While we're all workshopping The Bachelor and its masochistic format, let's chat about Chris Harrison, the franchise's host. Harrison has been the host of The Bachelor since 2002, when the show premiered. He does, erm, not that much. During the season, Harrison does a lot of gesticulating.
"Ladies, the final rose," he says, waving his hand in the direction of the rose. He sometimes pulls the lead aside for a discussion about the future. He ostensibly dispenses advice to the lead as they see fit. For Arie Luyendyk, Jr., Harrison was the wise oracle who helped him make a decision re: breaking up with Becca Kufrin. Then, on After the Final Rose, Harrison was the awkward shepherd who asked questions like, "Becca, what would you like to say or ask Arie?" He seemed concerned during the episode that he was getting "backlash" for Luyendyk's decision to break up with Kufrin. (He certainly is, but the 'lash towards Luyendyk is much worse.) Later, he announced Kufrin as the next Bachelorette, and asked that Kufrin's castmates join her onstage. When it comes to the live shows, Harrison is an on-stage stage manager. On the edited episodes, he's an on-camera producer, only he's not wearing a headset.
Can we politely send him home? Harrison always feels like an interloper in Bachelor Nation, a fusty remnant of days when the show was more presentational. The show is going for "raw" these days — did you watch that hour long breakup footage? — so Harrison's role feels obsolete. If producers perform interviews for the "in the moment" segments, they can also perform the interviews for the more "serious" segments.
In the book Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure, Amy Kaufman explained that when Mike Fleiss, Bachelor creator, met Chris Harrison, he found the TV host dull.
"There was just no energy in the room...It was incredibly painful," Fleiss told a Dallas newspaper of his first meeting with Harrison. Later, Harrison won Fleiss over by being "articulate, funny, and incredibly gregarious." The host of The Bachelor had to be a "guy you want to get a beer with" type of fellow. But those are qualities that, ostensibly, the Bachelor should have.
The international versions of The Bachelor — featured briefly on Bachelor Winter Games and available in portions on the Bachelor World YouTube channel — largely don't have hosts. Only 11 of the international versions have regular hosts. A number of them had a host, but later swapped the figure out for a (probably cheaper) voiceover. (Only The Bachelor: Ukraine has a woman host — actually, the show is hosted by two women, both of them actresses.) Who needs a host? Let's blow off the stiff, coached chaperone in favor of a show manned only by the producers and the contestants.
Social media as well as an increasingly "raw" show has allowed us to peek at "the producers" a mysterious group of people not unlike Lost's "Others." Based on interviews with contestants and the dubious reality of UnREAL, the producers do the bulk of the work creating The Bachelor narrative. Harrison's power in Bachelor Nation is dubious; is he really doing anything, or is he just reading cue cards? My money's on the latter, and the producers are the one's actually puppeteering. Contestants purport to be "friends" with the producers and, when they do appear on screen, the show is instantly more interesting. When Ally Thompson vomited on Bachelor Winter Games, producer Bill Dixon briefly appeared on screen. He scurried to help Thompson in the bathroom and, in doing so, proved that someone is in charge — a stage manager stepping out from behind the curtain to make sure the lead actor is okay.
Dixon is a stand up comedian with a knack for Instagram captions. He's also close friends with the contestants on the show, at least based on his Instagram. He has appeared on Becca Kufrin's Instagram a number of times. He never says anything on camera, but he could! And he should. Producers have dubious intentions — the rumor is that they manipulate contestants — but then again, so does Harrison. Everyone involved in The Bachelor is producing television, and telling a story sometimes requires a lack of integrity. Joan Didion pointed out that "writers are always selling somebody out" in Slouching Towards Bethlehem; producers of reality television are doing the same. If Didion can become a celebrity, then, so can Dixon. Add to that list Natalie Shabtai, Megan Firestone, Nikki Lazaran, Lindsay Liles, and Adam Mansfield. Not that they should ditch their jobs in favor of becoming TV hosts, but that perhaps the work of a producer should become a part of the narrative of the show itself. Then maybe Harrison can go home — no black SUV necessary.
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