ABC bribed Bachelor Nation to promote Rising Star and revealed a potential problem

During The Bachelorette last night, ABC’s Rising Star interrupted to bribe viewers into downloading the new show’s app and testing it by offering a sneak preview of Bachelor in Paradise. While the experiment seemed to work, it also revealed what could doom the show, and it’s not its wall or its app.

“If we get enough yes votes from you guys and this wall rises, we’re going to hook you up with a special sneak peak of the upcoming series Bachelor in Paradise,” host Josh Groban explained. After about a minute, the 70 percent mark was reached, so all was well. (However, as judges voted, it added 7 percent to the total percentage, so together all three can jack up the vote by 21 percent, which suggests that a contestant would only need 49 percent of people voting to go on to the next round, less than a majority.)

How fantastic would it have been if Bachelor Nation had decided to not play along? That potential reveals what’s exciting: the ability for viewers to impact a reality TV competition in real-time, other than, you know, deciding what silly food to feed some bigotry-spewing people.

The app is basically like the dating app Tinder, allowing viewers to swipe one way for yes and another way for no. A Fast Company report notes that the app basically switches the usual relationship of a show from reacting to what’s on TV to controlling it in real-time.

Executive producer Nicolle Yaron (who previously worked on The Voice) said they have “pages and pages of contingency plans,” including “a non-technological fail-safe in case the app goes down” and a rope to pull up the wall if they have to.

But The Bachelorette interruption revealed that technology may not be the problem. NBC’s The Voice had swivel chairs, while Rising Star has the app and its “two-ton, three-story rising wall,” as an ABC News report said.

When I initially mocked the swivel chairs, I failed to appreciate that they really didn’t matter as much as something much more intangible–something Rising Star‘s interrupting promo showed that it doesn’t have: chemistry and engagement between its judges.

One judge, Ludacris, was apparently in a helicopter that couldn’t land, which is an excuse I’m going to start using, but Brad Paisley and Ke$ha were there, and didn’t demonstrate any connection with each other, the camera, or host Josh Groban.

Sure, they weren’t really a major part of the segment, but when Groban introduced them, they didn’t even talk, they just sat and looked awkward. Later, when Groban asked them to vote to see the promo, they each kind of mocked it (“Yeah, sure”; “Oh, so bad”) but without any enthusiasm, even for mocking.

Jezebel has video and says that “Groban, Kesha and Paisley seemed to understand how strange the situation was, making numerous sarcastic apologies to ‘Bachelor Nation’ for interrupting their program by forcing them to download an app for another show in order to keep the one they were watching going.”

Perhaps that was it, the awkwardness of the interruption and live commercial. Still, it’s something to watch for on Sunday when Rising Star debuts. The Voice‘s blind auditions, swivel chairs, only letting good singers audition–all of those really helped differentiate it from American Idol and other singing shows. But those four coaches had incredible chemistry between them, and that’s why the show keeps working even though it’s yet to find any kind of true star of the level Idol used to produce.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.