When people are just getting to know me, they always seem surprised to learn I am a fan of The Bachelor (and The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, Bachelor Winter Games). I suppose I should be flattered that perhaps I seem too sophisticated to be interested in such trash television, but my close friends know the truth: I'm obsessed.
The morning Boston Globe columnist Meredith Goldstein published her review of Amy Kaufman's book, "Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure," a dozen family members and friends sent me the link. Their emails and text messages said things like, "Thought you'd love this!" or "You need this book for your vacation!" Before you could say, "Will you accept this rose?" I had already submitted my order via Amazon Prime.
I packed the book for my trip to Palm Springs, California and could not wait to devour it.
Kaufman is originally from Massachusetts, but moved to Los Angeles to attend USC in the fall of 2004. In 2009, she began working at The Los Angeles Times, covering film, celebrity and pop culture. In addition to her full-time job, she also moonlights as one of the most vocal members of Bachelor Nation, live tweeting her thoughts on the show from her Twitter account, @AmyKinLA, where she has over 47,000 followers.
In the book's introduction, Kaufman explains how she become so well known in The Bachelor universe:
"I even decided to start an e-mail group, aptly titled 'Bach Discush' - I hope you've gotten on the abbreviation train by now - and invited about two dozen smart lady fans I knew to share thoughts about episodes and show-related news on the daily. Whenever a new season was airing, we'd gather in my living room with rosé and SkinnyPop to watch together - something that instantly elevated the viewing experience. Because many of us were entertainment journalists, we'd often cross paths with Bach contestants, and sometimes we could even convince them to come watch themselves on TV with us. Eric Bigger, Ashley Iaconetti, and JJ Lane have all been guests on my couch, and once, Robby Hayes ghosted us after promising to come over and requesting we make him Moscow Mules. I have no use for those copper mugs now, you sockless liar!"
Later on in the book she also shares that Chris Harrison once crashed her weekly viewing party live on air during one of The Bachelor specials. I always wondered how they found those gaggles of girls!
The book covers every piece of the show's history, beginning with its infamous creator, Mike Fleiss. Kaufman writes, "At his family reunions, there was always one person Mike Fleiss gravitated toward: his second cousin Heidi. As teenagers, the two would meet up at the gatherings and hide out behind the garage, sneaking beers and sharing a joint. Heidi Fleiss, of course, would go on to become known as the notorious 'Hollywood Madam,' running an illegal prostitution ring that catered to wealthy celebrities like Charlie Sheen - a crime that eventually landed her in prison in her early thirties. Mike Fleiss, meanwhile, hasn't ended up behind bars. But as the creator of The Bachelor, the long-running reality television series on which more than two dozen singles compete for an eligible suitor, he's displayed an understanding of the human desire for love that his cousin was also able to tap into."
Fleiss's first big TV hit was Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? which would pave the way for him to pitch The Bachelor.
At The Bachelor, his partner in producing crime is Lisa Levenson, who came from General Hospital, Jerry Springer and Big Brother. Levenson is known for being absolutely ruthless with contestants and doing whatever it takes to get the reaction she wants on screen. For those who also watch Lifetime's UnREAL, the character of Quinn (played by Constance Zimmer) is based on Levenson.
The book details all of the ways production creates an alternate reality that draws fans in and makes them believe in the romance. For example, the famous mansion is actually a private home. For 10 months of the year, the owners live there with their children. When the show is taping, they take all of the owners' furniture out, paint the walls and redecorate for the show. When production wraps, they put it all back.
Kaufman takes us behind the scenes of the application process, the psychological evaluation, how much luggage the contestants are allowed to bring, and how they are treated during filming. You know all those scenes where three of four contestants are sitting around discussing what they think is happening is on the one-on-one date or which person they find most annoying? They are incentivized to participate in those chats. Yup, if they do it, they may get a special privilege, like being allowed to watch a movie.
The book also details how they decide on which cities or countries to travel to (typically whichever tourism board offers to host them for free). Kaufman also answers a question I had been asking myself for years, "Why isn't anyone ever actually eating the food on the dinner dates?!" She explains:
"A five-course meal does scream luxury, except ain't nobody gonna eat it. It doesn't look cute, and chewing doesn't sound fantastic on live mic. Plus, the cast is always able to get a private meal before or after the date if they want to avoid chowing down on-camera. Which is a shame, really, because these couples are often being offered high-end cuisine. Oftentimes, renowned chefs will walk out to the table to describe the dishes they have prepared for the lovebirds - dishes that some production assistant typically just digs into later, cold."
I could go on and on and on about all the juicy secrets revealed in this book, but I won't, because you should read it. In addition to the history of the show, in between each chapter that Kaufman wrote is an essay called "Why I'm a Fan," which features submissions from Amy Schumer, Allison Williams, Diablo Cody, Joshua Malina, Donnie Wahlberg and more.
If you're a fan of the show and looking for a great beach read this summer, this is it.
*Homepage image via @AmyKinLA on Twitter.