Here’s how The Bachelor has changed since the first ever season

When The Bachelor made its debut in 2002, no one could have predicted the cultural impact the ABC reality dating show would have. However, with multiple seasons and several successful spinoffs under its belt, The Bachelor has proven itself to be a total TV phenomenon — even introducing phrases like “rose ceremony” and “here for the wrong reasons” into the pop culture lexicon.

Over the years, The Bachelor and its spinoffs — including The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise – have produced several happily married couples and a few dreamy TV weddings (via TV Guide). There have also been numerous children to come from the show’s contestants, including two kids for Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter — who met and fell head-over-heels in love on the first-ever season of The Bachelorette. 

While some aspects of The Bachelor have remained the same since the show’s 2002 premiere — such as the presence of the franchise’s beloved host, Chris Harrison — the hit ABC reality show has actually changed quite a bit since the first Bachelor, Alex Michel, started his quest for love. Here’s a look at how The Bachelor has changed since its first-ever season.

The first Bachelor had an impressive resume

The Bachelor has seen an impressive roster of leading men throughout the show’s many seasons, including a millionaire winemaker (Andrew Firestone), a professional race car driver (Arie Luyendyk, Jr.), and even the son of a prince (Lorenzo Borghese), according to Insider. However, few of the men have had the academic pedigree of the first Bachelor.

According to Daily Beast, Alex Michel was an honors grad from Harvard with an MBA from Stanford. His resume included being student body president, high school valedictorian, and stints at the president’s Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. 

Mike Fleiss, creator of The Bachelor, explained Alex’s appeal to The Cut – saying that executive Andrea Wong, then head of international TV at Sony, was impressed by his CV. “Andrea Wong is a brilliant woman, and in her mind’s eye, the most eligible man in America, the most desirable single man — marriage material — should be a highly educated guy,” said Fleiss. He continued, saying, “So that’s how he got the job over guys that I think were probably more like the guys we cast now.”

The very first Bachelor had never appeared on reality TV before

These days, the Bachelor is usually chosen from within the franchise — with producers usually picking a fan favorite Bachelorette contestant to be the next leading man. However, in 2020, producers surprised longtime Bachelor fans by announcing that Matt James would be the Bachelor for Season 25 of the hit ABC series. In addition to being the first Black Bachelor, Matt is also one of the few Bachelors who didn’t first appear on a season of The Bachelorette

Of course, this search from within the Bachelor franchise talent pool wasn’t possible with the very first Bachelor, Alex Michel, who had never even been on reality TV before (via Insider). However, while Alex might have been a reality TV newbie, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. 

Jason Carbone, director of the first season of The Bachelor and executive producer through Season 6, told The Cut that Alex had auditioned for at least one reality show previously: Survivor. And when Alex was finally given a chance to make his reality TV debut, the lofty premise of The Bachelor didn’t cause any hesitation on his part. “Alex needed no convincing,” Carbone revealed.

The iconic Bachelor mansion didn't come along until 2007

The Bachelor just wouldn’t be the same without the famous Bachelor mansion — a 7,500 square foot privately-owned home in Agoura Hills, California that is officially named Villa De La Vina, according to House Beautiful. However, the house wasn’t always home base for the show and its Bachelors. According to Entertainment Weekly, the first few seasons of The Bachelor were actually shot in Malibu, California. In fact, production didn’t move to the Bachelor mansion fans know and love today until 2007. 

“Everything leaves — everything that’s not tied down, that’s not part of the home,” Villa De La Vina’s owner Marshall Haraden told Us Weekly about the process of readying the mansion for filming. He continued, saying, “Curtains, TVs, pots and pans, clothes — everything in one day goes out.” 

Haraden also revealed to Us Weekly that the Bachelor franchise production team shoots in the home “42 days, twice a year.” Added the homeowner, “And then they take two weeks to put it together the way they want it, and they shoot for X amount of days, and then they spend two weeks to put it back.”

The first season of The Bachelor had only seven episodes

Fans of The Bachelor have been treated over the years to a seemingly endless array of Bachelor content. 

Between The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, The Bachelor: Winter Games, Bachelor in Paradise: After Paradise, and The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart, viewers have never really had to want for Bachelor-related entertainment. Of course, the seasons of these shows may seem too short to some fans — but the episode count has nearly doubled from the the first-ever season of The Bachelor. 

In the 24th season of The Bachelor, which starred pilot Peter Weber in the titular role, there were 12 episodes, including a two-part finale, the Women Tell All special, and the After the Final Rose special (via TV Guide). But when the show first aired in 2002, it featured only seven episodes, including one episode dedicated to the Women Tell All special. Compared to the Bachelor fans know and love today, the show’s first installment was basically a mini-season.

