This is Season 19 of “The Bachelor,” but this show keeps finding ways to mix things up. This season stars Chris Soules, an Iowa farmer, as “The Bachelor.” He’s a low-key, down to earth guy who trying to find the right girl, willing to uproot her life and move to the small town of Arlington, Iowa.
Our day with “The Bachelor” started with a drive to Des Moines, where ABC producers invited News 8 cameras to follow along during a group date. We reported to the Wells Fargo Arena on that Sunday afternoon in October, where three ladies would be on a group date ice skating with Chris. Two other women had already had one-on-one dates in the days earlier, including Whitney’s mural date in Des Moines and Jade’s trip to Chris’ high school in Arlington for a Friday night football game. Six women remained when Sunday’s episode started and only four would go on to hometown dates.
What viewers at home don’t realize is the shooting schedule. The show makes it seem that there is one rose ceremony every week, with dates falling on random days leading up to it. According to blogger Reality Steve, the show started filming on September 25 . We were in Des Moines to film parts of Episode 7 on Sunday, October 26. That translates to seven episodes, seven rose ceremonies in four weeks time. By now the girls have known Chris basically one month.
Reality Steve also reports that the final rose ceremony was filmed on November 24. That means if Chris proposes he will have known the lucky lady for exactly 2 months. How’s that for a whirlwind?
MEETING CHRIS AND THE GIRLS
Back in Des Moines, two members of the production crew met us outside the arena and guided us to an upper box inside the area. Looking down on the ice, I could see Chris and the three ladies, Carly, Kaitlyn and Britt skating in circles. The place was entirely empty otherwise and dead silent, other than the sound of hockey sticks smacking the ice.
A producer was assigned to stay with us while we set up and waited for Chris. When he came around the corner to meet us, the first thing I noticed was how WHITE his teeth are. Blindingly, Bachelor white. He was also taller than I expected. As a 5’11” tall woman, I was surprised to see that even in heels, he was taller than me by a few inches.
I had a few notes jotted down, questions that I didn’t want to forget to ask Chris, including a fun “lightning round” of all the Iowa questions I wanted him to answer. In short, he’s a Chicago Bears, Cubs and Iowa Hawkeyes fan (despite graduating from Iowa State!). He also prefers Luke Bryan over Lady Gaga, boots over tennis shoes, corn dogs and beer at the Iowa State Fair, and he’s open to the possibility of a TV wedding.
“I’ll be proud of that day,” he told me. Chris was kind and gracious and genuinely seemed to still be a bit bewildered by the fact that he’s now “The Bachelor.”
You may be wondering what was going on with the girls while Chris was talking with us. The date kept on going on the ice. The girls were still skating around without him during this time, but that’s not uncommon during Bachelor dates. Before, during and after the day’s activities, both Chris and the cast will step away for what are known as “ITM’s” or “In The Moments.” These become the interviews that you see throughout the show as the girls express how they’re feeling as the date goes along, what they’re expecting and sometimes a few snarky comments about what the other girls are doing or saying. They serve as pacers and narrators throughout the action. For that reason, something that appears to take a few minutes on the show may need hours of filming.
The production staff also let us interview Carly and Kaitlyn. Carly Waddell is a cruise ship singer from Arlington, Texas. It turns out she has a family connection to “The Bachelor.” Her brother, Zak Waddell was a finalist on “The Bachelorette,” Season 9, starring Des Hartsock. After watching her brother’s experience on the show, Carly said she wanted to try her luck at love on “The Bachelor.” She skipped Juan Pablo’s season simply because her brother had known Juan Pablo from “The Bachelorette” but jumped at the chance to meet Chris.
“I’ve never been so excited,” she told us. “I was calling everyone and freaking out, saying you have to let me meet this man. I know how much we would get along, I can see it.”
Kaitlyn Bristowe is a dance instructor from Vancouver, Canada. She told us about having a “thing” for farm boys, which is what attracted her to Chris. She also told us that she’s given him a secret nickname, Silent Thunder.
“He’s really funny, but he doesn't show it very often,” she said. "So when I pull it out of him, I realize, oh, he’s funny too.”
Production staffers told us there wasn't time left to interview Britt, a bummer because I really do want to know if she showers!
