When the 12th season of “The Bachelorette” premieres Monday night, some fans of the reality-romance franchise won’t be experiencing Joelle “JoJo” Fletcher’s journey for the first time.
Call them the spoiler-savvy.
“The Bachelorette/Bachelor” franchise is “really the only reality show out there that is getting spoiled accurately and on a consistent basis, season in and season out,” said Steve Carbone, who in his seven years of running the spoiler website RealitySteve has become almost as much a part of #BachelorNation as its rose ceremonies and “most dramatic moments ever.”
What fans of the show have been experiencing for the first time this year is a sort of “official” spoiler feed courtesy of Mike Fleiss, creator of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” Since production started in mid-March, the show runner’s more than 61,400 Twitter followers have been getting fairly regular photos from and observations about Fletcher’s season.
Among Fleiss’ behind-the-scenes tidbits: “It was a fantastic Night One!!! JoJo was amazing!!!,” “Not sure what it is about JoJo, but I’ve never seen so much mancry…” and “Feeling very good about JoJo’s chances of finding true love!!!” Pictures have included JoJo in a bikini on a beach, JoJo wrapped in a blanket on an airplane and JoJo in a flannel shirt, hanging out with a horse — or maybe it was a donkey?
Among the more eyebrow-raising tweets from @fleissmeister? “Just saw JoJo... Never realized that she has such a gorgeous figure. What a bonus!!!,” “JoJo is putting on her makeup. Not that she needs it…,” and “Nice ass.” (Please let it have been a donkey).
“I think he’s just having fun. I think it’s interesting,” said Courtney Robertson, the woman whom Ben Flajnik proposed to on the 16th season of “The Bachelor” and who was labeled a “villain” during that cycle. Fleiss is “kind of like a big kid,” she added.
So is Fleiss trying to sate the public’s hunger for spoilers, or has he just been generating buzz for Fletcher’s new season? Carbone says the latter.
“He’s really not giving anything away,” the blogger said. “I look at it as, he’s just trying to generate interest in his show during the off-season.”
One example of a major spoiler: On Feb. 15, viewers of “The Bachelor” Season 20 officially learned which four women would be going on hometown dates with bachelor Ben Higgins; readers of RealitySteve had known the names of the final four since Carbone published them online on Oct. 28.
And that makes Carbone persona non grata. “Obviously, the franchise hates Reality Steve,” Robertson said with a chuckle. “They go above and beyond to protect not only the show’s secrets but the final reveal.”
With “The Bachelorette” in production, Fleiss was not available for an interview, an ABC spokesman said.
Any show that’s about human behavior and double-crossing and hubris, its value is not about the result, it’s about the process.
Spoilers can come from sources or from social media. When the franchise’s recognizable lead and his or her (eventually recognizable) suitors are on location, regular people notice. And they do things like take pictures and post them on social media.
Robertson had an example from her season. “There were 20 of us traveling through airports” with a cover story that they were part of a volleyball team, she said. As instructed, they had their first and last names in big letters on their luggage — until one day the producers told them to strip the name tape off their bags immediately. “They figured it out,” she said. “That’s how they were spoiling.”
But perhaps the producers need not worry so much. According to Nicholas Christenfeld, a professor of psychology at UC San Diego who has researched the role of spoilers relative to literature, the leaked tidbits could just as easily be called enhancers. “Any show that’s about human behavior and double-crossing and hubris, its value is not about the result, it’s about the process,” Christenfeld said.
Of course, fans of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” know that the franchise is, if nothing else, all about the journey.
While he didn’t have data specific to reality TV, Christenfeld said that when people know what’s going to happen in advance, their enjoyment can be enhanced by “seeing how they trick you, how they set it up — you’re in on the game now.”
Tipping the cards is nothing new after all and often meets with a measure of success. There are movies people watch over and over again and enjoy each time. And the plots of Shakespeare’s plays are well known, Christenfeld said. “It doesn’t remotely ruin it for you.”
And as for Fleiss’ foray into the spoiler arena? “This,” Robertson said, “tells me he’s excited about this season, and he is trying to build expectations.
Follow Christie D’Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14-L (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with an advisory for coarse language)