During the first season of The Bachelor, Instagram didn't exist

Contestants on The Bachelor often become so famous that their social media numbers regularly hit six or even seven figures. Take former Bachelor Peter Weber for example, who quickly garnered over two million Instagram followers — or former Bachelorette Hannah Brown, who boasts nearly 3 million Instagram followers at the time of this writing. 

It’s no wonder that many of the show’s most popular contestants go on to monetize their social media presence, with sponsored posts on Instagram earning between $5,000 and $15,000, and many reality stars-turned-influencers making between $444,000 and $1.33 million per year (via Refinery 29). However, the first-ever Bachelor, Alex Michel, didn’t have the same opportunity.

As difficult as it may be for younger fans of the show to imagine, Instagram wasn’t around in 2002 when The Bachelor first premiered. Of course, this meant it wasn’t possible for Alex or his group of contestants to monetize their fame through various social media channels. As noted by Tech Crunch, Instagram wouldn’t be around until 2010 — the year in which Jake Pavelka led one of the most dramatic seasons of The Bachelor ever.

Contestants on The Bachelor's first season boasted impressive careers

When The Bachelor releases its group of contestants for an upcoming season, outlets such as Cosmopolitan run headshots and stats, including age, location, and occupation. These days, it’s not unusual for contestants to have job descriptions like “social media influencer,” “model,” or even “free spirit,” as noted by Insider. However, during the first season of The Bachelor, the female contestants had an impressive array of high-powered careers. 

In the first episode of the first-ever season of The Bachelor (via Entertainment Weekly), Chris Harrison gushed to Bachelor Alex Michel about his group of contestants, saying, “We have two doctors, two lawyers, [and] 10 women have either already got their Master’s degrees or are in the process of obtaining their graduate degrees.” The host continued, saying, “We have a singer, an actress, and even an NBA cheerleader.” 

These days, the show doesn’t see many doctors competing for a Bachelor’s heart. That said, Peter Weber’s Bachelor season did introduce viewers to lawyer Kelley Flanagan, who had a romantic reunion with Peter post-show — despite being the pilot’s fifth runner-up.

There was no first impression rose during the first season of The Bachelor

As fans of The Bachelor know, roses are an integral part of the hit ABC reality dating show. And aside from the final rose, arguably no rose is as coveted by the contestants as the First Impression Rose — which is given to the woman who makes the most memorable first impression on the Bachelor himself.

However, during The Bachelor’s first season, the iconic First Impression Rose didn’t yet exist, according to Refinery 29. In fact, the First Impression Rose didn’t premiere until 2005, during Jesse Palmer’s Bachelor season. That year, the First Impression Rose went to Trish Schneider, the so-called “villain” of the Bachelor season. And while Season 6 didn’t have a First Impression Rose, Season 7 saw it become a regular feature of the show.

At the time of this writing, no Bachelor has ended up with his First Impression Rose recipient (vis PopSugar). Peter Weber came close, proposing to Hannah Ann Sluss — the woman to whom he gave the coveted rose on night one. However, their relationship crumbled shortly after filming wrapped. 

During the first season of The Bachelor, rose ceremonies were called something different

The Bachelor host Chris Harrison often teases episodes as containing “the most shocking rose ceremony yet.” And while the rose ceremonies sometimes live up to Harrison’s promise, longtime Bachelor viewers have learned to take his words with a grain of salt. 

Shock factor aside, rose ceremonies are so integral to the show that it’s difficult to envision a version of The Bachelor without them. However, during the first season of the show, the rose ceremony fans know and love was actually called an “Invitation Night,” according to CNN. Despite the name change, the format of the ceremony itself was similar, according to Entertainment Weekly. The first season of The Bachelor even had the famous and much-anticipated final rose ceremony — or, err, Invitation Night. 

However, unlike the women of Bachelor Nation today, the first season’s group of contestants didn’t always wear glittery cocktail dresses as they waited for the Bachelor to make his decision. As noted by Buzzfeed, many contestants wore turtlenecks and slacks. And while contestants today have to stand in nervous anticipation, Season 1 contestants sometimes lounged on sofas while Alex Michel handed out roses.

Women left video messages for the Bachelor during the show's first season

The very first season of The Bachelor feels like a cultural relic for a variety of reasons, including the fact that women who appeared on the show’s inaugural season left the Bachelor video messages to watch in a so-called “journal room,” according to Us Weekly.  

The messages were designed for the women to plead their case as to why they should receive a rose and make it to the next round. As Us Weekly notes, some women chose to record “heartfelt” messages to play upon the Bachelor’s emotions, while others took a different route and made “straightforward pleas” to Bachelor Alex Michel in an effort to avoid being sent home.

In current seasons, the show has done away with the custom entirely. Instead of making a case for why they should stay via video message, the women are given the opportunity to talk to the Bachelor ahead of the rose ceremony during a cocktail party — if they can steal him away for a second, that is. 

