Juliet is joined by Bachelor producer extraordinaire Elan Gale to talk all things reality TV and dating. They discuss his journey as a Bachelor producer, the best ingredients for a truly great reality dating show, and the wild production process involved with his latest show, Amazon Prime’s The One That Got Away.
In the excerpt below, Juliet and Elan discuss the importance of tone on reality TV dating shows.
Elan Gale: I think that we’ve been trained to think that competition always has to be at its most heightened and that, you know, the water has to be boiling at all times in a rolling boil before we can put the pasta in. But I actually think that it’s nice to get changes of pace. You know, The One That Got Away is a much more relaxed and soft show. It’s also clearly a comedy. There’s a portal that is huge and expensive and crazy-looking that serves the same purpose as a door.
Juliet Litman: It’s funny that you bring that up because I was actually going to ask about tone, but I think I got a common thread of your work is this idea of comedy. I mean, FBoy Island has a lot of comedy, it’s hosted by a comic, but I think some of your previous work too really has the kind of wink-wink humor to it, where like, we’re all in on this joke together.
How much do you think about tone before you start shooting, or how much of it comes together in the edit?
Gale: I think about it a lot. I think about it a lot and you know, I appreciate you saying that because for me, in all honesty, at least when I have the capacity to be involved in the creation or at least in the early planning, tone is really important for me. And for me, tone is always comedy. It doesn’t mean it’s not comedy and other things, but that’s because so far I’ve really only done dating shows and horror movies and things like that—
Litman: —and Coolio!
Gale: And Coolio, but Coolio’s cooking show was 100 percent comedy.
Like it was just comedy, comedy, pure comedy, and I think that the reason for that is I actually think dating is funny.
Litman: Elan, are you married?
Gale: I am engaged.
Litman: OK, so you’re no longer dating so you can find it funny.
Gale: But even when I was dating, the dates I would come home and talk about were the funny ones, if that makes any sense. There was a sad misery kind of funny, a Noah Baumbach kind of funny. Like really leaning into the absurdity of what we’re doing, which is fucking nuts.
Litman: I think you’ll like my life slogan, in particular how it relates to dating. I’d rather have horror stories than zero stories.
Gale: And I think that’s how people come home from dates, right? Yeah, I think the way—because I used to date before I didn’t have to anymore, and I’m very thankful for that, but even when I did, I feel like you go on dates, knowing that worst-case scenario, hopefully, you get a funny story out of it. That’s how you almost talked yourself into the impossible act of dating. So dating is fucking awful.
Litman: Yeah, it’s rejection over and over until it’s not.
Gale: But if you find the humor in it, if you go there with a sense of like, “Well, let’s see what this nonsense is going to be,” I think that you end up having a good time even when the date’s not good.
Litman: Sure. Yeah. That’s definitely true. I mean, I thought you were going to say, in my mind, worst-case scenario of the date is that it ends.
Gale: And that’s the other thing is that like, you know, The One That Got Away as an example, and FBoy Island too, really trying for me to rethink what I think a successful relationship is.
Litman: Well what I like about FBoy Island and some other more recent shows, the stakes are much lower. I like that it’s not about is this forever? but just sort of like, is this something we both want for now? And like that makes it a lot more believable, honestly. It’s like you can buy into the fun and the humor if you’re like, “Yeah, we’re all in this together, looking for a good time.”
Gale: I want to do shows, I have shows that I’m working on that are like, “do you want to hang out for three weeks” as the eventual next step. And honestly I love that because I think that successful relationships don’t have to be long. I think that relationships can change you and affect you and move you. One That Got Away intentionally doesn’t have a location, even though I’m sure you recognized it. When we were there in person, we actually referred to it as Lacuna at all times, based on the word that means an unwritten page or book, or missing part of the story.
Whatever happens here is what we’re focusing on. What happens outside? Great, hope that works. Good luck. That’s not the show. The show is about having the experience that we’re having, not about changing the world.
Litman: On the topic of tone, another thing that I have just kind of noticed in my own watching of reality TV, I feel like with streaming—with the streamers versus network TV—tone is even more important because all these networks are still kind of defining what unscripted means for them. Is that something that you discuss with the network or, you know, the platform, or is it part of the pitch at this point?
Gale: I think that it’s definitely endless conversation with them, every network and streamer, which it should be because it’s kind of the beginning of everything. I think that for better or for worse, there’s like a little bit these days of you kind of know what you’re getting into if you hire me to make a show. You’re probably going to get something a little bit wacky. You’re probably going to get someone insisting on a Rick and Morty–looking portal even though it’s not actually really that relevant.
This excerpt was lightly edited for clarity.
Host: Juliet Litman
Guest: Elan Gale
Producer: Devon Manze
Associate Producer: Erika Cervantes
Additional Production Assistance: Jade Whaley