How Bachelor in Paradise Became the Secret Weapon of The Bachelor Franchise

How ABC turned the spinoff into the unexpected hit no one expected when it first premiered in 2014, going on to deliver five weddings and four babies

By Tierney Bricker Aug 06, 2019 10:00 AMTags

Five weddings. Four babies. One unforgettable summer.

Now that the emotional rollercoaster that is The Bachelorette has finished its run, it's time for some fun in the sun on Bachelor in Paradise, which returned for its sixth season on Monday night.

Bachelor in Paradise is sort of like the hit ABC franchise's younger, wilder cousin, who comes to visit and turns your life upside down for a few weeks; it's not there for a long time, just a good time, spending just enough time with you before it wears out its welcome.

But over the course of the spinoff's five-year run, it has slowly transitioned from end-of-summer filler content to The Bachelor's secret weapon, fueling fans' insatiable appetite for all things Bachelor Nation. It's the ultimate guilty pleasure and has become the unexpected hit of The Bachelor franchise that no one saw coming when it premiered in 2014. 

Meet the Bachelor in Paradise Season 6 Cast

Of course, longtime members of Bachelor Nation know BIP isn't the first Bachelor spinoff.

Bachelor Pad debuted in 2012 and rounded up former contestants in a competition for $250,000, with a second chance at love serving as a secondary goal. In that pre-Instagram era, contestants were often hosting fan meet-ups in cities and going on trips together, a practice and rite-of-reality TV-passage that is now well-documented (and often sponsored) for today's batch of cast-offs.

"It was sort of like, how do we use these people?" Robert Mills, ABC's Senior Vice President, Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night Programming, told E! News of Bachelor Pad's inception. "It was like people are really into some of these people after the show, so how do we design a show? How do we do a merging of Big Brother and The Bachelor?"

Bachelor Pad ran for three seasons before it was abruptly canceled in 2013. No official reason was ever offered up, but a controversial challenge in which the male contestants had to throw eggs filled with paint at the female contestant they deem the least attractive while they stood in a line blind-folded probably didn't help.

Plus, it was hard to top Nick Peterson choosing to keep all the money rather than share half of it with his partner, Rachel Truehart, as they had no romantic connection. They were the first winning couple to not split the grand prize and it was riveting TV as Nick left the season three finale taping saying, "I'm a shmuck with $250,000!" 


"When [Bachelor Pad] didn't come back we thought, well, there's still something because people loved Bachelor Pad," Mills explained, "so it was OK, well, how do we do it where it's just sort of second chance romance, which is kind of what Bachelor Pad was supposed to be before the game element. " 

And with that, Bachelor in Paradise was born...ish. 

At first, no one—not even the producers—really knew what the show would end up being when production descending upon Tulum, Mexico, to film the inaugural season. (In season two, production moved to Sayulita, where it was remained ever since.)

Details were sparse when ABC first announced the show, saying fans could expect "new twists, shocking surprises, unexpected guests and some of the most unlikely relationships in Bachelor history."

Even Bachelor alumni were curious, with eventual Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr., tweeting at the time, "So do you think #BachelorInParadise will be like Bachelor Pad on spring break?"

It was more like Bachelor production gone wild, with producers throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what would stick without the set structure of The Bachelor.

"It was not dissimilar to Jerry Seinfeld and George [Constanza] talking about their show," Mills said. "It really was not about anything. They show up and that's kind of it and then new people come in and there are rose ceremonies…it was a little bit fly by the seat of our pants and we'll figure it out."

Season one ran for six episodes over the course of five weeks, serving as a bridge between ABC's summer content and thee return of its fall line-up, a quick and unpredictable jaunt south of the border that could easily be forgotten if it didn't work out. 


But then Bachelor in Paradise debuted to 5.3 million viewers who were intrigued by the franchise's weird experiment. And they keep tuning in, watching as "happy accidents" happened along the way that helped the show form its self-aware personality, with the finale actually attracting more eyeballs than the premiere. 

Clare Crawley had an emotional breakdown with a raccoon. A dramatic re-enactment of a crew member jumping off a balcony and breaking both of his legs was shown when it was revealed cast member Michelle Kujawa was hooking up with him and he was trying to escape. The franchise has its first one-on-none date when iconic villain Kalon McMahon showed up and no one wanted to go on a date with him.

Oh, and two couples actually made it to the end, with one engagement even happening. 

