'Bachelor' exec producer Mike Fleiss speaks out on controversial finale

Thebachelorfleiss_lSure, single papa Jason Mesnick’s Bachelor finale showdown — and subsequent After The Final Rose specials part 1 and part 2 — brought record ratings, but will the fan backlash end up hurting ABC’s hit reality series? Pick up a copy of Entertainment Weekly this Friday for our full report, including what advice season 2 Bachelor Aaron Buerge — who knows a thing or two about, you know, being despised for making a girl cry on TV — has for the ever-fickle Mesnick. Meanwhile, we checked in with the man who’s really behind the roses, exec producer Mike Fleiss, to find out what the hell went down over the course of what will now be known as The Best Season Of Reality TV Ever (well, at least to me it will)!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There are rumors that the outcome was manipulated and that you guys knew all along how it was going to turn out. What do you have to say about those accusations?
MIKE FLEISS: It’s completely untrue! Don’t you think if we were into that and playing those kind of games that somebody who it happened to would be saying that and not some "unnamed source?" We’ve had 500 people on the show, find one that says we told them who to pick — you won’t because we’ve never done that. The rumor stuff is just appalling because we all work so hard on this show. We really make every attempt possible to keep this pure and let people make their own decisions. You can’t have people staging this, they’re not good enough actors. If they were all actors, that would be the best acting on any network. [Laughs] If he was acting, then Jason is the nation’s finest actor, better than Javier Bardem, better than Brad Pitt, and Molly is the new Meryl Streep!

Another question irking many fans: Why did he have to break it off with Melissa on camera?
It’s a simple answer: It’s a TV show. He would have done it on the radio if this were a radio show.

But you could argue that in the past not all Bachelors have felt compelled to break up on camera.
In the past it didn’t involve our other girl. I understand that people are a little ticked off that we put it [the breakup] on TV, but I think a lot more people would have been ticked off if we didn’t put it on TV. They watch the show, they invested in this whole season, they care about the characters, they’re looking forward to the finale, and then we don’t show them the defining moment of the season? I think that would piss some people off.

After the jump: "Once you’ve made the commitment to be on one of theseshows you have to assume a certain level of emotional risk."

addCredit(“Matt Klitscher/ABC”)

Did he have a choice in the matter?
There was never a discussion like, "Oh, this is going to have to be part of the show."

So he could have chosen to break up with Melissa off-camera and then talk about it after the fact on the After The Final Rose special?
[Melissa]had certainly been given a heads-up. I don’t think she realized it wasgoing to go as far as it went with her giving back the ring and himtaking it back. But she knew there was trouble in paradise. Don’t youthink if your husband or boyfriend is about to break up with you andyou spend every day with him for six weeks and you spend time talkingon the phone with him every night that you’d have a little bit of aclue? Melissa is a wonderful girl and we were really happy she was theone chosen, but there’s no way we could make a show like this and notinclude the most important moment of the season.

Still, so many people think that because it was such a personal moment, she must be humiliated.
It’s a reality TV show about people falling in love. If you’re going togo on a reality dating show I think it’s a safe assumption that some ofthis is going to be possible. These people that are saying, “God, Iwould never want to go through something like that.” I agree. I couldnever do it, but once you’ve made the commitment to be on one of theseshows you have to assume a certain level of emotional risk.

People just think Jason made the wrong decision in doing that so publicly.
He did everything else publicly, so what’s the difference?

Everyone had thought he’d chosen Melissa, that it was set instone, and then it was just a surprise that he’d changed his mind inthat amount of time.
Believe me, that heartache that Mollyexperienced the first time was probably not that much different thanthe heartache that Melissa experienced in the ATFR. He was dumping the both of them on camera.

It was a little surprising that Molly wasn’t more hesitant to take him back.
She’sin love with him. If you’re in love with somebody, you’ll put up withthat. You put up with s— that you wouldn’t put up with from anyoneelse in the world because you do love them and you want them back. Youwant to spend your life with them because you’re dreaming of them everynight, that’s the place where Molly is.

Are you worried now that some fans are going to walk awayfrom the show because their disappointed or angry by Jason’s decision?If that were true, we wouldn’t have held our numbers in that second half hour during Monday night’s ATFR.If there was going to be this mass exodus from the show, it would have[already] happened. If we make a great show, people will watch a greatshow and that’s the bottom line.

