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The Many Joys of Watching the International ‘Bachelor’

The megasuccessful franchise may be America’s greatest reality export—and there are plenty of lessons the U.S. show could learn from the international versions

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“‘You said there were other worlds than these,’ Roland said, ‘and there are. … That we are drawn there again and again has to do with the rose.’”—Stephen King, The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

On Tuesday’s climactic episode of Bachelor in Paradise, Bachelor franchise fans will find out the fates of the sixth season’s final four couples, as well as the identity of the next Bachelor. Although the three-hour finale may seem interminable, Paradise will be lost at 11 p.m. ET, and the new Bachelor’s journey to find love and/or Instagram followers likely won’t begin airing until early January. Next week, for the first time in more than four months, Bachelor Nation will find itself with no new Bachelor-related content to consume, aside from the never-ending online drama among former contestants and periodic updates on the best Bachelor spinoff of all, Tyler Cameron Dating Gigi Hadid. So begins the longer of the two extended dry spells on the annual Bachelor calendar: the roughly two months between the ending of The Bachelor and the beginning of The Bachelorette, and the roughly three and a half months between the ending of Bachelor in Paradise and the beginning of The Bachelor.

This is a tough time for those of us hooked on Chris Harrison. For the first time in years, we won’t even have the option of consoling ourselves during the upcoming Bachelor interregnum with glimpses of Harrison on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which was canceled in May. But just because we have to go without Harrison’s hosting chops for months on end doesn’t mean we have to be without The Bachelor for almost half the year. If you aren’t willing to accept that sad status quo, I’ve got good news: The sun never sets on the Bachelor empire, and if you broaden your Bachelor horizons, it need never set on you. With the proper planning and rationing, The Bachelor can be your year-round companion.

As the late, great Bachelor Winter Games demonstrated in 2018, it’s time to stop thinking about Bachelor Nation and start thinking about Bachelor International. According to The New York Times, versions of The Bachelor have aired in 37 countries, which means it’s almost always Bachelor o’clock somewhere. Even if the language barrier limits you to English-only versions, you have a few options: The Bachelor Australia, The Bachelor New Zealand, The Bachelor Canada, and the U.K. version of The Bachelor. Their cumulative back catalogs contain 19 seasons, or almost as many as the original Bachelor boasts. On top of that, there are four seasons of The Bachelorette Australia, plus a single season of The Bachelorette Canada, an upcoming season of The Bachelorette New Zealand (apply now!), and two seasons of Bachelor in Paradise Australia.

Flaubert famously said, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” He wasn’t talking about browsing Bachelor offerings from around the globe, but his sentiment applies. The Bachelor may have been born in the USA, but other countries have capably copied—and in some ways, perhaps, improved—the franchise’s formula. I can’t vouch for the quality of every international Bachelor production, but I can tell you this: Season 3 of The Bachelor Canada, my first foray into the franchise’s international waters, was the best Bachelor experience I had in 2017 and made Season 22 of The Bachelor look like garbage by comparison. (Sorry, Arie.) And Season 7 of The Bachelor Australia, which premiered on July 31 and ends this Thursday, has already made me forget Colton, Cassie, and Hannah B.

Now, there’s one teensy catch when it comes to getting your Bachelor spinoff passport stamped: You can’t actually watch these shows through regular means unless you live in their home countries. But while we’re invoking wise words about travel, heed Henry Miller’s: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” I’m not suggesting that you move to Australia to watch The Bachelor Australia (although Australia seems really nice). Through a combination of VPNs, torrents, Reddit threads, and shady streaming sites, you can semi-easily access international Bachelor seasons without physically relocating. As countless Bachelor leads and contestants have taught us, finding love is about being bold, leaving one’s comfort zone, and lowering one’s (fire)walls. So get Googling, and remember that The Ringer isn’t responsible for any malware you meet on the way.

Below, I’ll give you five reasons why watching The Bachelor Australia (and its international Bachelor brethren) is a worthy way to fill the dark days between Tuesday and The Bachelor Season 24.