Marcus Grodd and Lacey Faddoul would go on to exchange vows during Bachelor in Paradise's second season, though they split in 2016 after it was revealed they never made the marriage official when they returned to the U.S.

But Bachelor in Paradise really found itself in season two, thanks in large part to the cast—including standouts like Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon, Jade Roper and Tanner Tolbert (who barely registered on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season), and Carly Waddell—and the once-ignored off-screen hook-ups and DM-sliding adventures finally playing out on-screen. Fans were basically watching as the behind-the-scenes drama of the contestants' Instagram photos and captions were exposed.

The second season also helped the series set its sincere-but-sarcastic tone. One minute, viewers were laughing at the tongue-in-cheek cheesy opening credits one minute and then crying over a sobbing Carly running into the arms of her BFF Jade after having her heart broken by Kirk De Windt

Bachelor & Bachelorette Status Check: Find Out Who's Still Together

The latter moment was made all the more impactful when Carly returned in season three for a third shot at love, delivering one of the most unexpected love stories when she ended up falling for Evan Bass despite her initial feelings of indifference (and perhaps disgust?) towards the erectile dysfunction specialist who once faked an injury to get her attention. 

Today? After their engagement at the end of season two, Jade and Tanner's wedding played as the major event for The Bachelor's 20th anniversary special and they just welcomed their second child. Evan proposed to Carly in the season three finale, with their wedding playing out in the season four premiere and they are expecting their second child

Both couples have become the go-to examples for contestants for whose love story (and post-show career path as influencers, let's be honest) they'd love to emulate. And Tanner and Evan, the male partners in those relationships, have become the blue-print for those who feel their personality failed to come through on the mothershows if they failed to form a connection with the lead or just didn't provide the same amount of drama as other contestants. On The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, you can feel your time on the show rapidly dwindling like sand in an hourglass; on Bachelor in Paradise, you have nothing but time. 

Further proof of the magic of Bachelor in Paradise can be found in the rom-com worthy love story of Ashley I. and Jared, which fans have watched play out after she fell for him from the moment she saw him in Paradise...only to be friend-zoned by Jared for years, including a second stint in BIP in season three.

Three years (and many, many tears from Ashley) later, the best friends revealed they were dating, announced their engagement a few months later and are set to wed later this month. 

In season four, Raven Gates and Adam Gottschalk ended the season together and recently got engaged

Three couples from season five are still together—Joe Amabile and Kendall LongKevin Wendt and Astrid Loch, and Krystal Nielson and Chris Randone, whose wedding will air during this season of BIP

Courtesy of FabFitFun

With four married couples still together, two engaged couples and one still dating, Bachelor in Paradise actually has a better track record than The Bachelor. 

"You really get to know people on BIP, you spend all your time together," Annaliese Puccini, whose returning for a third shot at TV love in season six after having her heart broken last season, told E! News at ALT 98.7's Summer Camp in Los Angeles. "There is always some drama so you see how people deal in crazy situations. It's more natural to have many people to get to know and date than have one person everyone is fighting for. Also, this is everyone's at least second time through a Bachelor show so people are more relaxed and comfortable in this environment."

Like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, an essential ingredient is the cast, with a lot of thought going into assembling the perfect mix of fan-favorites, villains and were-they-even-on-the-show? non-entities.

"I think it's just when you start hearing about the get-togethers they have, because once you're on the show you're in this sort of fraternity or sorority, so you start to hear, 'here are the people, these are where the storylines are,'" Mills explained. (A recent example: Beloved coming off of his time as the runner-up on The Bachelorette, Blake Horstmann's off-season antics with multiple Bachelor Nation ladies at the Stagecoach Festival will be a major storyline in season six.)

Basically: If these really attractive people are going to be partying together and hooking up anyway, why not film it?

ABC/Craig Sjodin

The producers also tap the well of wasted opportunity that are the eliminated-too-soon contestants. Whilst most viewers rarely remember the suitors who are sent home on night one by the Bachelor and Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise keeps an eye on them, knowing some have the potential to be a breakout star on the beach if given the airtime. 

"There are certain people where you are like thank god they get another chance, they're really good," Mills said, highlighting Joe Amabile (aka Grocey Store Joe) as the ultimate example of a contestant that deserved more screen time after production was "amazed" he went home night one during Becca Kufrin's season. (The unexpected breakout star ended up finding love in Paradise last summer with Kendall Long and landed a gig on Dancing With the Stars, something most leads aren't even offered.)

