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Bachelor spin-off Ben and Lauren was contrived, but it did well for Freeform

Bachelor spin-off Ben and Lauren was contrived, but it did well for Freeform
Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After stars Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell. (Photo by Vu Ong/Freeform)

Attention for The Bachelor and Bachelorette couples continues long after the season ends, playing out in the tabloids and sometimes even back on future seasons of the show. But the 20th season did something new: it continued to follow the couple who met on the show, Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell.

While seeing post-Bachelor life was an intriguing idea, the series went the phony route, and Ben gave up his political ambitions to go through these motions, which were so contrived that even Bachelor fans called bullshit.

Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After just concluded its first season, and its eight episodes were a success for Freeform, the network previously known as ABC Family. The network said that:

  • Its premiere was the second-most popular network reality series debut behind Becoming Us, and had the network’s best premiere with women ages 25 to 54.
  • It’s Freeform’s second-most-popular “unscripted series on record in Adults 25-54 and Women 25-54.”
  • Its viewers were wealthy: it had “the highest median household income of the network’s current originals ($78,200 vs. $59,500 avg.) and also garnered strong appeal among $100K+ homes with a college education (157 index vs. 97 avg.).”

But let’s also be clear: Ben and Lauren attracted just a tiny percentage of the people who watched them on The Bachelor. The season finale—which boasted a twist worthy of Chris Harrison, with Ben suddenly deciding their televised wedding was back on—had 568,000 viewers, which was a 18 percent increase from the previous week. In the 18 to 49 demo, there were just 333,000 viewers, a 10 percent increase for the season finale.

Freeform seems happy, though, and perhaps a less-bland couple would have drawn larger audiences.

Perhaps letting them be more genuine and live their actual lives would have attracted a larger audience instead of alienating even some members of Bachelor Nation, who are used to contrived scenarios.

But what the show was delivering was clear from the beginning, as even this pre-season promo strained credulity. Ben and Lauren cannot pull off the acting that’s required, but at least Lauren manages to say something that seems genuine: “This is just isn’t, like, my idea of fun.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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