melissa Rycroft dumped by bachelor Jason Mesnick on live television - Source: people.com

Melissa Rycroft dumped by bachelor Jason Mesnick on live television – Source: people.com

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Rycroft wins “Dancing With the Stars: All Stars” – Source: mlive.com

After several days of bad publicity, ABC went into high gear to recover and promptly placed the former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader on season 8 of “Dancing with the Stars,” where she took third place. Six seasons later, she returned for “Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars” and beat out fan favorites Joey Fatone of N’Sync, Kirstie Alley and Emmitt Smith, among others, to win the shiny mirror ball, thus reassuring Bachelor fans that even if young contestants looking for love might get their hearts broken on live television, ABC might have a consolation prize hidden somewhere if you promise to do your best to boost ratings in the process.

“The show is a magnifying glass,” Mike Fleiss, the creator and an executive producer of the show said in an interview. “If you’re a solid person, it will make you seem that much more so. But if you’re a little crazy, you’ll seem completely insane.”

Allemond killing herself was bad publicity but even worse of a human tragedy. “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” get it right on ratings, but they need to be more in touch with the relations part of the public relations role for the contestants.

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