Don’t go rushing to Twitter. Chris Harrison, the host and producer of ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette isn’t actually dead, but my familial love for the man who rules that garbage pile of a franchise is rotting away in a shallow grave.
The Bachelor has always been the TV equivalent of candy and chips, nothing but empty calories, but at least it used to be fun. It was a guilty pleasure that went all the way with both the guilt and the pleasure. A shallow, sex and booze filled romp that was definitely sexist and definitely racist, but if you squinted and looked at it just the right way, you could forget about all the non-white contestants getting booted off after the first three episodes and you could ignore the Stepford-esque parade of blond and blue-eyed Laurens. After all, who doesn’t like sugar? Your dentist might be upset and you teeth might rot, but if it tastes good enough you’ll forget about that blackened tooth.
Harrison (the Willy Wonka of our sex infused chocolate factory) was an audience surrogate, a wise guide and a game master all in one well dressed and inoffensive package. He wasn’t afraid to ask the tough (drama inducing) questions and he wasn’t one to back down when a contestant (or a Bachelor / Bachelorette) got a little too unruly. He could be a voice of reason, calming down a crying loser, or an instigator who brought up old wounds. At the end of the day, he was the glue that held the mansion together. He was our Reality TV Dad. He made the rules and he set the tone. Bachelors and Bachelorettes will come and go, but Harrison (and Neil Lane, The Bachelor’s in house diamond purveyor) are forever.
For a long time the franchise flew under the radar. They didn’t have to get better. They didn’t have to try harder. They could continue flaunting their sexism and racism without a care in the world. Bachelor Nation was strong and only getting stronger. The Bachelor was operating less and less like a TV show and more like an ancient deity that demanded sacrifices. As long as there was a willing Bachelor and a solid group of participants, nothing else mattered but soaking up that delicious drama. Harrison and company made the mistake of assuming that would last forever. They failed to evolve.
Now they’re dying.
Rachel’s season was really the final nail in the coffin. The fact that The Bachelor so brazenly cast a racist contestant to “date” the first African American Bachelorette was beyond revolting, but it wasn’t surprising. The Bachelor isn’t focused on making a fun show anymore, they’re focused on making the most dramatic show. The show that will cause more retweets, likes and Facebook arguments than any other show. In that way, I guess they’re succeeding. I’m writing a hot take and so are hundreds of other publications. I’ve accepted it. It’s why I didn’t watch a lick of this most recent season, until last night, when I caught the finale at a friend’s house. I wasn’t shocked by Arie’s dirtbag tendencies or Becca and Lauren’s submissiveness. All of that is par for the course, but I was shocked by Reality TV Dad Chris Harrison. He was boring at best and awkward at worst. He did a poor job at leading interviews and inciting interesting reactions. He doesn’t have the same easy charisma. He looks like he’s lost control of the beast.
RIP Chris Harrison, Reality TV Dad. You’re on the one on one in the sky now.