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ABC Executive Rob Mills on What ‘The Bachelorette’ Should Have Done Differently This Season

And how the show should deal with a contestant like Lee in the future

(ABC)
(ABC)

This season of The Bachelorette has led to an inevitable conclusion: The four men who have dominated the positive screen time this season made it to Rachel’s Final Four. The two men eliminated on Monday night’s episode — Matt and Adam — had rarely been seen. As our own Rodger Sherman said in his recap: "Matt is probably best (and only) known for dressing up as a penguin, while Adam’s most notable moment was arriving on the first night with a creepy puppet, even though he was not a ventriloquist. … They’ve just been there, hanging around."

The oddity of this episode wasn’t lost on the network. As ABC’s senior vice president of alternative programming, Rob Mills, explained to Juliet Litman on the latest episode of Bachelorette Party, the show may have spent too much time focusing on early-season drama, leaving some of the contestants with little airtime.

When Rachel started crying as she eliminated Matt, it caught many viewers off-guard. Mills agrees.

"That was kind of weird cause it was like, where did that come from?" he said. "We didn’t see any of that."

So why has this season felt so incomplete? One reason: The drama between Kenny and Lee in earlier episodes dominated the show so heavily that it left little room for anything else. As Mills admits, honing in on the tension between those two may have been a mistake.

"I think if anything, maybe we focused too much on Lee, and the Kenny and Lee thing, and got away from the romance. … We played up some of other dramatic stuff too much, that I think, in hindsight now, maybe we should have downplayed that a little bit."

One problem: Lee and Kenny’s drama was particularly intense. Their two-on-one-date quarrell, during which Lee laughed about having falsely cast Kenny as an aggressive person, lasted much longer than what was shown on TV. Kenny, who was supposed to leave in a helicopter with Rachel, returned to Lee to yell at him, and the show aired only part of the interaction.

"Kenny, when he went back, the browbeating of Kenny to Lee was like 25 minutes. …

It was long. I mean we cut it down to whatever, two minutes or whatever."

Of course, there’s the problem of Lee himself. Last summer, well before he was cast for the show, Lee compared the NAACP to the KKK on his Twitter account and made a number of other racist and sexist remarks. Mills claimed the show didn’t know about this side of Lee, and that the network will do things differently now.

"Obviously I think now we will look up every contestant’s [social media]. … Look, we’ll look at everything. I mean it’s all different now. Social media didn’t even exist even like five or six years ago. … By the time you get to 30 [contestants] and then you have a couple alternates, you’re talking about 32 people. And, you know, yes, we should start looking at all that, but you just don’t think, ‘OK, we gotta go and look at all 32 guys’ social media for the past five years.’"

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.