Jessica Callaghan, 30, was browsing Instagram when an ad offered her a boyfriend. “There is no substitute for true love!” she read “Find it today with Elan! ‘The Bushwick Bachelor!’”
Ms Callaghan, who works in public relations, spent nearly a decade searching for dates and relationships on Tinder and Hinge, but had never seen a potential love interest promote herself with a sponsored post on Instagram.
However, he thought the bearded, bespectacled man, Elan Ashendorf, 30, a self-proclaimed fan of bike rides and Lego bricks, was cute. He was a Staten Island native, like Ms. Callaghan, and lived in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, not far from his Williamsburg apartment.
The capture? If Mrs. Callaghan wanted a date with this handsome stranger, she would have to compete for him on camera.
She put aside her shyness and signed up as one of 10 contestants on “The Bushwick Bachelor,” a new self-funded ultra-local YouTube series. The show was created by a group of childhood friends who wanted to help their friend find a girlfriend.
The “Bushwick Bachelor” in question is Elan Ashendorf, 30, a software engineer who likes Pabst Blue Ribbon a lot and is a fan of Google Sheets (a topic he talks about on the first group date).
The series, which will release its second episode on May 13, chronicles Mr. Ashendorf’s semi-serious search for someone special. He plays on the familiar tropes of the “Bachelor” franchise, though its visual language of pop-up graphics and wacky cuts is more like the dating game shows of the early 2000s.
The series comes as the “Bachelor” franchise enters its 20th year. Popular spinoffs like “The Bachelorette” and even niche shows like “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart,” focused on the music industry, established some of the modern dating show template, with elaborately staged dates. and a lot of drama and roses.
Ms Callaghan said her reaction to the ABC series had always been: “I can’t believe people are doing that”, adding “so I did it myself”.
Mr. Ashendorf, whose romantic history has been dotted with what he calls “situations,” or relationships more casual than steady girlfriends, had been talking to friends about how he was ready to be in a committed relationship. His parents had begun to tell him: “’Find literally anyone and be happy with them’”.
About a year and a half ago, Ashley Lagzial, a friend from high school, was in her apartment talking about the latest episode of “The Bachelor.”
“I was browsing Tinder or Hinge, and someone said to me, ‘You should go on The Bachelor!'” he said.
She took it as a joke, but Mrs Lagzial, 30, and Gabby McGowan, 31, another high school friend, vowed to make it happen. They borrowed cameras from friends and took time from their day jobs in public relations and moonlight video editing as executive producers.
In the spring of 2021, “The Bushwick Bachelor” crew, a volunteer team of friends and friends of friends recruited by Ms. Lagzial and Ms. McGowan, covered street corners and bars with fliers featuring Mr. Ashendorf as “an engineer”. who lives alone and has his own bed frame”.
“Initially we thought no one would do it,” Lagzial said. “So when we get 40 to 50 responses, our jaws drop.” Requests came from near (Bushwick and the Ridgewood neighborhood in Queens) and far (sort of) (Crown Heights and downtown Brooklyn). There were tattoo artists and aspiring lawyers, people on the cusp of Generation Z and true millennials.
Maeve Norton, a 29-year-old illustrator who lives in Bushwick, found out about the casting through friends, who shared the flyer in a group chat.
Although Mr. Ashendorf wasn’t exactly her type (Ms. Norton said he usually gravitates toward “big, tall guys with tattoos”), he jumped at the chance to engage in a quirky in-person dating experience.
“It was a real, weird, authentic experience that’s not just living inside your phone,” he said.
Nine women ultimately signed on after the group was shortened by scheduling restrictions (contestants had to be available to film episodes during the summer of 2021) and stage fright (some applicants changed their minds after learning their dates, from fact, they would be filmed).
“At the end of the day, we didn’t say no to people,” Ms. Lagzial said. “Whoever wanted to show up, we had it on.” During the filming of the first episode, a tenth contestant joined after leaving a different date, wandering around the set, and signing a release form.
Produced last summer, the episodes were filmed during a group date at a brewery, a figure drawing session, and on the Staten Island Ferry, a nod to Mr. Ashendorf’s home district.
Throughout the show, a panel of Mr. Ashendorf’s friends weigh in on his chemistry with the contestants. The structure mimics “The Bachelor,” and the production team asked Mr. Ashendorf not to date anyone other than the contestants during the course of filming.
His friends said they noticed an impact on his personality. “Last summer we called it ‘Ego Elan,'” Lagzial said.
At the end of the first episode, half of the contestants are eliminated. (Mrs. Callaghan gained “immunity” by completing a Lego model of “Elan’s heart” and advanced automatically.)
The ABC series has faced criticism for a lack of diversity. “We actually ended up with a pretty diverse group of women,” Lagzial said. “We had a trans contestant, we had all different nationalities and religions.”
The premise of the ABC show also presents a long-term monogamous partnership as the ideal. But “The Bushwick Bachelor” places less emphasis on the prospect of a wedding.
“The ultimate goal was a meaningful and loving relationship, but I don’t think we put any pressure on what we hoped for,” Ms. Lagzial said.
Does Mr. Ashendorf find love?
“You’ll just have to keep watching,” said series host Adrianna Tricia King, adding, “I will say I’m very happy with the choice.”