The Bachelors head to Melbourne for summer loving and a Bridgerton vibe

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Romance is not dead. Not if the new season of The Bachelors has anything to do with it. Ditching its Sydney home for the more understated sophistication of Melbourne – in a privately owned Brighton mansion straight out of Bridgerton – the show again promises new levels of “vulnerability and authenticity” amid abundant floral arrangements and a dangerous number of candles.

“The whole series is a love letter to Melbourne,” says Network Ten’s head of creative production and entertainment, Tamara Simoneau. “And The Bachelor franchise is the OG [original] of this format. Many others have come in the decades since it began, and they’re not always about real people finding love. So we’ve veered right back into that, because we think that’s what’s missing from so many other formats.”

The Bachelors’ new suitors (from left) Luke Bateman, Ben Waddell and Wesley Senna Cortes.

The opening episode, which is again proffering not one, but three eligible men, plays like a Victorian-era coming-out ball. The suitors – Queensland lumberjack and ex-NRL player Luke Bateman; Brazilian-born Sydney theology student Wesley Senna Cortes; and Melbourne-born international model, sustainability property entrepreneur and aspiring filmmaker Ben Waddell – are presented with 20 women, their gowns swishing across the marble floors of the ballroom as a chamber orchestra plays.

“There was a moment where I looked around and thought: ‘This is really happening!’” says Waddell. “It brings a smile to my face, thinking about it now. It was pretty special … looking back, it’s definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I went in being cautiously optimistic, but in terms of the calibre of women and the change I saw in myself, I was grateful for the opportunity.”

Long considered a “tent pole” series used to guarantee good ratings during peak measuring times, this 11th incarnation of The Bachelor is being deliberately rolled out over the holiday period.

“We think it’s a great time of year,” says Simoneau. “Because it’s summer, because it’s a guilty pleasure, we’re delivering a lot of episodes every week and a little nugget for superfans that will release on 10play, 24 hours earlier than the next episode. So if people want to binge-watch that, they can do so. That’s how viewing habits are now. But also, we have The Gladiators coming early in January, so our big emphasis is on having fantastic shows in prime time, all year round.”

This season of The Bachelors has moved to Melbourne, embracing a Bridgerton feel.

While this Bachelors is heavy on pomp, ceremony and swooning, it has not changed its basic approach. Potential villainesses make their dramatic entrances along with the blushing country lasses and down-to-earth fitness instructors. The fighting over men, and the ritualised rejections, are still very much part of the package. This far into the format’s lifespan, it’s a fair bet everyone is acutely aware of the implications of exposure.

Waddell says he has never watched The Bachelor, or any dating show, but this isn’t his first reality rodeo. He was on 2015 UK series Taking New York, about a group of 20-somethings trying to make it in the Big Apple.

He won’t discuss the widely reported legal stoush with Zac Efron and Netflix that erupted over Waddell’s claims his 2018 documentary series concept Down to Earth, was stolen. Waddell also has a television project about building sustainability in development in the UK.

“I’m getting into it,” he says. “My whole idea, when creating documentaries is finding something I’m passionate about and wanting to learn about it, and hopefully, by me learning about it, the audience is interested and learns through me.”

Through his experience on The Bachelors, Waddell says he has learnt “the power of vulnerability”, and, after decades overseas, a newfound love for his home town.

“Melbourne’s definitely got that European vibe,” he says. “I loved it because it wasn’t tacky. People were well-dressed. We were going to nice, classy places. Melbourne’s very much got that city-of-love feel. It was classy. It was great, and it was right up my alley.”

The Bachelors Australia premieres on Sunday, December 3, at 7.30pm on Ten.

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