reality TV reviews and news

How The Bachelor distorted one contestant’s reality

Jamie Otis, star of Married at First Sight, and former The Bachelor contestant. (Photo by FYI)

When Jamie Otis was revealed to be one of the participants on the first season of Married at First Sight, and people realized she’d been on The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad, there was an assumption that her new series would be similar: just another dating series with a ridiculous premise.

But there are major differences, starting with the fact that her relationship, which began as marriage with a stranger, has lasted much longer and seems far stronger than most relationships formed on the ABC reality series.

There’s another critical difference between the series: One reflects her real life, and the other created fake things and made it seem like she was saying them.

Yes, this is absolutely not a surprise, considering The Bachelor is a series that used editing to create a fictional, romantic relationship between two men, and other contestants have previously said that it creates fake quotes.

Nor is “frankenbiting” something exclusive to this show. I recently came across a job ad for a story producer that required experience in “scripting bites,” i.e. writing soundbites. There is, of course, a significant difference between the ethical practice of identifying great soundbites; the dubious practice of writing lines and feeding them to cast members; and the unethical way some shows write dialogue and assemble it from real sentences spoken by their cast members.

The Bachelor’s “genuine” and not-so-real moments

Jamie was eliminated in episode six of Ben Flajnik’s season, and went home during the fourth episode of Bachelor Pad 3. She told me that the show does have some reality:

“I wouldn’t go as far to say The Bachelor is completely fake or anything of that nature, because there are some genuine moments there.”

Comparing it to her experience filming FYI’s Married at First Sight: The First Year, which is a documentary-style series following her and her husband, Doug, Jamie said:

“It’s entirely different. [On The Bachelor,] there are producers poking and prodding you and telling you where you’re going to go: ‘This is the next destination, and this is what you’re going to do, and these are the dates, bring this, that, and the other thing.’ They don’t even tell you where you’re going.”

Describing the differences between that show and her new ones, she describes a very UnReal moment:

“This is my real life, and they [MAFS:TFY producers and crew] follow me, and I get to choose. No one’s telling me, ‘Okay, now, if you want to go talk to him, then you’re going to have to interrupt that girl, and if you want to kiss him, then get in there while he’s kissing her and break it up and then kiss him.'”

Later, she said:

“This definitely did happen on The Bachelor, for me, anyways. They pan off my time with Ben, The Bachelor, and they put words into my mouth. I never, ever, ever said what they said what it looks like I’m saying on the show. I was like, ‘What! I can’t believe they did that.'”

What she’s describing here is, again, common practice, unfortunately: After the camera shows a speaker’s face, the video cuts to a shot of the back of their head or a reaction shot from someone else. There’s audio of the person speaking, but that dialogue isn’t from that moment, it’s from another time and place—or, worse, it’s words spliced together to create fiction.

Too often, if you don’t see someone actually speaking, it’s very possible they never said what the editing would like you to believe they said.

Jamie added:

“That’s never happened on Married at First Sight. If [MAFS] was fake, it’d be so easy to be like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t real.’ But it is real, and it can be a bit embarrassing.”

I asked ABC about these practices and how common they are, and the network declined to comment. Update: Warner Horizon Television, the production company that produces the show, also declined to comment.