The Hollywood Reporter Unveils 2013 Reality Heat List
This story first appeared in the April 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On a busy night in a West Hollywood restaurant, Sean Lowe, the recent star of The Bachelor, and his fiancee, Catherine Giudici, pause before digging into their dinners -- to pray.
It's an unexpected move for a man who spent weeks wooing, kissing and frolicking on tropical beaches with multiple women vying for his heart.
But Lowe was not a typical Bachelor star. The 29-year-old Texas business owner with the Southern charm and goofy sense of humor was chosen for season 17 after appearing on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette. "His abs didn't hurt," says executive producer Mike Fleiss. "But he won out because of his level of sincerity."
Underneath those washboard abs -- which helped earn him the label "The Shirtless Bachelor" -- is a devout Christian who chose to become celibate after college. And while Lowe has never used the term "born-again virgin" to describe himself, that's what the tabloids called him when they broke the story.
"Frankly, it's no one's business, and it's just a personal matter for me," he says of his no-sex life. But the news Lowe didn't want the world to know might have been exactly what skyrocketed the ABC series to ratings success. The Feb. 18 Bachelor episode not only hit a season high of 9.26 million viewers, it also marked the Bachelor series' highest nonfinale ratings in nearly two years.
"I think viewers responded to it as something different," says Fleiss. "We've never seen that before. Something new is always good for us."
The ratings ramp-up continued, with the March 11 finale raking in 10.3 million viewers and garnering a 3.5 rating with adults 18-to-49, a 14 percent spike from the previous season's finale. On average, Lowe's season nabbed 9.3 million viewers per episode, a 6.9 percent increase from season 16.
Things haven't always been so sunny for the series. "The show was basically canceled," says Fleiss of the franchise's ratings low point around 2008. But he made a significant change by recycling contestants from the previous seasons in order to cash in on the established fan base. Fleiss credits that strategy, along with the hiring of Martin Hilton as executive producer and showrunner, for bringing the series back to life.
"We approach it in a pure way without a lot of gimmicks and bullshit that some of the other copycat shows have tried to incorporate," he adds.
Lowe, who has parlayed his newfound fame into a gig on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, says he believes that people can find real love on the show despite the fact that only three couples from a total of 25 Bachelor/Bachelorette seasons have gone on to wed. "I think some of the fame might get to their heads, and I don't know how sincere they were going into it," Lowe says of the Bachelor stars that came before him. "All I can speak on is me, and I think it worked for me."