Dom Bowden: 'Bachelor is the biggest format on the planet'
The Bachelor NZ's new host is someone you've seen before. In fact, Dominic Bowden is a verified Kiwi reality TV veteran.
The former Dancing With The Stars, X-Factor NZ and NZ Idol frontman secured the hosting role for 2017's season three, edging out former host and "good mate" Mike Puru.
Bowden - who only arrived back in the country from Los Angeles on Friday - winces, then takes a minute to consider whether or not snagging his good mate's job was at all "awkward".
"No, no it wasn't, but I'm a bit out of the loop," Bowden says, before taking a tidy bite of his Acai berry breakfast bowl.
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He's pretty LA these days. In between filming E!'s entertainment offering The Hype and juggling a handful of hosting gigs, one might argue that Bowden was a safe bet for MediaWorks.
Season two Bachelor winner Fleur Verhoeven was dumped by Jordan Mauger 78 hours after the finale episode aired around the country.
"[US host] Chris Harrison, who I know, actually called me from Finland, of all places, to welcome me to The Bachelor family," Bowden says.
He describes himself as the "lowly host" of the show and admits that he doesn't have much clout when it comes to hand-picking season three's next leading man. But Bowden does admit "they're very close" to landing the next guy.
"We need to be careful," he says. "We are being very diligent to make sure that people are not there for the wrong reasons: to get Instagram followers or become, quote-unquote, 'famous'. Because that's not what this is about, if we wanted to create a TV show with high drama, then that's the way we would do it," he says.
"We would create cast characters and have a bachelor with a hidden secret past, but that's not what this show is about.
"This show and the reason why it works, I was able to sit down with the American guys and say 'what is it?' And they told me, 'it is simple'. You are putting people together that have maybe been in love, but are genuinely at a point - almost to exhaustion - so many people can relate to that."
Bowden believes the show's relatability is the very reason why the American version has survived a staggering 20 seasons in a television climate polluted with trash TV.
"People ask themselves, 'why am I getting put with these dogs or these crazy girls?' Whatever it is. 'How can I find someone?' it's almost the last resort. As opposed to [contestants] thinking 'this is going to be great, I'm going to be famous, I'll go to club openings,'" he says.
"We do the best vetting we can, that's the focus - finding people that want [love]. If we find people that are disingenuous or unauthentic, I think the viewer can smell that."
As for the waft still floating around from last season's epic train-wreck, Bowden says he can't really comment on that, simply because he "wasn't there".
"If we try and think we can change this incredible wheel, that's not broken. It goes wrong," he says. "We know what that looks like and we want it to go right."
Bowden describes the show's tried and true formula - 20 something single females battling it out to win the heart of one Kiwi bloke - as "very modern".
He dismisses the idea that TV3 should have really taken a punt on The Bachelorette, this time around. The drama, he says, comes exclusively from the girls. Many of whom will "sniff out the alpha" and start acting crazy, all by themselves.
"Where the drama comes from, is the girls, it's them... being them," he says. "The Bachelor is just trying to meet someone. Obviously, going into it for the right reasons, giving everyone a chance."
"Look, it's an age old thing, girls fighting over a man, thinking they're more perfect than someone else. No, I wouldn't change a thing. Who am I? The guy that stands to the right and hands out roses. This is arguably the biggest format on the planet."
"I'm a huge fan of the format," he adds. "I've been watching the show ever since I moved to America. It's a dream come true."
Bowden believes the talent pool this time around is positively brimming with hopeful singles from around the country.
"I think you'd be surprised by the girls who've been applying," he says.
"It's more about the girls that we select. That's very important, we want to really do a deep dive and ask all the right questions and find the people that are here, to make a connection. As far as the format goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's a juggernaut, it's the biggest show in New Zealand."
Bowden holds the show in very high regard. He speaks about it almost exclusively in superlatives.
"The finale of the last one, was watched by over ... 1 million people," he guesses. "That doubles other non-scripted shows. It's huge, it's like an All Black game level. There's a real interest in this show."
The show's success, Bowden believes, is a credit to "the dream factor" and level of "escapism" it offers. When asked about those who are sincerely tuning in to 'hate watch' or unleash their inner 'mean girl' on the Twitterverse, the newly anointed host says that comes with the territory.
"There's so many things that go into the show, but everything is down to the people you put in it," he says. "If you don't get that right, it doesn't matter where you find them, you need a great guy and a great girl. Maybe things are going to be revealed throughout the season, maybe the girls aren't going to get on with each other? That's human nature."
Midway through his green smoothie, Bowden addresses the sacking of good mate Puru.
The presenter admits he hasn't actually seen the lengthy interview Puru did with The Spinoff, where the former host revealed he was unceremoniously booted out of a job. He hasn't actually spoken to him about it at all.
Bowden is just happy he got the gig.
"Look, Mike is a great mate. I'm a huge fan and friend of his. I think he's a great broadcaster. For me, I'm a certain style of presenter and I'm excited to do my best.
"I think that I was offered this incredible opportunity ... it's a work thing. I had to come back from America to be involved in it, it's a new-look Bachelor. It's the root of what the show this. It is the most fun show on television, people love to talk about it, people are obsessed with this show."
Bowden realises the new gig will involve a lot more than just picking up where Puru left off. The Bachelor NZ suffered an almighty blow last season, with many TV viewers questioning the show's credibility from the outset, when producers cast Mauger - a TV actor - in the lead role.
"There were valuable lessons learned," Bowden scoffs. "We want to make sure that we find someone that's... really there for the right reasons. Again, I am merely the lowly host, I'm not involved in those high level conversations about who they're going to pick.
"They're very aware, [about] all of the concerns that you have. Maybe there was that feeling, that [bad] taste in the mouth. Everyone's aware of that, we take that really seriously."
To land the job, the host must farewell his sunny LA lifestyle, for the next few months at least.
Bowden welcomes the idea of coming home and adds that recently, the states have been anything but settling.
"You know, people around the E! office were actually high-fiving, when Trump won. And I thought to myself, 'are you crazy?' What about [everything Trump has said and done] even the little things, [like] woman's rights and the rest. That's America for you, I remember talking to a friend a few months back [before the US election] and I said, 'Trump's going to win.'"
In a nutshell, Bowden is just happy to be back on home soil.
He says he hopes that shy Kiwi girls around the country, will feel compelled to apply to the new-look, revived Bachelor NZ, with him at the helm.
"Maybe they don't want to put themselves out there? Whatever it is, I guarantee they'll look back at this experience and say 'wow, I'm so glad I did that, I have no regrets.'"
The Bachelor NZ , season 3, will launch in early 2017.