During the first season of The Bachelor, confessionals weren't always private

On The Bachelor, contestants often convey their feelings directly to the camera in a one-on-one interview with producers, confessing what they really think about the other women, the dates and scenarios they’re thrown into, and even the Bachelor himself. This type of private interview is known in Bachelor Nation as an ITM — which stands for In The Moment, according to Refinery 29. 

Over the years, these confessional ITMs have led to classic moments of The Bachelor, such as Corinne Olympios’ famous line (via E! News): “My heart is gold, but my vagine is platinum.” And who could forget Kelsey Poe going on and on about her “amazing story.” 

However, these scenes didn’t always take place in a gorgeously-lit, meticulously-decorated location away from the other contestants. In fact, during the first season of The Bachelor, some women filmed their ITMs in view of other women (via BuzzFeed). Needless to say, it’s kind of hard to bear your soul when your boyfriend’s other girlfriends are standing within earshot. 

The first season of The Bachelor didn't have date cards

As fans of The Bachelor can attest, date cards are another franchise staple that the show is difficult to imagine without.

The date cards, supposedly written by host Chris Harrison, let contestants know whether they’ll have one-on-one time with the Bachelor, be a part of a group date, or have to stay home while their fellow contestants spend the day with the guy they’re all trying to marry. Fans have come to know and love these date cards, which often include cheesy puns and handwriting that we’re still not sure actually belongs to Harrison.

However, back in Season 1, the date card was actually a more of date box, containing clues letting contestants know what type of date with the Bachelor they might have in store (via Slate). While the boxes eventually morphed into simpler cards, the intent was always the same. “These date cards provide more than just information on what the date is going to be, they provide opportunities to create more content,” former director and co-executive producer Jason Carbone shared in an interview with Slate.

During the first season of The Bachelor, the Fantasy Suite had night-vision cameras

The Bachelor wouldn’t be The Bachelor without the much-anticipated Fantasy Suite dates.

According to Refinery 29, which published a glossary of important Bachelor-related words and phrases to know, the Fantasy Suite date is when the Bachelor gets private time with the contestants in an attempt to — ahem — “get to know” them. The show will normally return to the couple in the morning, with a nodding wink to what they might have been up to all night. Of course, Fantasy Suite dates often contain drama, such as the time Ben Higgins told both Lauren Bushnell and JoJo Fletcher he loved them during their individual Fantasy Suite dates (via Marie Claire).

However, during Season 1, The Bachelor hadn’t yet figured out a good way to give contestants their temporary privacy, and actually featuring night-vision cameras in the Fantasy Suite, according to BuzzFeed. Bachelor Alex Michel called room service for a dessert called “Sex in the Sheets,” while the cameras recorded his eventual winner, Amanda Marsh, playfully laughing with the dessert on her face. 

In the first season of The Bachelor, the Fantasy Suite dates involved different locations

Over the years, The Bachelor has flown to numerous locations for its epic fantasy suite dates, which usually take place when there are only three contestants left. These days, these important dates all take place in the same geographic location. However, during the first season of The Bachelor, each of the fantasy suite dates took place in a different location. 

According to BuzzFeed, eventual Bachelorette Trista Rehn joined Bachelor Alex Michel in Hawaii for a date including a helicopter ride, after which Alex hopped on a plane to meet contestant Shannon Oliver for a snowy skiing adventure. However, a more recent season of The Bachelor saw contestants experience Fantasy Suites week in uncomfortably close quarters. 

In Peter Weber’s season of The Bachelor, not only did all of the Fantasy Suite dates take place in Australia, but the final three contestants — Madison Prewett, Hannah Ann Sluss, and Victoria Fuller — were all forced to share the same suite. Talk about an awkward sleepover!

There were no spoilers for the first season of The Bachelor

These days, The Bachelor is a show that could be easily spoiled for unsuspecting fans, thanks to professional spoilers like Stephen Carbone — a longtime Bachelor blogger who often spoils a season’s ending long before the season finale airs.

A “foremost authority” on The Bachelor, according to the New York Times, blogger Carbone has been known for spoiling seasons on his Reality Steve blog since Season 13, when Bachelor Jason Mesnick broke up with fiancée Melissa Rycroft in favor of runner-up Molly Malaney. Since then, Carbone has become extremely popular in Bachelor Nation. According to the New York Times, his post revealing the final choice of Bachelor Ben Higgins received approximately 280,000 page views.

Needless to say, during the first season of The Bachelor, there were no spoilers — likely because nobody yet knew or cared enough about the show to want to know how it ended. However, considering spoiling The Bachelor has been Carbone’s full-time job since 2011, it’s safe to say the blogger is grateful for the franchise’s loyal — and, well, impatient — fans.

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