Emerging from exile on Sunday, Nick Cummins sounded like reality TV has shattered him. Ali Oetjen was the opposite, posting to Instagram the same day in a chirpy tone reminiscent of Kyly Clarke’s life affirmation books.
But despite their demeanours being firmly in different camps, both romality TV stars are in the same boat.
Together, they may have broken one of the small screen’s stronger franchises.
Cummins, 31, brought the heat to The Bachelor by following his heart and failing to choose anybody on October 4’s dramatic 2018 finale.
Experts say his pulling aside of the magic curtain around the show and revealing the TV romance process is flawed – Who knew? – may damage the brand.
“Fans sit through weeks of the most unnatural way of meeting a partner since the harem days of Aladdin, with the hope of a happy ending then get nothing at the end,” a former commercial network on-air staffer told The New Daily.
“Who’s going to invest next time?”
— The Bachelor Aus 🌹 (@TheBachelorAU) October 4, 2018
Crisis management expert Nicole Reaney, director of Sydney’s InsideOut PR, said lack of a winner was just one aspect that impacted on The Bachelor’s brand perception this year.
“The fact that he didn’t select anyone in itself was not what damaged reputation, it was the way it was handled – how women were ‘led on’ and the lack of upfront communication, given filming did end months ago,” Ms Reaney told The New Daily.
The other big issue?
“Some members of the public viewed his participation purely for profile boost, given the timing coincided with a book launch, and the brand advertising throughout the series.
“Viewers are now cynical when ‘celebrities’ or previous contestants are featured.”
Trashing the brand is one thing, but Cummins told The Sunday Project the experience has damaged him. He said he’s “never been in a mental space as low” as during filming of The Bachelor.
Does that mean he’s depressed?
“Everything. I’ve had injuries, I’ve been in a wheelchair. All that stuff doesn’t compare to what you actually have to go through on something like [The Bachelor],” he said.
Sounding subdued, he shared on Instagram the “pressure” that he and the “girls” were under on the show to get the “desired fairytale ending”:
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Meanwhile, Ali’s series of The Bachelorette debuted last Wednesday to the show’s worst first-up ratings (631,000 viewers), then plummeted the next night to 539,000.
Last year the show broke records with Sophie Monk as the titular star, including an audience of 2.2 million for the final episode.
Ali told The New Daily she doesn’t pay attention to negative feedback: “I go through different emotions, different ups and downs on different days, so I protect myself by not going online.
“I’m just really proud of myself and happy with where I’m at at the moment. I have to be at peace with it all.”
Host Osher Gunsberg’s claim that Ali is “our most beloved Bachelorette” drew scorn on social media. “Definitely think he meant be-loathed,” said one Twitter user. “Who is Ali ‘beloved’ by exactly?” said another.
It’s not like Ten wasn’t given a heads up that the 32-year-old Adelaide radio executive was potentially a dicey choice.
After she was announced in April as 2018’s Bachelorette – off the back of her turn on Ten’s Bachelor in Paradise – Ali, called a “stage 5 clinger” on Tim Robards’ season of The Bachelor in 2013, faced calls for her to be replaced.
The problem was two-fold: Her reputation was potentially tarnished when her Paradise boyfriend, Los Angeles fireman Grant Kemp, claimed he broke up with her when she cheated on him.
But any alleged indiscretions weren’t as divisive to viewers as Ali’s perceived lack of entertainment value and personality. Even fellow Paradise resident Jarrod Woodgate dissed her, saying her turn on the show “was lame – it was boring”.
Social media users were also unimpressed:
As then, Ali’s approach now to the tepid response to her show was to be her best social media self. On Sunday, she shared a shot of herself in a hanging chair and went large on optimism and clichés.
“Stay positive and connect with every feeling good and bad,” she told her 117k followers.
“Release your inner kid, smile at strangers, do cartwheels, skip down the street and laugh out loud.”
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🎾 Catch this! Affirmations don’t make something happen, they make something welcome. Stay positive and connect with every feeling good & bad. I used to put a ceiling on my joy so that people would feel more comfortable around me! 😱 What the!!? We‘re all born with pure, raw, happiness, watch any 4yr old, so release your inner kid, smile at strangers, do cartwheels, skip down the street & laugh loud. 😂 There is no such thing as having too much fun! #ilovelife #chooseyourpath #healthymind #itsallyou #peace #happiness #letgo #movetoyourownrhythym #positiveaffirmations #alioetjenhealth
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Feeling positive may not be enough to revive viewer interest in her show, but a commercial TV sales insider told The New Daily while Ten will be “disappointed”, the network “won’t be hitting the panic button”.
The show, said the source, is “probably still doing OK with young women, which is the demographic of all the advertising sponsors and casual clients buying in”.
Ms Reaney said the franchise can repair its image, but “all ingredients into next season needs to be considered, and perhaps further diligence and audience research may be necessary.
“There are many reality series that have stood the test of time,” she said.
“It’s about staying true to brand ethos and evolving to navigate audience feedback.”