It’s clear that the goal of this season is to stay true to Chris and his true off-camera lifestyle. By Episode 7, the show has not traveled anywhere outside the U.S. After leaving Los Angeles and the Bachelor mansion, the women went to Santa Fe, New Mexico then Deadwood, South Dakota, and now Des Moines, Iowa. For comparison’s sake, consider that in the last season, Juan Pablo was with the women in Vietnam for episode 5, New Zealand in episode 6, and Miami, Florida in episode 7. When Chris appeared on The Bachelorette, he and Andi were in Marseille, France for episode 6 and Venice, Italy for episode 7.
Staying close to home offers a big opportunity for the city of Des Moines. Greg Edwards, President and CEO of the Des Moines Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (www.catchdesmoines.com) said the organization offered the show $70,000 to “offset the costs of production.” Essentially, it’s an investment in good faith that the show will highlight the beauty and culture of the city as the backdrop for this Bachelor story. The show’s production crew chose the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel as its headquarters. Edwards said the show had asked the hotel to comp the entire cost of the stay, but the hotel compromised with a generous discount. You’ll see the hotel during several of the scenes during Episode 7. Edwards called the show a great marketing opportunity, given that they’re both after the same demographic women between the ages of 25-54.
“A two-hour episode showcasing a community on a national level is huge exposure,” Edwards said. "Trying to buy that kind of advertising time would be way more expensive.”
He admitted some concern about how Iowa might be portrayed on the show.
“Iowa is certainly proud of our agricultural history, but that’s not what Des Moines is all about. We are a hip city that’s very cultural,” he said.
The CVB’s ultimate goal is driving more visitors to Des Moines. In the days, weeks and months after the show airs, they can track web and social media activity, plus get feedback from hotels and businesses.
“People will travel here to see the city the way "The Bachelor" did it,” Edwards said.
The Des Moines CVB posted a full rundown of all the locations featured on the show on its website.
The mural of Chris and Whitney is on the side of a bar/restaurant on Court Ave. in Des Moines. I asked Todd Millang, Senior Vice President of Hubbell Commercial about the future of that mural.
"I can say that we plan on keeping the mural for the foreseeable future on the wall. We also plan on adding additional murals starting in the spring," he said. "When we bought the building, we wanted to use that big canvas of a wall for some local art, and this happened to be a great way to kick that off."
For people not on a television show, a date consists of you meeting someone, going out to dinner or drinks or a movie. You have some conversation, get to know each other and call it a night. Not on “The Bachelor.” After watching the women ice skate and try to be playful with Chris for more than two hours, I left with the impression that even deep into the show’s “process,” it all felt very impersonal. When you consider that over the course of two months, these women have such limited time with Chris, skating around casually is hardly quality time with a man you are hoping will propose to you in a matter of weeks.
Three women were on this date, with at least as many cameras following their every move. There were a few producers on the ice along with the cameras, along with guys holding sound equipment. Off the ice, a row of producers sat watching what each of the cameras was shooting on small television monitors. Chris disappeared and reappeared, likely off shooting ITM’s. Each time he would come back, producers would help him lace up his skates before getting back on the ice to skate around with his dates
BACHELOR SUCCESS STORIES
It’s anyone’s guess who Chris will choose at the end of this journey, but not to be a downer, the odds are stacked against them. In 19 seasons of “The Bachelor” only ONE man has gone on to marry the woman he chose. That’s Sean Lowe from Season 17, who married Catherine Guidice in 2014. Jason Mesnick also married a woman from his season of the show, Molly Melaney. But you may recall that he actually chose Melissa Rycroft first before asking Molly for a second chance during the “After the Final Rose.” Jason and Molly have been married since 2010. Stats are better for women on the Bachelorette after 10 seasons. Trista married Ryan Sutter after the first season back in 2003. Ashley Hebert married J.P. Rosenbaum in 2012 and Des Hartsock recently married Chris Siegfried in January.
WHY I WATCH "THE BACHELOR"
I’ve been watching “The Bachelor” since Jake Pavelka’s season- the pilot who chose the villain, Vienna, leading to an explosive break-up on “After the Final Rose.” Bachelor after Bachelorette, what really gets me coming back for a new season of extreme dates and over-the-top emotions are the human elements: why people sign up to begin with, how they come to fall in love with someone they have only known for a few weeks, and what happens to them when they leave the show. Therefore, a behind the scenes look at “The Bachelor” during filming in Iowa was a great assignment for me.