Well, my friends, it’s been a minute since last we were here, diving into a new season of an Australian Bachieverse show. More than a year has passed since Brooke Blurton picked her winner (if you didn’t follow what happened next – they broke up pretty promptly afterwards), and now we’re here in perhaps the least ratings-friendly period ever for what will probably be our last rodeo, at least for some time.
In other words: it seems pretty clear that Channel 10 is actively trying to kill the franchise with this season.
Everything from the airtime to the schedule to the fact that the first two episodes were mysteriously (and totally definitely on purpose, why would you think otherwise) uploaded on TenPlay more than a full week before the premiere suggests that the network is trying to usher the Bachieverse gently into that good night. The vibe is very much “not with a bang, but with a whimper” (despite the promise that this season will contain fantasy suites, ie the franchise-approved opportunity to bang, which has not existed in the Australian show for a full decade).
Much has been made of the fact that this season is all about exploding the format and throwing new shit at the wall to see if it sticks. There’s the fact that there’s three Bachelors, for one: the most Bachelors that there has ever been in any iteration of the show globally. There’s the fact that it’s on the Gold Coast. There’s the fact that the tone is wildly different to what we’ve seen in the past.
Perhaps, if we were very charitable, we could read the fact that this show is being rushed out in January and broadcast over (by my calculations) a three week period as a version of this format-explosion. We could even read the totally-released-on-purpose “exclusive preview” episodes as a version of this, as whetting the appetite of the viewers and luring them in. If we were very, very charitable, we could see it as an admission that streaming and on-demand viewing is where the younger audiences are, moving away from the reliance on Nielsen ratings (which privilege older audiences) as a measure of success.
(This would not be without precedent. Australian Love Island was solely a streaming show in 2022, broadcast on 9Now, in, I assume, recognition of the fact that its younger audience simply do not watch free-to-air TV.)
But alas, I am not that charitable. You don’t leak early episodes of a show which is (in theory) one of the last bastions of appointment TV unless you’re trying to kill it. You don’t dump it all in three weeks and then run away screaming unless you’re trying to kill it. You don’t put it up against the fucking tennis unless you’re trying to kill it.
Seriously. While the US Bachelor has, for the last several years, premiered early in January, the context is wildly different. January is the densest month on the Australian sporting calendar. You don’t premiere a show there unless you’re actively trying to cull it from your roster.
This is a pessimistic beginning to my recaps of this season, but I think we have to start from a place of pessimism, because that’s what just about every decision made by the network is pointing towards. Everything around the show is giving off enormous whimper-not-bang energy, and it’s impossible not to read it in that context.
However, this is in itself quite interesting, because a lack of expectations can also come with a sense of freedom. The Bachelors is not burdened with the weight that our last Australian Bachie season came with, where, along with being the first ever First Nations and the first ever bisexual Bachie, Brooke Blurton was expected to save the entire franchise. Everyone expects these men and this season to be a flop.
Basically, I’m wondering whether we might find ourselves in a sort of The Producers situation here. Could the fact that the network seems to be actively trying to murder the show accidentally turn it into a success despite itself?
I suspect the answer is going to be no. We might have had a year off, but my instinct is that Bachie fatigue persists still – that we never really recovered from 2020, where they stacked Bachelor in Paradise, a lacklustre season of The Bachelor and an absolutely fucking terrible season of The Bachelorette on top of each other and burned the whole audience out. However, I have been known to be wrong before, so…
And in the spirit of seeing: let’s check out the season premiere and see what’s going on.
Because guess what???
I think this season might be…
It’s early days, but this is easily the most entertained I’ve been by a Bachelor season since the days of the Astro Bach. Some of this is down to the format explosion, but some of it comes down to the fact said explosion has caused them to return to a basic storytelling principle: you can’t become invested in a love story unless you’re invested in the characters.
In that vein, let’s meet our three Bachelors.
Jed (25): my goodness, there is a lot going on in Jed’s introduction. He is a drummer. He likes loud prints and tattoos. He also likes Jesus (“you can’t judge a book by its cover”, he tells us, ignoring the fact that the cover is a threshold of interpretation, and – okay, you didn’t come here for my lecture on paratext).
