He waves off questions about the series trying to stack the deck with contestants who will garner the most press and tabloid headlines. “We always try to find the best wife material for ‘The Bachelor’ or husband material for ‘The Bachelorette,’ ” Fleiss said. “That’s what we do fundamentally — that’s our first goal.
“But,” he conceded, “there are enough crazy people in the world that if you bring 25 of them together, two or three or four of them are going to be a little nutty. So those are the characters that usually emerge as tabloid favorites.”
Emerge they have. There were Season 14 “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka and his winner, Vienna Girardi, and their public blow-up when their relationship fell apart. Or Season 16 winner Courtney Robertson, one of the show’s most despised villains ever, who infamously stole “Bachelor” Ben Flajnik away for some late-night skinny-dipping. (Robertson and Flajnik broke up earlier this year.)
And let’s not forget the second successful relationship, Season 13’s Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney — with the asterisk that Malaney was the show’s runner-up, and Mesnick actually proposed to Melissa Rycroft in the season finale. He later was able to reverse course, dumping Rycroft and choosing Malaney on a horrifying-but-riveting live “Bachelor” after-show. (Mesnick and Malaney were married in a 2010 televised special and are expecting their first child next spring.)
Throughout all the drama, manufactured or real, viewers of the show stay invested — and in some cases, still have hope, despite the chaotic nature of the program.
“The show hasn’t made me bitter about love — if anything, it makes me excited,” said Stefanie Favicchio, the editorial marketing manager at The Stir, who has blogged about the series. “I do genuinely believe that many of the couples on the show did fall in love at some point, but getting engaged after two months is where the craziness kicks in.”
As for Sunday’s wedding of Season 7 “Bachelorette” Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenbaum, it will be the first non-scandalous “Bachelor” nuptials since the Season 1 “Bachelorette,” Trista Rehn, married winner Ryan Sutter in 2003 in a three-part miniseries.
The story: Hebert was the second runner-up on “The Bachelor” Season 15, then got her own “Bachelorette” season, choosing Rosenbaum in the summer of 2011. Cameras captured the wedding in Pasadena, Calif., at the beginning of December, a day that Fleiss calls “magical.”
“Even the most cynical viewer will realize this is not a made-for-television romance,” Fleiss said.
He then ventured a guess about the future of his franchise’s latest couple: “I bet they’re married forever.”
The Bachelorette: Ashley and J.P.’s Wedding
(Two hours) Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC