One of TV’s most recapped and discussed franchises, the Bachelor received its own aftershow in August 2015—one of the few network reality shows to receive such an honor. Viewers can call in and discuss each just-aired episode of the tongue-in-cheek spin-off, Bachelor in Paradise with host Chris Harrison, comedian Jenny Mollen (who live tweets the franchise) and celebrity guests. Like most aftershows, After Paradise combines comedy with fandom, textual analysis with gossip, faith in the show’s diegetic world with behind-the-scenes exposées, insider knowledge and viewer opinions. Both After Paradise and 2016’s five episode The Bachelor Live attempt to capture blogger and recappers’ audiences butLive’s so-so ratings suggest that this aftershow—even with its celebrity guests—cannot capitalize on the Bachelor’s peculiar attractions in the same way as online discussions.
Live fails to engage the franchise’s diverse audience, from sincere viewers who may even believe that the show is aired live to those who watch to mock and distrust the comedy of ABC staffers. Perhaps Bachelor Live too closely resembles the network’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, signaling this aftershow’s manifestly insider status. Attempts at humor effectively police the show, recuperating its much mocked excessive sincerity while simultaneously sealing off critique. Recast as “Bachelor nation,” fans are transformed into another ABC-approved commodity, one headed by carefully selected celebrities like Kris Jenner and Kaley Cuoco amidst the franchise’s own personalities and cast-offs. Rather than supplying extra value and added content, Bachelor Live tries to reclaim and professionalize territory associated with the show’s online coverage—humorous recaps, spoilers, forums and parodies--terrain whose pleasures are essentially participatory. In the process, it provides a forum for second-rate stand-ups and lesser known ABC talk show hosts, while rewarding approved fan activities and tweets with television exposure and even visits from the likes of Bachelor Ben. What it does not allow is insight into the show’s construction or its tight control over past, present and future participants, the issues that fascinate many viewers, animate online discussions and feed the network’s vitriol and legal actions against bloggers like RealitySteve.com. Celebrity fans like Jenner may ask questions but they recognize the need to protect reality franchises, the importance of (fake) sincerity and the importance of controlling attention—all qualities that work against the aftershow’s general appeal and motive force.