1:19pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelor' Finale: The Webers Didn't Get the Ending They Wanted, ABC Reality Chief Says
When the time is right, the Bachelor team will check in with Peter Weber and Madison Prewett, ABC's reality chief Rob Mills tells The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. For anyone who tuned into Tuesday's explosive live finale, it's easy to see why the pair would need to take a beat.
After promising an ending that no one would be able to spoil, Weber's two-night finale indeed played out like a rollercoaster of a relationship saga. In short, Weber's frontrunner, Prewett, left the show and Weber proposed to Hannah Ann Sluss when she was the only remaining contestant. Sluss accepted, only to have Weber break off their engagement one month later. Prewett, realizing her unfinished feelings for Weber, then surprised the Bachelor star in Los Angeles three weeks ago and the pair reunited again during Tuesday's live show to tell the world that they are in love. But they stopped short of clarifying any sort of relationship status, leaving franchise viewers with the third consecutive cycle to not end with an engagement.
But the biggest bombshell came when Weber, on live television, tried to convince his disapproving parents, Barbara and Peter, that Prewett is the right woman for him. The Weber family drama unfolded live and ended worse than things began, with Weber telling his vocal mother, Barbara, "I'm telling you that I love Madison and that should be enough." For Barbara, that wasn't enough, and the Weber family near-blowup went viral on social media and among Bachelor Nation.
In a decision that Mills says was made weeks ago, Tuesday's fireworks will be the last viewers will hear from Weber, for now. The star skipped the usual press rounds, including ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Good Morning America — and the reasoning is due to his and Prewett's rocky status. (Weber, it should be noted, currently lives with his family.)
"Peter and Madison are trying to figure their way out and what’s next for them, and I think that answering a million questions right now when they haven’t had the time to ask those questions of themselves would have been really difficult and kind of a gauntlet," says Mills.
Below, ABC's reality boss goes inside the high-rated conclusion to Weber's season to talk everything from spoilers to "Barb" being a breakout star (or villain?), and looks ahead to a refreshingly "different" season of The Bachelorette with star Clare Crawley.
In mid-December, Peter Weber was telling the press that his season couldn’t be spoiled. In the timeline of events, we now know that he was still with fiancée Hannah Ann Sluss. Why was he so confident about a spoiler-free ending at that point?
I have to tell you, I really don’t know. I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. I remember seeing him New Year’s Eve and he said the same thing. It was important to him that the audience sort of go on the journey with him. He definitely did not want it to be spoiled and I think that probably was his inner circle — it’s actually fairly easy [to keep it quiet] if you just keep it to people that are going to keep their mouth shut. That was probably more what it was, that it really meant a lot to him and Hannah Ann at that point to not really say anything.
Why do you think the pretaped finale was also kept so under wraps?
There definitely were a lot of things that happened, like Madison [Prewett] leaving the show. There were some curveballs that made it easier to make it look like certain things happened, certainly in teasing the finale in our super-tease and things like that. But it was really just about everybody really not saying anything.
Were you happy that this season wasn’t spoiled? Tuesday's finale nabbed the franchise's biggest audience for a Bachelor episode since 2016.
I absolutely think it’s great for the ending not to be spoiled because it led to a lot more people discussing, “What do you think is going to happen?” As opposed to, “Well, here’s what I heard happens.” It’s much better to be able to write a piece where there are five possible scenarios, as opposed to hearing one thing that happens.
Will you use Weber as an example moving forward: “Don’t tell a lot of people”?
We do that all the time. And I think some people take it really seriously. I remember way back — this was back before spoilers were really a thing — I don’t even think [first Bachelorette] Trista [Sutter] told her own family until it aired. It’s just how serious you want to take it. It did mean a lot to Peter and it was great, and it’s absolutely something moving forward that we would tell people: "See how much better it is when everybody is watching along with you and not saying they know what happened?"
Onto the After the Finale Rose drama... at what point did you know you had a star on your hands with Peter’s mother, Barbara “Barb” Weber?
