If you followed social media rumblings on Thursday night, there was an unmistakable sense the mob had started to turn on The Bachelorette Australia.
Far from the glory days of 2015 when Bachelorette Sam Frost pulled million-plus ratings, this time around punters stewed in their living rooms and disavowed the franchise altogether.
Watching the series had been a waste of time, they said. Bachelorette Georgia Love chose the wrong bloke. They were never going to watch an episode again. Ratings fell off a cliff.
Last year’s Bachelorette Australia finale averaged 1.24 million viewers in the capital cities. On Thursday, that number dropped to just 738,000. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that’s a drop of nearly 50 per cent.
The winner announced ratings peak of 972,000 in the cities was also down from 1.5 million last year.
In just three years, Channel Ten has somehow managed to badly burn the strong fan base it built after introducing The Bachelor Australia in 2013 – a franchise which instantly became the network’s golden goose.
What on Earth happened?
Both shows this year were severely marred by poor casting choices. Bachelor Richie Strahan was nothing short of a disaster. Stiff, wooden and totally void of charisma, the chiselled blonde became the show’s punchline instead of its leading man.
Bachelorette Georgia Love also lacked the emotional back story to hook viewers. She quit her job as a television reporter to find her “forever person” but that wasn’t enough. Ratings for this season of The Bachelorette Australia were down on average by around 200,000.
Both Richie and Georgia also ended up with contestants fans really didn’t like.
Richie sparked a nationwide diatribe last month when he declared his love for single mother Alex Nation, who had been viewed all season as clingy and emotionally unstable. The pair were subject to days of social media abuse.
Georgia also didn’t win any love on Thursday night when she chose handsome plumber Lee Elliot, who was written-off by her own sister as a disingenuous smooth talker.
But it was Channel Ten and production company Warner Bros. who made matters worse by building both seasons around the classic bait-and-switch trick.
On The Bachelor, all signs pointed to runner-up Nikki. She and Strahan hailed from the wider Perth area, they had friends in common and she was a hit with his mother.
So you can imagine how sideswiped fans felt when he ditched Nikki and went for a 24-year-old single mother who lived on the other side of the country with her young son.
And while Lee was the favourite heading into this finale, that didn’t make him any more likeable. On Twitter, fans wrote him off as a boring, georgraphically-convenient beefcake.
Last year, viewers wanted Sam Frost to choose Sasha Mielczarek. They wanted Sam Wood to end up with whip-smart single mother, Snezana Markoski, who is now his fiancee.
Buzzfeed editor Jenna Guillaume summed it up best when she said fans wanted to see the culmination of a relationship they were invested in rather than having a shock ending.
And if Channel Ten were hoping fans would quickly forget about the last betrayal, they were wrong.
During Thursday’s finale, it was clear fans still weren’t over The Bachelor ending. They said they’d been “Nikki’d again”.
They had caught on to the fact Channel Ten was deliberately editing the runner-up to look like the winner, and they were furious.
So where do we possibly go from here?
On Friday morning, the network was still boasting what a success the show had been, announcing The Bachelorette would return in 2017.
“The recipe of love, drama, excitement, romance and amazing dates has struck a chord with many people and made The Bachelorette Australia one of the most talked about shows on television and a hit across multiple screens,” chief content officer Beverley McGarvey said in a statement.
Maybe she hadn’t checked what fans were saying on Twitter?
Channel Ten has proved in the past they can bring shows back from the brink. MasterChef Australia ratings went in free fall after a series of spin-offs which were soon axed.
But producers are going to have to work very hard to find two genuinely interesting and likeable people to be the Bachelor and Bachelorette in 2017.
If Richie Strahran proved anything, it’s that casting a popular wash-up from the previous season can have disastrous results.
The network also needs to quit the bait-and-switch editing in order to win back fans’ trust. The Bachelor Australia franchise boasts some of the most devoted fans in the country. If you keep tricking them, they will turn on you, as seen on Thursday.
Leaving just one week between The Bachelor and The Bachelorette also meant angry and disenfranchised fans weren’t willing to embrace Georgia Love’s season.
Here’s hoping Channel Ten can convince heartbroken Bachelor viewers to believe in love again.