Greater Variety in the Leads

To no one’s surprise, the leading candidates to be the Bachelor on the upcoming season are all recent contestants on The Bachelorette. Not since Matt Grant in Season 12 has the Bachelor not been a former Bachelorette contestant (or a repeat Bachelor lead, in the case of seasons 11 and 15 star Brad Womack).

ABC has been in the Bachelor business a long time, and the franchise works this way for a few reasons. Former Bachelorette contestants are confirmed to be camera-ready and at least tolerable to work with. They’ve been vetted by Bachelor Nation. And because they’ve been dumped and possibly heartbroken on national TV before The Bachelor begins, they’re rich in sympathy points; we’re rooting for them to find the love they lost the last time.

The Bachelor Australia, which like The Bachelor New Zealand and the U.S. Bachelor is produced by Warner Bros., has been down that road, too: Seasons 4 and 5 featured third- and second-place finishers, respectively, from previous seasons of The Bachelorette Australia. But that’s not the series’ sole source of talent. Season 6 featured Nick Cummins, a professional rugby star. Season 3 of The Bachelorette Australia centered on Sophie Monk, a well-known Australian singer, actress, model, and TV host. Accomplished athletes and celebrities abound on The Bachelor’s international editions: Former MLB pitcher Chris Leroux headlined The Bachelor Canada Season 3, Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson was the lead on Season 4 of the U.K. Bachelor, and Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews succeeded him on Season 5. I’m not saying it’s better to recruit leads from beyond the Bachelor ecosystem, but it’s refreshing to see some outsiders on screen. And while we’re still waiting for the first black lead on The Bachelor, The Bachelor Australia featured Blake Garvey, whose father is African American, in its second season, even before Rachel Lindsay led The Bachelorette.

The Bachelor Australia’s current lead, Matt Agnew, is another Bachelor rarity: a straight-up scientist. Yes, the 32-year-old Agnew, a reality TV neophyte, is tall, handsome, and muscular, with an unreasonably thick head of hair. He’s around the same age Brendan Fraser was when The Mummy came out, and he looks a lot like him, but buffer. He’s also engaging, honest, and quick with a quip, and I’ve kind of fallen for him, in case you couldn’t tell. But his brainpower is a big part of his appeal. Agnew earned a double undergraduate degree in science and engineering and a master’s and PhD in astrophysics. His bio at the Swinburne University of Technology’s Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing says, “The core goal of my PhD is to use numerical techniques to search for dynamically stable planet candidates in the habitable zones of all known multiple planet systems.” This dreamboat is looking for love and exoplanets. Come on!

Along with the standard publicity stills, Agnew’s Instagram feed features such wholesome, endearing images as him commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing; geeking out about buying a piece of Apollo 11’s command module foil; geeking out again about meeting (and receiving a rose from) a Nobel laureate in astrophysics; teaching kids science at his alma mater; posing for a photo, flanked by his parents, after finishing his PhD; and wearing the Clark Kent glasses that often fog up when he’s kissing contestants. Granted, the U.S. doesn’t excel at scientific literacy, but is it too much to ask that ABC cast a studmuffin from the STEM world as a change of pace from the personal trainers, real estate agents, and whatever Nick Viall was supposed to have been before he became the Bachelor?

If I have one complaint about The Bachelor Australia Season 7, it’s that there’s not enough talk about exoplanets. To its credit, though, the show doesn’t portray Agnew as some sort of unicorn because he’s smart but not nerdy-looking or socially awkward. His atypical occupation is played for laughs on a couple of occasions in the first episode, when one contestant confuses astrophysics with astrology …

… and another is left speechless.

After that, though, Matt being a brainiac isn’t something that he ever seems self-conscious about or makes any attempt to apologize for, and he’s clear about being attracted to contestants’ intelligence. I’m not saying a U.S. equivalent of Matt Agnew would singlehandedly silence the country’s rampant anti-intellectual streak, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a real-life, sexy scientist on one of the country’s most-watched shows.

