“The Bachelor” producers were left speechless when asked why the ABC dating show seems to struggle with race during seasons headlined by Black leads.
The question was asked during a panel for ABC’s unscripted television programming during the Television Critics Association’s 2024 winter tour. Eric Deggans, a TV critic and media analyst for NPR, referenced Matt James’ season of “The Bachelor,” which eventually led to Chris Harrison stepping down as the series’ longtime host and featured a conversation with James’ father that the reality star has said was “troubling” and “painful,” and that was criticized by former “Bachelorette” lead Rachel Lindsay. Harrison stepped away from the franchise after defending a contestant who attended a plantation-themed fraternity formal on social media. James was the first Black Bachelor in the history of the long-running reality show.
Initially, when asked why the franchise has struggled with race, producer Claire Freeland fielded the question.
“I can speak to where we are now. Our goal is to represent the fabric of the country, not just with respect to diversity and ethnicity, but also to ability and body types and representing where people are from in the country as well,” she said. Freeland, who has only been with the U.S. version of the franchise since 2023, emphasized that she could only speak to her experience.
“I think we’re kind of putting our money where our mouth is and demonstrating that, so hopefully audiences are feeling that because it’s something that we’re always working on and will continue to do so as we go forward,” Freeland continued.
But when Deggans doubled down on the question, asking why the series has particularly struggled with race during the seasons that revolve around Black bachelors and bachelorettes, the producers stayed silent.
“I guess we have our answer. Thank you very much,” Deggans concluded.
The producers — Freeland, Jason Ehrlich and Bennett Graebner — also dodged a question on whether or not they would support efforts to bring their casts under SAG-AFTRA.
“For our show, we tell the love stories of real people, not actors, and we are feeling like our relationships with the cast are really strong,” Freeland said. “I think our cast is quite pleased with the experience they’ve had on the show. For us a successful ending, engagement, longterm relationship is what our mission is, and I think our cast are all pretty excited about it.”
“We want to tell the stories of real people that people can root for and get behind. So we’re pleased with our cast relationships,” Freeland continued.
As tense as the panel may have been, there was some hopeful news for fans of the franchise. When asked if “The Bachelor” would be open to versions of the series given the success of “The Golden Bachelor,” the response was positive. Specifically, the heads of the ABC universe were asked if they would be open to versions of the show about contestants in their 30s and 40s, or a LGBTQ bachelor or bachelorette.
“Look, love is universal. That’s what’s so wonderful about it, and that’s why these stories resonate. I think we really learned from ‘The Golden Bachelor’ that we can tell different stories and it’s encouraged us to continue building,” Graebner said. “To see it play out with different stories and different backgrounds, yes please.”
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