The 11th season of The Bachelors premiered on Sunday night and the ratings are officially in. Though the franchise has seen a steady decline in viewership over the past few years; so far, this season has had the lowest ratings yet, with the premiere debuting to just 224,000 metro viewers, for a total audience of 319,000. While it might sound shocking, for a lot of fans of the show, they aren't entirely surprised.
Last year, the show was criticised for lacking diversity, with a stale, male and pale format that saw three white men chosen as the Bachelors. Unfortunately, it seems like similar decisions have been made this year. Again, viewers are seeing a triple-Bachelor format for the second time, with 24 women vying for the affection of three men: Ben Waddell, Luke Bateman, and Wesley Cortes. Two of these men are models, one of them is a footy player, and only one of them comes from a non-white background, with Cortes hailing from Brazil.
Both the Australian and international iterations of the show have been criticised for years now, with many tiring of the rinse and repeat storylines, and it seems like the viewing figures may have caught up. The relevancy of the US version of The Bachelor has been questioned for a few years now, and after running for 21 years, the staple reality TV dating show began to experience a significant decline in viewership. To put it into perspective, the season two finale pulled 25.9 million viewers, while the finale in March 2023 averaged around 2.9 million viewers. There are many reasons why we've steadily seen the fall of The Bachelor — including several controversies around casting decisions and accusations against the show's long-term host Chris Harrison, which led to him "stepping aside".
What's clear is that the franchise is seemingly out of touch with what viewers really want in a reality TV dating show in 2023.
However, the US franchise might have struck gold with perhaps the most unlikely spin-off of the show yet: The Golden Bachelor. Touted as the "golden era" of The Bachelor, The Golden Bachelor saw an entire cast of seniors vying for the affections of 72-year-old Gerry Turner, a retired restaurateur and widower who was looking to find love again after the passing of his wife. Every woman contestant in the show was at least 60 years old, with the oldest being 75.
Time and again, viewers have called for more diversity in the franchise, begging for a cast that wasn't overwhelmingly white, thin and extremely young. When they finally listened to the audience and changed just one of these factors, it was a resounding success, with the new spin-off being widely credited for saving the franchise. The show has delivered the highest ratings of any Bachelor season in years. For those playing along at home with their calculators, it also pulled in a whopping 6.1 million viewers, which is more than double the most recent "regular" season and the most for a single episode of any traditional Bachelor episode since Matt James' controversial 2020 season. The series also scored the highest ratings in the 18-49-year-old American demographic since a 2021 episode of Bachelor In Paradise
And it's not hard to understand why. In a sea of toxic dating shows, where misogyny, drama, and tears are often built into the format, The Golden Bachelor was distinctly different. It broke down our fear of ageing. It showed older people owning their sexuality without jaunty music or the implication that it was anything other than normal (when else would you have a bunch of 60+ women playing 'Never Have I Ever' and talking about having sex in cars?). It showed us grieving people finally give themselves another chance at love after losing the love of their lives. It was emotional, it was beautiful, and it might just have been the reignition the reality TV dating genre has needed for years.
Our only hope is that The Bachelor Australia follows suit and takes a serious look at what viewers want. Honestly? We're tired. Tired of watching shows that hinge on cheap drama at a woman's expense. Tired of seeing a bunch of women duke it out for one of three dudes. We want to see our nans find love! We want diversity! We want to watch someone find love who is a size 20! We want to giggle into our pillows! We just want something genuine and real that reflects the progress we've made as a society.