You can go back to last season with Hannah Brown and, certainly, her cheering and applauding her son’s prowess in the windmill (laughs) was a great moment. The parents are always great. Most of them are stars in their own right. I remember JoJo [Fletcher]’s mom chugging wine out of a bottle. But, as you saw in the clips of her with the whole “Bring her home” moment, Barbara is very emotional. Peter and Madison hadn’t seen each other until up until a few weeks ago and hearing that Barbara really wasn’t pleased about that was when we realized this was an issue. And it’s a real issue that everyone deals with. Because when you’re entering into a relationship, certainly when you’re thinking about marriage, family is a big part. You are marrying into that family. At that point, we knew this was an angle that we really needed to play up. We knew Barbara was going to be great.
Weber is very close with his mother — the 28-year-old pilot even still lives under her roof. He must have known how she felt, yet even he seemed to be caught off-guard during the live show at how far she took things when it came to her protests over Prewett. What were the discussions going into the live show with the Weber family about what they were going to air out?
It was pretty much like, "Let’s see what happens." You don’t want to overproduce it or anything. You want it to play pretty real in the moment and that was what it was. There were definitely indications that Barbara was not happy, and I think not happy about a lot of things. I think right now, it didn’t end the way any of them thought or maybe wanted. There was upset at the show, at Peter, at Madison. I think the only one unscathed was Hannah Ann.
Did Barbara know that she had a camera on her nearly the whole time for After the Final Rose?
You can’t miss seeing that there’s a camera right there in front of you. You certainly know you are on camera. Do I think she knew there was a “Barb cam” where viewers saw the picture-in-picture? Probably not. But, I met her and she’s a nice and good person. And I think that her emotions would have been real regardless of whether the camera was there. You saw her at the end of the show with [Bachelorette] Clare [Crawley] wishing her well and hugging her. I don’t think that her reactions would have been any different had she known there was a camera cutting to her.
Barbara revealed her behind-the-scenes reason for not initially liking Prewett, when she said that Prewett made the family wait for three hours to meet her. Why not include that drama in the show?
The real story was about — can Peter and Madison overcome this obstacle that they had? Which had to do with the Fantasy Suites. And Madison’s choices and Peter’s choices. [Prewett, due to her faith, is saving herself for marriage and gave Weber a sex ultimatum.] You are kind of going into a convoluted are there where it’s like, “Well, she kept us waiting for three hours.” We don’t have a ton of time, so you have to get as much of the spirit of what happened as possible. And you certainly understood that it was not the best family visit. I think you can overcome, “we were waiting.” I think that was sort of an entrée. I think their lives are very different and I think she’s not going to bend maybe as much as Hannah Ann would, so [Barb] preferred Hannah Ann to her. It was much more concise to have Barb say, “We waited three hours and had been jet-lagged and I felt that she should have been more apologetic about it.” I don’t think we really needed to show that.
How would you describe the vibe between Weber and his parents after the show?
I think it was hard. The contract you sign is to have this play out in front of cameras. That’s sort of what it is. But it was hard. You’re watching the family go through a problem that is not unique to them. This is a problem that many families go through, so I’m sure there is some discord there. They are really close and I hope they can work through it.
For the first time I can recall, Weber will not be making the post-finale press rounds. Does that stem from what’s going on with his family?
This decision was made weeks ago. I think Peter and Madison are trying to figure their way out and what’s next for them, and I think that answering a million questions right now when they haven’t had the time to ask those questions of themselves would have been really difficult and kind of a gauntlet. It had nothing to do with the family.
If they have no answers, they can’t really do interviews.
Yeah. And you go to one thing and you are asked that question, and then another and another. I’m sure that they’ll speak out when the time is right.
Viewers missed a lot in the weeks and months after Australia. On proposal day, Sluss debated leaving but then changed her mind. Weber also spoke to the producers when he was upset. How much do the producers intervene there to make the proposal happen?