What’s more, Matt’s scientific training isn’t just a conversation starter (or ender) or a statement about the qualities his culture prizes. It actually helps him on the show. Remember the hubbub on The Bachelor’s most recent season about whether Cassie and Caelynn were there for the proverbial right reasons? Another contestant, Tayshia, told Colton that the two had been talking about being the next Bachelorette, which led to an unsatisfying she-said, she-said exchange as the accused contestants denied any wrongdoing (and the producers failed to supply any audio evidence). A similar situation arises on The Bachelor Season 7, but Matt moves quickly to resolve the uncertainty, making the rounds at the mansion and interviewing every contestant about what was said and when. He soon deduces that someone was lying and swiftly sends her home. By Bachelor standards, it’s an awe-inspiring display of reasoning skills.

Chris Harrison Clones

Even post-Millionaire, Chris Harrison has only so much time, so he can’t constantly jet off to other countries to utter his trademark lines. Consequently, each Bachelor adaptation needs its own Chris clone to deliver the international equivalents of classics like, “This is the final rose tonight—when you’re ready” and “If you did not receive a rose, take a moment, say your goodbyes.” No one has the Harrison touch, but let’s face it: The replacement level for the role of announcing how many roses are remaining is fairly high. It’s hard for a reasonably polished TV veteran to be bad at this, and after years of seeing the same man go through these motions, it’s entertaining to watch a pretender put his spin on the job.

The Bachelor Australia’s Harrison stand-in is Osher Günsberg, who I thought was named Usher until I looked it up. (Accents are tricky.) Like Chris, Osher has held his position since the series began and pulls off the hosting trifecta, appearing on The Bachelorette Australia and Bachelor in Paradise Australia in addition to juggling other on-screen duties. Unlike Chris (we assume), he’s built a Bachelor-caliber physique of his own.

Although Osher is clearly covering Chris Harrison, he has his own signature style. He’s cheery enough when he hands out date cards and presides over group dates, but when the rose ceremony arrives, he switches to a solemn tone normally reserved for doctors who have to tell a patient’s relatives that their loved one didn’t survive the surgery.

Unlike the master who originated the role, Osher doesn’t step in to ratchet up the tension before the final rose, trusting the spectators to look at the screen and count. And after the final rose is awarded, he slightly tweaks the Harrison formula again, addressing the eliminated contestants by name and proclaiming, “I’m sorry, but you did not receive a rose.” No kidding, dude. This is why Chris makes the big bucks.

Different Strokes

Watching various versions of The Bachelor, one is struck by a feeling not unlike what Darwin must have felt as he observed slightly different forms of finch on each of the Galapagos Islands. Every international edition of the Bachelor shares a common ancestor, but over time, the descendants diverge, adapting to different cultural conditions or the preferences of their creative teams.

Some of these alterations are merely cosmetic: The Bachelor Australia’s date cards come in enormous red envelopes. Some are subtle, behind-the-scenes nudges toward a certain type of contestant, like The Bachelor Australia’s higher age minimums. Some are probably budget-driven: Although skydives and helicopters are common, there’s no international travel on The Bachelor Australia’s seventh season, which means much less sightseeing and gleeful flopping onto hotel beds. Others raise or lower the level of vulgarity or prurience. The Bachelor bleeps out swears or edits around them, but The Bachelor Australia lets contests curse up a storm. On the other hand, the latter lacks overnight dates, possibly because Australia’s first Bachelor set a precedent by declining to take all three remaining contestants to the fantasy suite when he had the chance.

Not all of these international innovations stick: In prior seasons, The Bachelor Australia featured a special white rose that granted its recipient two weeks of immunity, among other perks. Not so in Season 7. But there are at least five changes that might be worth importing, if only to mix things up:

1. At the first cocktail party, one woman gets a “golden ticket” instead of a first impression rose. The ticket grants her a one-on-one date to Matt’s hometown, sans the family meeting. Maybe it’s too big an edge early on—the first-impression rose already confers a substantial advantage—but it raises the stakes right away.