Why do you think it is that Jason’s season did see such a ratings spike for the show?
Ithink by keeping the ongoing soap opera alive it allows viewers to comeback and reinvest more easily. By going from Brad’s season to Deanna’sseason to Jason’s is what’s allowed the audience to stick around. Youtry to do new things to keep the show fresh, but by keeping the threadof the characters through, the audience is watching a continuing soapopera and it’s easier for them to reinvest. Had we tried to launchJason cold, not from The Bachelorette, and say, “He’s our newBachelor!”, I don’t think we would have even gotten him approved,necessarily, by the network. He’s not a doctor, he’s not a captain inthe Navy, he’s not Mr. Hunkalicious of the Century. I mean he’s a goodlooking guy, but we had better looking physical specimens for thatrole. But the audience came to like him and care about him so muchfrom the previous season that watching him as the new Bachelor wasreally easy.

Read more: ‘The Bachelor’
‘Bachelor’ exec producer Mike Fleiss speaks out on controversial finale
‘The Bachelor’: Did Jason redeem himself on ‘After the Final Rose, Part 2?’
Chris Harrison blogs ‘The Bachelor’ finale and ‘After the Final Rose’
‘The Bachelor’ recap: This is (not) your wife
‘Bachelor’ Jason Mesnick confesses his sins to Jimmy Kimmel
‘The Bachelor’: 17 burning questions
‘The Bachelor’ photo gallery: Where are they now?

Comments (303 total) Add your comment
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  • Robin Craig

    Dear Mike,
    I’m done with the Bachelor. I watched because I thought Jason was a nice guy and wanted him to find love. What I found out is that he is a complete cad. Fool me once….

  • Shila

    You are right, it is a television show. I wish Jason, Molly and Melissa all the best, and will be watching Jillian on the Bachelorette!

  • Broadway Baby

    And a lot of people tuned in to see Fonzie jump over a shark on water skis. There is no way, besides a multiple pregnancy maybe, that this will ever be topped.

  • Joanna

    Wow…after reading that I actually think Mike Fleiss is a bigger a-hole than Jason.

  • Katie

    I understand Mike’s explanation, but if none of it is staged, why does he keep calling them “characters” and not “people”. He should watch that in future interviews if he is trying to make a convincing argument.

  • Sarah

    Not to be rude, but while not to this extreme, this is always how the show is is it not? They pledge their love for each other and then a few months later they’ve moved on to other people (I realize there’s one or two who’ve worked out). This one just happened more quickly than most and garnered them higher ratings.

  • JillS

    They still humiliated Mel and loved every moment of it. While you’re at it, might as well show some embarassing high school photos, too! Maybe right behind her head as she was reeling over the break up. Grr.

  • fairy tale

    Lies upon lies. You got what you were after– big buzz & ratings. They’re basically reality puppets. It just goes to show how anything can be rationalized for money’s sake.

  • Dee

    Yeah it’s a tv show but you could have shown some good judgement and not
    capitalize on someone’s painful breakup. ABC had the power to just say no. They just didn’t care. What scum..

  • Annabelle

    His statement that the viewers “care about the characters” says it all!!! What a farce this show has turned into!

  • S Rutale

    I was very sad for Melissa or Missy as we call her, but I do understand Jason’s dilemma. He was making one of the toughest decisions for his life and Ty’s.
    I would rather the hurt happen now and be able to go on. I support him as I know what it is to be in a marriage that doesn’t have what you really need or the love.
    As for the judgement, that is not my place. We have all found our partners in different ways. It is really hard and I think both Jason and Molly should be given a break. They are real human beings and this is the way they both tried to find love or their life partners. Anyone could have made a wrong choice but we are not being judged by all of America or Canada because we have hurt someone unintentionally.
    I wish Jason and Molly the best, and I hope to hear updates as to how they are doing with their new life and how little Ty is doing too.

  • Chyrie Barbery Moore

    Well, this is one chick who walked. I did not watch last night’s show; the first one I have missed all season. I chose a rerun of “Law and Order -SVU”! I am glad I did. I really did not need to watch it anyway. Reality Steve had already told what was going to happen. And by what I am reading today, he was right, even down to the audience yelling out something about the tent. I have also deleted my membership to the “I love the Bachelor” on Facebook. ABC you lost me to “Dancing with the Stars” and now this. Monday night is now movie night!

  • evie

    Of course, the fact that 24 and Heroes both suck this season doesn’t hurt the ratings either….

  • Nick

    I totally have to agree….the producer just referred to these people as “characters”…nothing about this show is genuine or real…molly will be gone within weeks as well

  • BL

    Boos for Mike; Even more Booos for Jason and Molly. Hang in there Melissa…..you deserve better. As for watching the show again, NEVER.

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