This was a really long journey for everyone, as you saw. There were obstacles for everyone involved at every turn. So I think it was just exhaustion. You are sort of in the last mile of a marathon. At this point, for the producers, there’s nothing you can do. It’s the end and everyone’s mind is sort of made up. Hannah Ann is thinking, “Am I going to accept a proposal? Can I do that? Has this just been too much?” You can be there to talk it out, but I don’t think you are really pushing things one way or the other.
And, as the last few cycles have shown, a proposal isn’t even so necessary.
Well, there you go. Although I saw so many people last night saying that they missed the old days, where the foot stepped out of the limo and you didn’t know whose foot it was. It seems like we haven’t had that in years!
Here’s to hoping with Clare Crawley!
To finish up with Weber and Prewett… they didn’t clarify their relationship status, because it sounds like they don’t really know themselves. But given that Weber lives with his family, it seems like an uphill battle ahead. What are your hopes for them?
Certainly, you hope that it works out for them and that all of this is worth it. But the one thing that we’ve learned with the franchise is to never underestimate. You think, “Oh, there’s no way in hell this is going to work.” And, against all odds, it does work out. I think people were probably skeptical about [fellow flip-flop couples] Arie and Lauren [Lyndeck] or Jason and Molly [Mesnick]. If the feelings are there and they can overcome this stuff, then you can probably overcome anything. And you find that this type of stuff does bond you together, too. I think the statement Peter made, that “I love her and that should be enough,” that was certainly pretty profound.
How do you feel about the social media criticism aimed at Barbara today?
It’s much easier to say something snarky. Some of it is all in good fun, and I get that. Because part of the show is meant to be fun for all of us who watch it. When it’s just mean for mean’s sake, that’s difficult. I also think there’s an unspoken group that sides with Barb. There’s probably a lot of mothers who agree and think, “You don’t understand, you’re not a mother. I just want what’s best for my son and I truly believe this isn’t what it is.” I’m not saying she’s right, but there are certainly probably some people who thought that what she said isn’t incorrect.
Any plans to bring her back to Bachelor Nation? Like, Barbara the Bartender in Bachelor in Paradise?
A lot of people like that! I’ve also seen a lot of people asking if she’d be on Dancing With the Stars. If Barb is interested in something, we’d always sit down with her. And she’s local!
Prewett, on the other hand, seems to have people on her side, even though she did blindside Weber with her sex ultimatum late in the journey. How do you feel about what she did, given how sex-positive Weber has been?
“Blindsided” feels like it’s deliberate. I don’t think it was that. I think it’s just something where you are looking for the right time to talk about something and all of a sudden, you blink and it’s time to talk about physical intimacy. She knew she had to talk about it before Fantasy Suites. It just was hard. Should it have been at their first date? I don’t know. Who knows at that point if it’s going to go farther than that, and I think this was something that was very personal to her.
Because of all the ATFR drama, we only got a brief moment with new Bachelorette Clare Crawley. Why did you break tradition to go with Crawley, instead of someone from Weber’s season, and why is she a good pick?
We met with several people, including several from Pete’s season and several people from previous seasons. Clare was the last person we met. We think back to her engagement to Benoit [Beausejour-Savard] in Bachelor Winter Games. People really root for Clare and really want her to find love, so we thought, "Let’s catch up with her and see." It was a real long-shot and then she came in and was just wonderful. You left there and you couldn’t help but say, “We’ve got to give her a shot.” It was really just that and felt really, really good. This is her time and she’s ready. That’s what it came down to. The reaction has been unanimously positive. I think people really like her and she feels like something we haven’t seen in a while, where it’s somebody a little older who knows what she wants. I think it’s going to give us a really exciting season and feel different from the past few seasons.
The early list of her contestants went live Wednesday on Facebook. Only a couple of the men are her age or older (Crawley, at 38, is the oldest-ever Bachelorette). There is a 42-year-old — is that the oldest contestant to be on the show?
That’s probably not the oldest contestant. Certainly when we had 2014's Byron Velvick, who was an older bachelor, we’ve had a little bit older. But it certainly is up there.
