We can’t blame Colonel Mustard in the library this time. Something else was at work to send The Bachelor Season 16 into a rather sad downward spiral — and we’re not just talking viewer reaction, we’re talking actual viewers.
Ben Flajnik’s season premiered to what The Hollywood Reporter called “exceptionally low ratings for the franchise,” averaging 7.7 million viewers, a 17 percent drop from the premiere of Brad Womack’s season. Ben’s finale average of 9.1 million viewers was up from the premiere but finales usually garner more interest than that. Season 16 was the least-watched finale to date, down 36% from last year’s finale. Even Ben’s higher-rated “After the Final Rose” was down 30 percent from last year. But don’t go thinking Brad’s season was super-popular. Brad’s finale nabbed 13.8 million viewers overall but that was its lowest finale ratings in almost three years and 15 percent less than the previous spring’s finale for Jake Pavelka.
So is interest in The Bachelor slowly fading in general? Or could it be one of the following reasons:
1. Was Ben too boring a choice — and too much of a pushover in action?
As the runner-up of The Bachelorette Season 7, Ben was the obvious choice to be named the Season 16 Bachelor. Ben was very low key on Ashley Hebert’s season and he was already called “boring” back then. But we were hopeful for his season, especially after seeing the glimmer of emotion — even anger — he showed after Ashley dumped him in the finale. It hinted to a fresh and honest new perspective for the series. But Ben’s personality never got a chance to shine this season (ABC, you have a copy of our complaint). Ben isn’t a beefcake like Brad and Jake and that was OK by us, since we were hoping he’d show off his humor and cool side — and heck, he’s a winemaker, how sweet is that? — but instead we just saw a dry guy with a permanent poker face and limp humidity-tortured hair be pushed around by drama queens. Someone needed to tag in Storm Horse to get the party started.
2. Too much sex, not enough romance?
There definitely was not enough romance on Ben’s season, even if it didn’t contribute to a ratings decline. Before the season even started, promos showed off Ben and a mystery woman (who turned out to be ultimate season winner Courtney Robertson) skinny dipping together, showcasing the first bare butt Bachelor. That turned off some viewers right away. The promos also suggested a romantic relationship between contestants Blakeley Shea (and her eye-popping boobs) and Monica Spannbauer, even though that never actually seemed to be the case. Season 16 just came across more about tacky girl-on-girl drama and sexual manipulation than true romance. The season’s actual love story, Ben and Courtney, left many viewers disgusted rather than happy, thinking Ben was led by Little Ben and “fooled” by a model who just wanted to win and use the show to promote her career. Fair or not, the constant tabloid stories helped promote that idea. The love story was even spoiled for the lovers themselves, thanks to every other negative thing that happened over the season.
3. Were Ben’s bachelorettes TOO dramatic?
By Week 2 in Sonoma, Ben’s beauties were already displaying a rather strong mean streak. Not just some of them, either, almost all of them — including sweet Kacie Boguskie, who found herself laughing about motor-boating Blakeley. Very few of the “ladies” seemed to forge genuine connections with Ben, choosing instead to bash the other bachelorettes — especially surprise guest Shawntel Newton and then, of course, Courtney, who admittedly brought it on herself. While some contestants, like Kacie and Emily O'Brien, appear to have emerged from the chaos with reputations unscathed, this crop of bachelorettes definitely went heavy on the extreme, foul-mouthed catty drama. Every other word (the best worst of which we rounded up here) seemed to be bleeped, even in the pre-season promos, and they kept up the negativity all the way through the “Women Tell All” special. A little drama is great, but too much can be toxic — and it led to fans picking up the negativity baton and lashing out at every aspect of the show online.
4. Too many spoilers of the ending (that fans didn’t want)?
Spoilers have been part of The Bachelor mix since Jason Mesnick’s Season 13, when Reality Steve teased the dramatic ending of Jason dumping Melissa Rycroft for Molly Malaney. Spoilers didn’t seem to hurt Jake’s Season 14. But the fact that Steve’s spoilers were off for Ali Fedotowsky’s Bachelorette 6 finale and also for the ending of Brad’s season — with “oops, the spoilers were wrong” updates coming right before the finales aired — may have helped keep viewers interested in what happened. Reality Steve spoiled Ben as picking Courtney in mid-December, weeks before Season 16 premiered, and the spoilers never wavered. Halfway through the season, when Ben and Courtney went skinny dipping and Ben shot down Emily for dissing Courtney, it seemed obvious that Ben would indeed pick Courtney. So did that help viewers decide to skip the rest of the season? Did some fans read the pre-season spoilers, think “He picks HER?! The model?!” and decide to skip the season entirely? More people watched the “After the Final Rose” special than the finale itself, so it’s possible it was so obvious Ben would pick Courtney that some fans just tuned in to the after-show to see their reaction to the rest of the season.
5. Too much TV competition?
How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, The Voice, House — Monday night has a pretty tough crowd. The Voice was not an issue last year, since it premiered in April on a Tuesday, but now it can’t be ignored. It’s huge. Are people who used to watch The Bachelor “live” taping the show while they watch The Voice (or other shows) live? It does seem like the other shows must be eating away at some of the attention.
We still love The Bachelor and there’s no way we’d stop watching, but here’s just hoping Emily Maynard’s Bachelorette Season 8 avoids all the past pitfalls and puts the franchise back on track for a positive love story, high ratings and a happy ending for all.
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