Face-off: The Margaret River boys check out the 12 girls on When Love Comes To Town.There’s nothing quite as nauseating as a reality TV ”star” confessing post-show that now filming’s finished, they’re ready for their new career in commercial radio. Or TV. Or presenting.
For many, the premise of the show – be it cooking, renovating or supposedly finding love – is secondary to getting on screen long enough to get their real prize, a place in the spotlight.
Refreshingly, Nine’s new reality dating program, When Love Comes to Town, is having none of that.
Producers have gone to great lengths to cast both men and women genuinely on the hunt for someone special. Many of the crew behind Nine’s phenomenally successful Farmer Wants a Wife are involved, and this is something they take seriously. And so they should – that series has resulted in seven weddings and several babies so far.
And that’s the aim here, the producers assure.
”That was one of the things we were looking for – we really wanted the guys and girls to be genuinely looking for someone special,” says When Love Comes To Town producer Emily Griggs.
”We wanted real; girl next door, boy next door – that type of thing.”
The premise this time – 12 girls in a big black bus cruising across regional Australia on the hunt for love. They’ll arrive in town and meet two carefully selected single men, before choosing which one to go on a ”group date” with.
The eligible bachelors then select individual time with two of the ladies, and, if a connection is made, they invite one lucky gal to stay in town and see where things lead. The chosen one then has the choice to get off the bus, stay behind and continue dating, or roll into the next town as the hunt continues.
If comparisons must be made, it’s The Bachelor-meets-Farmer Wants a Wife. ”But I would never have done [a show like] The Bachelor,” 28-year-old contestant Tash Hunter, from Queensland, says over dinner when Fairfax Media visited the production.
”I feel like I’ve been unlucky in love, and I always want to try and start things that never eventuate. I live on the Gold Coast, and I feel like everyone wants something very momentary, but I’m a long-term kind of girl. That’s why I wanted to do the show.”
Without giving too much away, by the time we joined the love bus, halfway up the NSW coast, Cupid had punched his travel card several times along the way. Not only had love come to town, it had stayed for a beer, and was now well and truly moving in.
”We didn’t really know what to expect when filming began – but it’s been great,” series host Natalie Gruzlewski explains. ”We’re matching people up in areas where there’s a lack of women; where men outnumber the ladies 10 to one. We’re giving them the opportunity to meet the potential love of their life. And it’s working!”
”It’s been surprising how many times we’ve actually been able to see that connection straight away – it’s been almost instantaneous,” Griggs says. And even if love doesn’t come to town for some, it hardly seems to matter.
”We’re having an absolute ball – it really is the ultimate girls’ road trip,” Gruzlewski says. ”We’ve been surprised at the connections made along the way, and the early stages of relationships. It’s been really exciting.”
As it has been for the contestants, even if they haven’t (yet) found love.
”I had never travelled around Australia – especially nowhere rural. It’s been great,” says Hunter.
”For me, this is the best experience I’ve ever had. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so much fun,” says WA contestant Ainslie McLean.
”And we’ve got to do things we would never have done. The other day I went mustering sheep! And water-skiing!”
”You are competing a little bit, but not to the extent of a show, say, like The Bachelor,” she says.
”We have tried to shy away from the competitive thing,” Hunter adds. ”It’s inevitable when you get this many girls, and there’s only one guy. But I think we’ve tried to keep communication as good as possible and as amicable as possible.”
And should love find them along the way?
”As I said to my mum, ‘Worst-case scenario – people forget me as soon as the series is over’,” McLean says with a laugh. ”Best case? Woman’s Day will pay for my wedding!”
When Love Comes To Town, Tuesday, Nine, 8.30pm.
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