Like a sacrificial lamb offered to the temple of the public opinion, Channel 10’s mystical romantic protagonist has returned for a fourth season of negotiating the maelstrom of conflicting emotional wavelengths shared by a collective of willing young women who believe in, above all else, love.
We’re back folks, televisions to attention please.
This year our abs of steel come courtesy of Richie Strahan, the blue eyed Disney Prince who gave us a bronze medal performance on the first ever Bachelorette series. Having already proven himself to The Bachelor’s spiritual leader Queen Waterland with his honorable sacrifice at the alter of the Frost-born, this season he has been knighted Sir Dickie Bach and like the rest of us is currently looking forward to three months of sitting on his hands and reading her recaps.
But if you think Strahan has it easy in all this, you’d be mistaken. Because as he knows, it’s genuinely gut wrenching to lose when you’re on this show and 21 of the contestants are about to do so by his hand. Perhaps it gets lost in amongst the throng of gossip columns that the people who apply to go on this show have genuine intentions. Because, you know, it sucks to be alone, especially when (ironically) television is there to feed us endless narratives of being swept of our feet, rainbows, candles, waterfalls, helicopters, and those gloriously framed snogs from multiple camera angles.
“You don’t go on a show like this without wanting to find someone,” begins Strathan, speaking to us as part of his rock star tour of the country following the airing of the first two episodes. “I wanted to find someone. And because of that you have a lot of respect for everyone who is there, no matter what ends up getting aired.”
Richie also knows plenty about how The Bachelor works one the cameras, producers, lighting and the people involved all step away, and the hundreds of thousands of Australian’s tuning in start to give their two cents on proceedings. Sure, it’s overwhelmingly positive, but keyboard warriors might not appreciate the fact that the contestants are reading everything that gets written about them.
“Before The Bachelorette aired,” Richie explains, “I was with all of the contestants in Sydney in a house together, and we were all excited watching the comments begin to roll in as the show began. But we’d barely begun when I spied a comment, ‘I don’t like this Rich bloke, he looks boring.’ All I could think was, ‘Wow, you haven’t even had the chance to know me yet,’ so I click on the profile of the person who commented and it’s literally a ten year old kid.”
In his own words, he’s prepared this time to treat the chaos of the coming months with a “water off a ducks back” attitude. “I’m just a regular bloke, there’s nothing special about me,” he says. We quickly check he’s allowed to say that and he turns to his publicist for approval. We’re good. “And I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.” He’s thankful for Queen Waterland’s voice in it all though to help give some perspective to each episode, especially considering it’s the entertainment which we see, not the whole shebang.
“In reality, people’s relationships are quirky, weird and dorky because nobody is watching you, but here it all plays out on a screen with a focus on the drama. I sat down to watch episode two the other night and I remember that I spoke with everyone at the cocktail party. We were having in depth conversations, but most of it didn’t make the cut. But what can you do, we all know it’s about entertainment and I really laughed at Rosie’s recap afterwards. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself who can you laugh at?” he smiles.
“When I was approached for this season, even with my time on the Bachelorette, I had no idea how intense it would be and nobody can prepare you. The producers said, ‘you know Rich, it’s full on,’ but that doesn’t mean anything at the time. I was a deer in headlights this season. And I’m an Australian male, so it’s not normal for me to open up, let alone watch myself do it all over again with 22 women at the same time.”
“You’re trying to meet someone, I feel you owe it to your partner to be able to give them that, to embrace that beauty in that part of the relationship.”
And people watching shouldn’t lose that foresight as they sit on their couches, creating Vines and projecting themselves into the shoes of the characters. Because for all the staged moments, endless champagne and candles, Osher and bacon references, this is actually a journey, equally towards love as it is towards heartbreak. And it’s book ended by the following months where everyone involved can’t move on to continue their lives until it’s all done.
Having already won, Strahan is philosophical about the wait to come. “Sure, you want it done and to start the next chapter in your life but the secrecy is only finite. The 3 months of filming is whirlwind on itself. Then you come away from it and you’re keeping secrets and being chauffeured in cars out of the public eye. It’s all an exciting experience and to be honest, and like the rest of the it’s just something else people just don’t get to do ordinarily. So it’s a part of the adventure.”
“People will project themselves into your circumstance, and respond to the narratives of the show in some creative ways. I think it all comes down to the fact that people like to watch a good love story. There’s a lot of positives happening on the show, and relationships can be so much fun. Especially new relationships, when you have no idea what you’re doing. Someone looks at you and your heart races.”
And it seems that on The Bachelor, that’s a key experience that transcends the screen.
The Bachelor airs at 7.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday on Channel 10. Catch up on old episodes here.