Jed begins from a place of insecurity and vulnerability, talking about how he was bashed at school for painting his nails. This tone continues throughout the episode. It is often deeply annoying – he negatively compares himself to Felix on several occasions, and it gets a bit much – but it also makes him the most relatable of the Bachies. I wouldn’t have picked this knockoff Machine Gun Kelly as our POV Bachie, but of the three men, Jed is, I contend, our perspective character.
Felix (27): Felix is the closest to the archetype of a Bachie that we have: tall, white, dark hair, teeth so white it’s almost uncanny, a little dead behind the eyes. He’s another one of our professional sportsperson Bachies – he’s a basketball player – but he’s transitioned into some kind of corporate job.
The narrative they’re trying to build around Felix reminds me a bit of the one they built around Georgia Love: he’s always put his career before relationships, but now he’s here to focus on love. But there’s another nuance, because Felix openly admits that “for me, it’s always been a hookup culture” and that he’s never been in a relationship. Whether or not Felix is a reformed player or simply a player is going to be one of the questions of the season.
Thomas (35): I suspect I would have liked Thomas a lot more if I knew nothing about him going in. On the surface he seems nice enough: he’s handsome, he’s Italian, he describes himself as “very romantic”, which is “in his DNA”.
But there’s also a lot about fitness and wellness and transformation in his intro, which is utterly unsurprising – if you go digging even a little into his bio, you’ll find out how deeply entwined he is in a wellness-flavoured MLM.
Also, he looks exactly like Jonny from Season 3 of UK Love Island, who I have never forgiven for what he did to Camilla. Thomas has a lot of ground to make up with me.
So: these are our three boys. Now, let’s delve into the format changes.
There are quite a few. As Osher tells us in his opening spiel, there’ll still be dates and roses (and Osher), but almost every other aspect of the franchise will shift in some way.
Some of these changes are, I think, unnecessary. They make much of the fact that the visual language is different. In their move to the Gold Coast, they’ve also ditched the fairy lights and the candles. While I can understand wanting to give the show a different look, this visual language is pretty key to Bachie, and I don’t think they needed to ditch it altogether.
They also talk about “raising the stakes”, by which they mean that the men will be actively encouraged to propose. When Osher first greets them, he presents all three of them with engagement rings (which they had no say in the design of? Neil Lane would never).
I hate this. I hate this. I think the fact that the Australian version has historically not rushed people to propose is a great thing. Firstly, it doesn’t fetishise marriage through suggesting that’s the only way a relationship can be serious; and secondly, it’s probably one of the key factors in the Australian franchise’s comparative success rate compared to the US (we’re at 5/9 Bachelors + winners still together, they’re at a whopping 2/26). There’s no need for this kind of pressure.
However, a lot of the changes they’ve made are great. For example:
- Rather than 30 women heading straight into the mansion, the three boys go on a series of blind dates all around Australia. They each have ten roses. If they like their date, they can give her a rose; if not, farewell. That means they enter the mansion with a pre-existing level of emotional engagement.
- They have made the absolute first change I would have recommended if they had hired me to consult: all the first dates are organised by the women, not the Bachies. This gives us a much more immediate window into their personalities.
- The three men are going to discuss their relationships with each other! This was a massive, massive missed opportunity in the Elly and Becky season – why cast sisters if they barely speak to each other? what’s the value of multiple Bachies if they’re not going to debrief? – so I’m really glad they’ve learned from their mistakes here.
These last two in particular are going to give us great opportunities for narrative and character development. They’ve dropped the ball totally in these arenas in past years, so I’m delighted with what they’ve done here. It has the potential to be really interesting.
And, once we get past Osher telling the boys the rules of the game, this first episode is really interesting. I was skeptical about this pre-mansion dating ritual, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how well it works.
To expand – the first blind date we see is one of Jed’s. He goes on a blind date with a blonde woman named Catelyn: a psych graduate who “hates small talk” and immediately dives into big “why are you on this show?” questions. Jed loves it and offers her a rose, but she rejects it, because she’s not feeling any chemistry.
This provides us some neat character information for Jed. He doesn’t react particularly well – “I thought I was the one making those decisions,” he complains, in probably his most grating moment of the episode – but beyond that, it also destabilises him in an interesting way. The next series of dates he goes on are all lacklustre and he doesn’t give out any roses. It really makes him think about what he wants and what a connection even is, so when he does meet some women he likes, he’s able to explain and articulate it much more clearly.