Was it difficult to cast age-appropriate men?
Yes. Most of the submissions were based on what they thought and they thought probably the Bachelorette would be coming from Weber's season. That’s why we announced Clare kind of early and we met with her earlier. So we did get some men there. But Clare has also gone on the record to say she dates younger men. All the men are going in with their eyes wide open. They know who it is and they’re all excited. So, I think it’s going to be good.
Would you be open to casting older men if you still got submissions?
Well, we’re starting in a couple days, unfortunately. Otherwise yes, we would.
Did you approach Sluss or Prewett in the time after they ended their relationships with Weber about being the Bachelorette?
We knew fairly early on that there were still feelings on both sides between Peter and Madison and then I think with Hannah Ann, it was just too soon. Hannah Ann displayed such a strength, not that that means she can’t be the Bachelorette. But some of those words would have felt weird if it was like, “Ok, now I’m ready to go and meet these five guys.” We did do that with Becca [Kufrin], though I think Becca and Arie broke up a little bit earlier. This was probably just too soon. But as we saw with Clare and with other people too, this doesn’t mean this is your one shot with Bachelorette. Also, Clare just felt too good to pass up.
Viewers are really rallying behind Sluss. Will you invite her back to one of the franchise's summer shows?
She would have to be ready and want to do it, but of course. Really, most of the cast is always welcome when they are ready. I’m sure she’ll talk to producers and if it’s the right decision for her, hopefully we’ll see her this summer.
The coronavirus, which was declared a pandemic on Wednesday, is impacting live TV shows and TV productions as we speak. (The ATFR audience was asked to disclose their recent travel.) What about production on The Bachelorette — it’s now domestic travel only, but are there concerns about dates in public locations and/or Crawley kissing multiple people given the outbreak?
Everyone is being vigilant. The season is still going to be a traditional Bachelorette season. They are going to travel. It will be domestic. Right now, literally every hour you are getting the updates and watching and everyone will be nimble based on that.
At what point do you begin talks of how this could impact summer programming, like Bachelor in Paradise season seven or plans for a Bachelor Summer Games?
Obviously, it’s all being talked about because you have to see how this impacts everything. But it’s still too far to make decisions on anything. We had to wrap up Bachelor, we’re in post on The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart, and then we start up Bachelorette this week. So it’s sort of crazy. It’s looking just towards tomorrow. The summer stuff is a little farther out and in early days really.
You could always seclude them in a house.
There you go, exactly. [Warner Bros., the studio behind the ABC franchise, has said in its statement: "As the health and safety of our talent and employees are always our primary concerns, production travel is being evaluated on a case-by-case basis, factoring in the latest information from a variety of organizations, including the CDC, WHO, U.S. State Department and in-territory local health agencies.”]
How do you expect Listen to Your Heart to fit in with the franchise?
It was a different way to do a Bachelor show. You look at these shows that people have been riveted to and some of the biggest ones have been American Idol and Bachelor. Everyone wants to be a star and everyone wants to be in love. I think it will be interesting to see how this plays and to see if it can appeal to both audiences. It will air right off the back of Idol, so it will be promoted there. Will we get some new viewers who are Idol viewers? Are Bachelor Nation viewers interested in watching this? It will be interesting.
What about coronavirus impacting other ABC reality shows?
You just take everything day by day and you want to be cautious and just be well-informed. I think that’s really all we can do right now.
To wrap up, why do you think Weber’s season was so well-received, and does this set a new bar for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette?
I think everybody has their own bar. As to why I think it was so highly rated, it was coming off a season that everyone was really invested in, so people really knew and were excited for Pete. Everybody has been in love, but everybody has been in love differently. He did it his own way and it definitely was interesting! I think that’s what it was, and I think Clare will be the same way.
Would you do a filmed catch-up with Weber and Prewett if they were open to it?
Of course. It’s not like they’re going to go off and no one is going to talk to them again. They’ll talk to us and they’ll talk to the producers and, absolutely. When the time is right, we will definitely have a catch-up with everyone involved.