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Irish Bachelorette’ goes off without a hitch

Meghan Thomassen | Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What does it take to be the Irish Bachelorette?

According to senior Matthew McCurdy, executive producer of NDtv’s new show, she needed to be, drumroll please: a conversationalist. 

Yes, folks, believe it or not, the producers selected Kirsten Fernandez as the leading lady based on her ability to drive through awkward social situations and create some good dialogue

“We also wanted them to be pretty,” McCurdy said. “Looks were important.”

Added to the strange animal that is Notre Dating plagued by the “ring by spring” mentality, Irish Bachelorette is bound to be one heck of an uncomfortable ride. 

Fernandez, a junior in Badin, had less than two weeks to get to know 11 Notre Dame bachelors, who were selected based on their energy, quirks and the variety of personalities they offered to the show. Social skills and an open mind were must-haves if this show was going to be a success.

Senior Jeff Gerlomes, the show’s host and director of Special Programming at NDtv, said he was able to channel his inner Chris Harrison because his mother and sister watch “The Bachelorette” on ABC “religiously.”

“I was able to follow the lovely drama of Des and Brooks this summer, so I’ve gotten to know the convention of how they run things, the fan culture, the format,” Gerlomes said. 

Gerlomes said he tried to be Fernandez’s ally throughout the dating process.

“Harrison really advocates for that character [on The Bachelorette], and [Kirsten and I] got to be fairly friendly by the end of the show,” Gerlomes said.

McCurdy said the skilled production crew of about 15 members didn’t give Fernandez or the bachelors any direction during the hectic filming period. 

“We showed them we were serious,” McCurdy said. “It was a full weekend of filming, and everything fell into place. The first impressions were genuine – none of the guys knew her beforehand. Seeing the guys go down the stairs and see her for the first time, that was really special for me after two months of work.”

Divided into six episodes, McCurdy said the team tried to recreate “The Bachelorette” with as many Notre Dame elements as possible. For example, Fernandez gave out shamrock hats instead of roses and will only expect a dating relationship out of her final selection, instead of an evening in the fantasy suite and a marriage proposal. 

McCurdy said the approximately $800 production was filmed over two weekends between Oct. 3 and Oct. 13 and the team only encountered a few weather-related snafus while they filmed.

Creator and producer Caitlin Crommett said the team brainstormed cute date ideas that would be specific to Notre Dame. Crommett, a junior, said she was friends with Fernandez before the show and thinks the bachelorette benefited from the dating process.

“She was coming out of a long-term, long-distance relationship, so now she has a good idea of what dating is like on campus,” she said.

Crommett said most of the students who auditioned to be on the show “wanted to have fun and meet new people.” No one had any reservations by the time they got to the audition room in Alumni Hall.

Junior Mike from Duncan was the favorite at creator and producer Caitlin Crommett’s viewing in Walsh Hall on the night of the premiere, but unluckily for Mike, Fernandez decided to send him home. 

“Everything went without a hitch, which was surprising because we thought it would be treated like a joke,” Crommett said. “But all the guys were serious about it, she was serious about it. It was weirdly perfect.”

McCurdy said the production team came up with the idea for the show during the SAO-sponsored media retreat the weekend before school started this year.

“We were all sitting around a campfire, brainstorming different spoofs on current TV shows,” McCurdy said. “We started getting serious about Irish Bachelorette, and by the end of the weekend, it was the talk of the retreat. Everyone was sold, so we had to follow up.

“No one has watched NDtv before, and now people are talking about it.”

When asked about the possibility of “The Irish Bachelor,” McCurdy said it was “too early to tell.”

“‘The Irish Bachelor’ has been discussed and is in the planning process,” he said. “We’ll see how the season progresses.”