People are still buzzing about the controversial conclusion to this season of The Bachelor, and this morning I hopped on a call with the show's executive producer and creator, Mike Fleiss, who took questions from reporters on how it all went down. Fleiss defended his decision to tape the heartbreaking postfinale episode — in which Jason dumped Melissa, to whom he'd previously proposed, and rekindled things with Molly — in the studio, saying that because Jason's feelings for Melissa involved another person from the "Bachelor universe," producers felt compelled to tell a complete story on air. "We are making a TV show," he said. "Not putting that moment on TV seemed strange."
One of the most interesting things Fleiss said was that he didn't believe Melissa was blindsided the night of that taping in terms of her relationship ending with Jason — "They were all but broken up prior to the show" — but she was shocked by Jason's feelings for Molly ("That's what caught her off guard"). That said, Fleiss said he didn't know why Melissa would walk on the stage wearing her engagement ring if she really thought things were over with Jason. He also said Molly had no idea that Jason was going to announce his feelings for her that night: She thought they were just doing the typical final show where previous contestants give the audience updates on how they're feeling and what they've been up to.
For more of Fleiss's take, including his response to a report that Jason was obligated to dump Melissa on TV,
- On angry viewers threatening to never watch the show again because of what happened to Melissa: Fleiss simply claimed that lots of people are also telling him it was the best moment on television they've seen in their life.
- On Jason's contractual obligation to go through with breaking up with Melissa on camera: Fleiss said Jason had plenty of access to Melissa between shooting the finale in New Zealand and its air date. He said there was no contractual obligation for Jason to return and do what he did — "none." Fleiss didn't go out of his way to defend Jason's actions but noted that he personally didn't see a difference between breaking up with Molly on TV in New Zealand and breaking up with Melissa on TV in Glendale.
- On Jason's turn as one of the most hated Bachelors in the show's history: Fleiss said Jason was so immensely popular going into the show due to his experience on The Bachelorette that relative to previous men he had the furthest to fall.
- Had all of this not happened, the producers wanted Molly to be the next Bachelorette: Fleiss said he tried hard to get Molly to be the next Bachelorette, but she felt she couldn't commit because of her lingering feelings for Jason. He even let her tell family and friends before the finale aired that Jason hadn't proposed to her (contestants are usually legally obligated to keep the secret) so she could talk the decision over with them. He said Molly was coming around to the idea — until everything else happened.
I asked Fleiss if, after spending time with Jason (who's now proposed to at least three women in his life), he really believed Jason and Molly have a shot. Fleiss said they looked as happy as can be at dinner last night and definitely have a timeline for Molly's move to Seattle.
Fleiss also said that they would have loved for Melissa to be the next Bachelorette but she said no (hmmm . . . I wonder why?). He thinks Jillian is a great choice, though, and called her a fan favorite who as a "Jennifer Aniston quality" about her.
Do Fleiss's answers make you feel more sympathetic toward Jason? Or is he still the worst Bachelor ever?
Photos copyright 2009 ABC, Inc.