Jed’s ultimately the pickiest of the three Bachies – he only gives out nine roses, and ends up with a spare he donates to a desperate Felix – and it’s set up beautifully from this initial incident. It’s very efficient reality TV storytelling.
Here’s a quick dramatis personae of some of the women Jed will be dating in the mansion:
Jasmine: she utterly destroys Jed in a tantric yoga class (he is… not good at it), and gets Jed’s first rose after his false start.
Bella: setting up a tattoo appointment for a blind date is a bold move, but it works – Jed loves it, and they get matching tattoos of spatulas (because “spatula” sounds like “Bachelor”).
Angela: a classic wifey. She meets Jed at a tennis court because that was how her grandparents met, and Jed falls for her hard. “Can I kiss you a bit?” he asks her, and they pash.
Tash: she’s a self-described “girly girlie” with “standards as high as her heels” who turns up with two small dogs in a pram. 100% she’s going to be the season villain.
Alésia: our other classic wifey, she is to me the clear frontrunner. She takes Jed on an ice skating date where he falls hard – both over physically (multiple times), and for her. They pash mightily, and Jed says he “would rather be on thin ice with her than solid ground with anyone else”.
Let’s switch over now to Felix. His first date is the only one which goes well, in that he likes the lady, she likes him, and he gives her a rose. However, this first date is also very ~sexy~, and that sets the tone for what we can expect from him. Felix, our reformed(?) player, is going to be The Horny One.
There’s also a hint that Felix might be a bit of a villain. It’s subtle in this episode – not much beyond some of the women he rejects saying things like “he seemed like a bit of a dick, to be honest” – but watch this space. We’ve had seasons before where the Bach ultimately turned out to be the villain (think Blake Garvey). It makes sense that, when you have three of them, you’d want to explore the broader spectrum of heroism/villainy.
But let’s pin that for a moment and meet some of the ladies who will be dating Felix:
Krystal: Felix’s first date, she sets the horny tone. Their date is no hands/no feet body-painting – ie. they just smash their paint-covered bodies together – and their inevitable pash-fest results in the franchise’s first acknowledged on-screen boner.
Tilly: she takes Felix to play cricket, but mostly they just pash.
Jessica: she’s a dancer, and tries to teach Felix how to dance, because “girls love a guy that can move their hips”. In case that wasn’t on-the-nose enough, she clarifies that she means for sex.
Abigail: she seems like a candidate for the quirky girl edit (she carries her cats everywhere in a backpack) but Felix is super into her. She’s his last date and he’s out of roses, so he calls Jed and begs him for his last unspoken-for rose.
And finally, let’s talk Thomas.
It’s hard to know what to make of Thomas yet – unlike Jed, who gives us a way in to the narrative, Thomas seems quite closed. He struggles with rejecting the women he doesn’t vibe with: the first date of his we see is with a woman named Anna, where he awkwardly tells her he doesn’t feel the connection, then tells us that it broke his heart and he felt like a douchebag.
This is a sentiment he goes on to repeat several times. I think we’re supposed to read Thomas as both very romantic and very sensitive, but it hasn’t quite coalesced for me yet.
We only really meet two of the women he’ll be dating, so I think it’s a reasonably safe bet they’re his frontrunners.
Kiki: their date is life-drawing – although given it’s a first date, they both keep their underwear on. Thomas is so compelled by her “aura that radiates love” and her “sexual and spiritual pull” that he only ends up drawing one line.
Leah: she self-describes as “an old school romantic in a hookup culture”. She takes Thomas out on a punt where she gives him a little speech she’s written in a box, and he’s so into her that he says “he can see her soul through her eyes” and starts crying to his producer.
We end the episode with the thirty(!) women entering the mansion in the Gold Coast, and being OMG SO SHOCKED to figure out there are three Bachies. This is a bit underwhelming tbh, given the dramatic irony – we, the audience, already know, and there’s limited fun to be had in watching them figure it out – but this was a hell of a compelling episode.
Will this save the franchise? Probably not. But did I have a great time? Absolutely.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this recap – thank you! I assume that means you enjoy my writing, so don’t forget that I’m the author of a couple of reality TV rom-coms. Here For The Right Reasons (which is about a Bachelor-esque lead falling for a contestant he eliminates on the first night) is out now; while Can I Steal You For A Second? (which is about two contestants falling in love with each other instead of their Bachelor-esque lead) will be out in April and is available for pre-order.
You can also catch me on my website: jodimcalister.com.au