Playa Escondida has served as the home of countless redemption stories, with J.J. Lane going from Amy Schumer punchline to Paradise hero in season two, and season five's now-married and celebrated success story Krystal and Chris both came in vilified by both the public and other cast members. 

No villain is too villainous for redemption, according to Mills, who said they would never rule out welcoming Luke Parker and Jed Wyatt to Paradise following their respective controversial journeys on Hannah Brown's most recent season. 

"You never say never," he said. "You'll always have those conversations...we do love a redemption story." 

But additional screentime on Bachelor in Paradise can be a double-edge sword for some contestants, especially if they left their season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette relatively unscathed and mostly adored.

Dean Unglert became the go-to reference for the term "f--kboy" the when he juggled between Kristina Schulman and Danielle Lombardi in season four, Joe "Rose Before Bros" Bailey became Bachelor Nation Enemy No. 1 in season two when it was revealed he was leading on single mom Juelia Kinney in an attempt to buy time until Samantha Steffen arrived, and just last season Jenna Cooper came under fire when cheating allegations surfaced just after she got engaged to Jordan Kimball.


But the ultimate examples of how contestants can rise and fall faster than the waves crashing on the beach would be season three's Nick Viall and Josh Murray, who were the two finalists in Andi Dorfman's season, during which Nick was the villain and Josh was the fan-favorite, ultimately getting engaged to the Bachelorette.

Following Nick's second stint as a Bachelorette finalist (once again becoming a polarizing suitor on Kaitlyn's season when they slept together ahead of the fantasy suite episode) and Josh and Andi's dramatic split, fans were surprised and excited to see the foes on the beach together, hoping for a clash of the titans. 

David Becker/David Becker/Getty Images

They didn't disappoint, with their roles completely reserving from the previous on-screen face-off. With help from Andi's tell-all book, Josh's behavior in his relationship with Amanda Stanton raised eyebrows (as did his pizza consumption), while Nick unexpectedly became the most beloved male cast member on the beach and on Twitter feeds. 

The season ended with Josh proposing to Amanda (with a messy public breakup to follow) and⁠—in a move literally no one saw coming⁠—Nick being named the franchise's next Bachelor. And Colton Underwood would become the second lead to nab the job after their stint on the spinoff in 2018. 

Paradise works in mysterious ways, just ask Wells Adams, who went from Bachelor contestant-to-Bachelor in Paradise hot commodity-to-BIP bartender/relationship guru-to one-half of one of the most popular couples in Hollywood after Modern Family star Sarah Hyland tweeted she was a fan of the podcast host, who then slid into her DMs. The couple is now engaged (and Wells is still slinging drinks and advice in Paradise). 

Looking back, Mills said Bachelor in Paradise "gave [the franchise] a shot in the arm," explaining that the self-referential humor can be taken to another level on the cheesier-than-Velveeta spinoff. 

"You can have fun with it," he said, "things can be a little more loose and funny and fun." (Never forget Dean's mustache getting its own commercial.) 

And that anything-can-happen attitude has paid off, with Bachelor in Paradise becoming the No. 1 show among Adults 18-49 each Monday during its run last summer, making ABC the No. 1 network on that night of programming. 

Who doesn't love a summer fling, including host and executive producer Chris Harrison, who gushed on The Ringer's Bachelor Party podcast, "I love this show." 


"I can never take my original baby out of this, The Bachelor, it's the one that changed my life, so it'll always be my Hall of Fame, Mount Rushmore," he said, "But Bachelor in Paradise has quickly become my second favorite show. It's just incredible. Just because of the sheer number of stories." 

At any given time multiple love stories are playing out on-screen, like a classic soap opera but with aspiring Instagram influencers, as the beauty of BIP is that it doesn't end once the season does, as fans get to continue watching the drama unfold on social media. The show has turned the fleeting 15 minutes of fame contestants often are treated to into a full summer of exposure, at the very least, and a lucrative career making millions just by being themselves, at the most. 

With Bachelor in Paradise proving to be a bonafide and reliable summer hit, ABC has looked into other possible spinoffs for the longrunning franchise. 

The Bachelor Winter Games aired as counterprogramming to the 2018 Winter Olympics, with the four-episode endeavor bringing together fan-favorites from the U.S. version and international stars for the first time for a Bachelor in Paradise (swapping snow for sand) meets Olympics-style friendly competition. 

And Mills revealed they are constantly looking at ways to expand the franchise in organic ways.

"I think there could be a Real Housewives-type thing potentially," he teased.

Now that really sounds like reality TV paradise. 

Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.