Real life intrudes on the romantic fantasy of The Bachelor over the coming nights, as the escalating coronavirus pandemic forces the show to suspend production.
A teaser clip from tonight’s episode released to news.com.au today shows just how fast things were moving when these scenes were filmed in March: host Osher Gunsberg calmly assures the contestants that, while the World Health Organisation has declared a global pandemic and many Australian state borders are shutting, “thankfully, here at the mansion you are actually quite safe from everything that is going on”.
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“As always, your health and wellbeing is absolutely paramount to everybody making this show, and they will do what is needed to keep you safe while you’re here,” he tells the shocked contestants.
But later on in tonight’s episode, the message is very different: Osher announces that the pandemic is getting worse and it is no longer possible to keep everyone safe, so they need to stop production.
It poses a conundrum for a show built on bubble baths, champagne dinners and heavy petting: How do you finish a Bachelor season in a world of social distancing? Enter ‘Love in lockdown’, The Bachelor as it’s never been done before.
OSHER EXPLAINS ‘LOVE IN LOCKDOWN’
Gunsberg explains Love in Lockdown as “a very different take on the show”.
“We never break the fourth wall in The Bachelor; I never look down the barrel of the camera. But in Love In Lockdown, however, the whole thing is suggestive. When the girls are looking at Locky and telling him their emotions, they’re looking straight down the camera. We’re seeing what Locky is seeing. When Locky is telling the girls how he is feeling about them and their emotions, we’re seeing what they’re seeing. Locky is looking straight at us. We’re so much more in it than ever before. It’s really interesting.”
Will other territories follow suit?
“For sure, we’re not getting out of this pandemic in a hurry. We’ll be here for quite some time. Like everything we need to figure our how to adapt to our circumstances and I feel that this is one of the ways that the world of dating shows will adapt. It’s coming very close to what everyone experiences in their day to day life. Everyone else is in this boat, everyone else is having video chats, and that’s what we are showing on television. It’s reality TV representing what it is to form a connection with someone in this environment we find ourselves in.”
Is this the way forward?
“It’s always nice to be with someone if you can. I guess what’s really different about this is that normally the way that the show works is that the Bachelor doesn’t have contact unless its face-to-face, however in lockdown, they all had each other’s phone numbers! They were communicating all the time. That’s the new development as far as maintaining, establishing and building a connection with somebody that is more like day-to-day life, but less like The Bachelor as we know it in so many ways.”
How did production decide to do this?
“All I know is that we were pretty deep into filming and it didn’t make sense to abandon the series, and we knew we had to finish it. These people had all put their lives on the line hoping to find love and we wanted to give them that chance, so we did everything we could to make that happen. And I think we’ve come out with a really honest and real and interesting show that in many ways replicates what many single people in this country are going through.”
When did Love in Lockdown start?
“It was back in March, pretty much right after they closed the border, around at that time. I say this on camera, and I am being completely honest, we love doing what we do. We love that we get a chance to help people fall in love, but at the end of the day it’s television and it’s not worth peoples lives. We couldn’t keep them safe, and their safety is the most important thing so while we figured out how to do it, we’ve had to send everyone home. And the safety of the people who come to work, like every workplace safety, is absolutely paramount and nothing is worth it. No injury or damage is worth it. So that’s it. I’m really grateful to work for Warner Bros, and 10 who take it so seriously. I’m grateful for it.”
How does Love In Lockdown work?
“Same as the regular show, there’s group dates, single dates, cocktail parties, rose ceremonies, all the same, it’s just kind of remotely and on webcams. It’s really fascinating, there are some very convenient parcel deliveries and well-timed knocks at the front door with various surprises but it’s the same as everything else.”
Were there any teething problems?
“No, we worked really hard to make sure everything would work. We had a great team behind the camera, a great tech team who developed the whole system and figured out how it was going to work. How we would get the shots we needed, how we were going to do what we needed to do in that situation. That’s by large Shaun Murphy, our head of television at Warner Bros, he’s amazing, a very clever man. He came up with a lot of it. Everyone saw the vision and went for it. It’s great. It worked!”
Was there more pressure to get it right, being the first?
“No I don’t think there was any pressure from anywhere but us. We wanted to finish the show, we wanted to give these people what they came to find. That’s what we came here to do and we didn’t want to leave them hanging. So we really wanted to do it.”
The Bachelor airs 7:30pm tonight and Thursday on Ten.