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For many reality television viewers, keeping up with The Bachelor and its numerous spin-offs can feel like a full-time job. But for one North Texas man it actually is.
Stephen Carbone is a Frisco-based blogger better known in pop culture circles as Reality Steve. A former sports radio broadcaster, Carbone unofficially started his career in reality TV in 2003, when he mocked the series Joe Millionaire in a weekly email to a couple of friends. That email grew into a widely distributed newsletter, which led to the advent of his blog, RealitySteve.com.
While Carbone began by sardonically recapping episodes of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, he built a reputation — and six-figure career — through publishing spoilers of shows. Most notably, Carbone published a tip that bachelor Jason Mesnick dumped fiancee Melissa Rycroft for his season's runner-up, Molly Malaney.
That's when people from all corners of the internet began sending Carbone information about the shows' contestants and happenings.
"I don't really do anything proactively," he says. "I go into every season not knowing where my information is going to come from, I just know I'm going to get it."
The stuff Carbone publishes should be taken with more than a grain of salt, too. Since he began spoiling in 2009, the 41-year-old has only been wrong about the winner once, during Desiree Hartsock's season of The Bachelorette.
Before your imagination runs wild, know Carbone isn't a Lex Luthor type, sitting behind his computer screen and smiling upon the reality wreckage caused by his spoilers. The writing is what gives Carbone his fix; the rest, he insists, serves a bigger purpose.
"I never post the spoilers in hopes that people won't watch the show. In fact it's probably the opposite," he says.
"It's just a different way to watch the show when you know because then you can see the editing, you can see how they're shaping people's characters, you can see certain story lines."
Another point, he argues, is the ending of the show doesn't really matter. On other programs, such as The Amazing Race and Survivor, incentives are monetary. On The Bachelor and The Bachelorette?
"The 'prize' is probably a failed relationship," Carbone says.
"If people watched this show for marriage and love, it would have been off the air years ago because the success rate sucks. To me, there is no prize at the end — it's more about the journey, the dates, the drama."
With the finale of the 12th edition of The Bachelorette, featuring our local lady JoJo Fletcher, nearing on Aug. 1, we caught up with Reality Steve to reflect on this season and peek behind the curtain of one of prime time's biggest hit series.
Oh, and we made picks for the winner and next Bachelor star. Read on at your own risk.
What does it mean to be first out of limo during a Bachelor or Bachelorette premiere?
As longtime fans of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette may recall, several contestants who appeared first out of the limo ended up winning. For example, Shawn Booth on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season and Lauren Bushnell on Ben Higgins' season.
Is that a fluke? Yes and no.
According to Carbone, whoever is first out of the limo on night one is someone the producers know will go far — "at least Top 4," he says.
So far in Fletcher's season, the theory checks out: Jordan Rodgers, brother of NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, was first to meet JoJo and is now in the Top 2. Another indication Rodgers would be a season front-runner: He had an intro video in the season premiere. ABC only films about eight of those, Carbone says.
What does the stereotypical season star look like?
"Usually white," Carbone says. "We've had 32 seasons and we've never had a minority lead."
This person chosen to be the next Bachelor or Bachelorette usually has a squeaky-clean image, too, which is why Carbone guarantees finalist Robby Hayes doesn't have shot. During the season, Hayes was questioned about a breakup with his most recent ex-girlfriend, whom he reportedly left to begin filming The Bachelorette. The fact ABC let that seep into the show was a red flag, Carbone says.
"Robby's got too much negativity surrounding him to be the [next] bachelor," he says.
If not Robby, then who?
Our guess: Luke Pell, the war veteran from Burnett, Texas.
Though he and JoJo seemed like a match made deep in the heart of Texas, Carbone notes they may have been too different at their cores. Pell's a country boy; Fletcher's more of a city girl. And their breakup was one of the most dramatic this season.
"Everything I'm hearing is Luke will be the next bachelor," Carbone says. "The fact he formerly served our country, Afghanistan, all-American boy — he's got the whole setup. It's just perfect."
And the happily ever after goes to ...
Jordan Rodgers, which is hardly a shocker.
Rodgers garnered the first-impression rose during the Bachelorette season premiere and has been leading the pack ever since.
"JoJo is more of a, I don't want to call her a Dallas socialite, but I think she's tapped into the Dallas nightlife scene here and I know she has friends that are athletes on professional teams out here," Carbone says. "Luke wasn't for her. Jordan — former athlete, younger brother of Aaron Rodgers — seems way more up her alley."
Tune into The Bachelorette season finale on Monday, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. on ABC.