2. After the first episode, the producers bring in a group of eight “new girls” while the original contestants are away from the mansion. When the early arrivers return, they band together against the recent arrivals, igniting a bitter rivalry between the two camps.

3. It’s a small thing, but after each rose is distributed during the rose ceremony, the contestants reshuffle so that the ones with and without roses are clustered together. It’s easier to tell which ones are on the chopping block when they sort themselves out on the fly.

4. Instead of prominently placing the rose on the table during nighttime talks on one-on-one dates, Matt hides it somewhere out of sight, usually behind a cushion. Although it takes him an extra second to retrieve it at the end of the date, he gets to whip it out with a theatrical flourish. Not only does that look cool, but it also seems more considerate to keep the rose under cover until it’s time to make a decision.

5. One of the cocktail parties turns into a “live rose ceremony,” in which Matt hands out roses as he talks to contestants throughout the night, rather than waiting to bestow them all at the end. The pressure is palpable.

Local Color

You’re probably wondering whether Matt Agnew says “Crikey!” Allow me to end the suspense: Of course he says crikey.

To follow The Bachelor Australia’s lingo, you’ll need to know more than that. Here’s a quick glossary of the top 15 terms that you usually don’t hear on the ABC Bachelor.

Biff: Fight, brawl, as in, “Bring out the biff”
Sin bin: Penalty box
Tuck in: Eat
Pash: Tongue kiss
Snog: Same
Cheeky snoggy snog: Also same, but more Australian-sounding
Super-chuffed: Very pleased
Take the piss: To tease, mock
Bathers: Swimsuit
Bloody oath: “You bet” or “hear hear”
Struth almighty: “Goddamn” or “Jesus Christ”
Red-hot crack: Equivalent of “the old college try,” as in, “I gave it a red-hot crack”
Dog’s breakfast: Complete mess
Cheeser: Someone who likes cheese
Bricking it: Scared, nervous, shitting bricks, as in, “I am absolutely bricking it”

Speaking of local color: Matt is fond of floral shirts, but his true love—aside from science and whichever lucky lady wins his heart—is his vast assortment of multicolored formal outfits, most of which make him look like a 1960s Batman villain. America needs much more of this.

Relative Innocence

None of the international versions of The Bachelor is nearly as widely watched as the original, partly because none of them has the same history and partly because most of the spinoffs are playing in much smaller countries. Australia’s population is smaller than that of the state of Texas, and episodes of The Bachelor Australia average about 800,000 viewers, versus the several million the American Bachelor draws. The financial payoff of appearing on the show isn’t as big as it is for The Bachelor’s budding influencers, so it seems safer to assume that most contestants actually are more motivated by the prospect of finding a romantic match.

With only a few days to go before the finale, Matt has amassed about 78,000 Instagram followers. (On Twitter, where he recently treated his audience to an xkcd comic about exoplanets, he has only 800.) The one contestant on his season who gave the impression that she might be hungry for fame has hardly topped 40K. On The Bachelor Canada, sensitive and genuine jock Chris Leroux showed no interest in social media when he was on the show and deleted his Instagram account after his season. International Bachelor contestants aren’t joining a well-established Bachelor-industrial complex; they’re pioneers trying to settle new TV territory. As Matt says this season, “I’m only the seventh bloke to do this. More men have walked on the moon.”

The only downside of watching international Bachelor from elsewhere in the world is not getting to take part in water cooler conversations. At its best, The Bachelor is a communal experience, but from 10,000 miles away, it’s more like a lonely vigil. As non–Game of Thrones character Freya Stark once said, though, “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” Once you get your bearings, there are so many seasons to see.

And remember, this reality Rumspringa has to last only as long as the next break between Bachelors. If we can close with one more quote about travel, let’s listen to Lin Yutang: “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” When your tour of the TV world is over, the original Bachelor will be there, waiting with open arms. But take your time, ABC: Season 5 of The Bachelorette Australia starts next week.