Since January 2022, Jesse Palmer has fronted ABC’s lucrative “Bachelor” franchise as host of the flagship reality show as well as offshoots “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise” and the upcoming “The Golden Bachelor.” After taking the reins from Chris Harrison, who was ousted in 2021 after facing criticism for defending a contestant accused of racism, the former NFL quarterback and ESPN college football analyst has helped expand the show’s female-skewing audience to include more men.
“I have this theory that the dirty little secret in Bachelor Nation was that men were always watching anyway,” says Palmer. “They just never wanted to admit it.”
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In fact, football is often on the brain for the former University of Florida standout, who will be showing his Gator pride Friday for College Colors Day, the faux holiday spawned by licensing leader CLC. (Palmer is a spokesperson for CLC and is helping launch the company’s “Fan Out Loud” campaign, a gig he squeezed in between last month’s “Bachelorette” finale and this month’s “Golden Bachelor” debut on Sept. 28.)
Plugging sportswear might seem like a strange side hustle, but Palmer’s resume has always been pretty eclectic. Past jobs have included everything from hosting the trashy but fun syndicated “DailyMailTV” to donning an apron for “Holiday Baking Championship” on Food Network. At ABC, he hosted the little-watched competition show “The Ultimate Surfer.” But who could argue with his career strategy? All these disparate posts led to his current perch atop the network’s reality crown jewel, the “Bachelor” franchise.
The 44-year-old Canadian also has baby on the brain now that his wife, model Emely Fardo, is pregnant with their first child. During a “Golden Bachelor” production break, Palmer talked to Variety about getting bombarded with parenting advice, his private conversations with upcoming “Bachelor” star Joey Graziadei and some Season 9 “Paradise” coupling that “nobody saw coming.”
Congratulations on the baby-on-the-way news. Who has given you the best advice so far?
Duff Goldman from “Holiday Baking Championship” and “Ace of Cakes.” He gave me some awesome advice. I’ve gotten a lot of advice from a lot of friends. But Duff told me, “Don’t listen to anybody’s advice. You’re gonna figure it out yourself. You have everything you need. The baby’s going to guide you and lead you.” Which I thought was interesting, because I’ve gotten a ton of advice, and I’ve welcomed all of it. I need as much advice as I can. But I thought that was really clever and pretty cool.
With last week’s “Bachelorette” finale, what’s the wildest thing that happened that the cameras didn’t catch?
I remember it being a very emotional day. I had conversations with both [runner-up] Joey and [winner] Dotun [Olubeko] before they walked to the podium, my conversations. And they didn’t they didn’t show that in air. But my conversation with Dotun was pretty hardcore. He was really emotional heading over to the podium, which was a side of him that I hadn’t seen up to that point. It was sort of the moment I think he was processing his journey as a young boy and everything that he and his family had been through together. And then you know, finally walking over that podium and seeing Charity. And it was just a really beautiful moment. I remember being with both of them on the podium afterwards, and everybody was crying. Duton was crying. I wanted to cry. But the two of them, obviously, I couldn’t be happier.
Have you had any conversations with Joey about what he can expect as the new “Bachelor”?
Yeah, I’ve had a chance to to him talk a few times since he found out he’s going to be the ‘Bachelor.’ And he felt like he was still coming up for air. It’s a lot to process, and I can certainly appreciate that, you know, reliving the Charity season finale, the announcement. And what I told him is, “Get ready because it’s about to be an absolute whirlwind. If you thought your life changed after being on the Charity season, it’s about to go to a completely different level now.” So, he’s experiencing that. I mean, the guy’s been the most talked about guy in America. And he’s, at the US Open in tennis, and he’s all over the place. Everything’s going to be different. But from what I know about Joey, he’s just such a grounded guy. He’s got an amazing family. And he’s just sort of getting himself collected mentally and emotionally to get ready for what’s gonna be an unbelievable journey.
What can we expect with this senior citizen cast of “Golden Bachelor”?
We don’t really know. We’ve obviously never done the show before. That’s kind of the fun part. But the scary part is that we’re not sure how everything’s going to unfold. There’s a lot of different variables. What I would say through filming [so far] is that the underlying theme is something that I think has been really cool. There’s been this this underlying theme of hope. When Gerry [Turner] says goodbye to some of the women, we’ve seen heartbreak and tears and sadness. Gerry really feels that a lot of these women, and Gerry himself, came on the show, and they weren’t sure if they’re ever going to find love again. They were really stepping out of their comfort zone to give this a try. And I think when these women are leaving, they really feel like that they can find love again. They’re gonna leave the show and have the confidence, and they believe that their person is out there, and they’re gonna continue searching for that, to find that person. And it’s really pretty powerful. It’s a theme on “The Golden Bachelor” which makes it different from the other shows I’ve been a part of in the franchise over the last two years.
The “Bachelor” franchise has typically aired on Monday nights, but this fall, “Golden Bachelor” and “Paradise” will be airing on Thursday. Is this the new TGIT for ABC?
What’s TGIT? [laughs] Is that like my CCTV.
What was the reason behind moving to Thursdays?
That’s an executive decision, so I don’t I don’t have insight into that.
Well, it won’t compete with “Monday Night Football.”
That certainly makes sense, again, not being privy to any of that. But it’s two shows, putting them back to back, and we feel like Bachelor Nation essentially is going to own Thursdays this fall in the primetime window, which we’re really excited about.
Do you think that bringing you into the “Bachelor” fold has brought more male viewers to franchise given your fans from ESPN?
I have this theory that the dirty little secret in Bachelor Nation was that men were always watching anyway. They just never wanted to admit it. [laughs] But I’ve definitely had a lot more men reach out to me and a lot more of my buddies and just like football fans, in general, that I see or I meet at airports or when I’m traveling around that are sort of coming out of their shell and saying, “Hey, I watch the show. I love it.” It’s something that I feel like guys are more comfortable admitting now. I think men were always watching the show, but now they’re just a lot more comfortable coming out of the closet admitting it.
Any plans to integrate college football more into the franchise, now that the shows are airing in the fall during football season?
Hopefully. I’ve always thought I’d love to do like a “Bachelor” cast calling a football game and have like Jordan Rogers and Rodney Matthews — guys that are former players — kind of jump on And since ESPN and ABC have such a foothold in the college football landscape, I would love down the road to be able to do something and integrate it more.
Ratings have gone down on “The Bachelor” in recent years. Do you pay attention to ratings?
Personally, I do not.
What do you attribute the decline to?
I think the biggest thing has just been viewer behavior. It’s just changed with the advent of streaming. The live viewership numbers certainly have been down on ABC. But I think if you incorporate Hulu and everything else, I think it’s very, very strong. I think Charity numbers reflect that.
Even with ratings down, how important is the “Bachelor” franchise in pop culture and society?
It’s still really important. This is one of the OG reality shows. And it’s certainly the OG dating, relationship or finding love show. It’s longevity and the fact that it’s still going strong after all these years, 20 years plus, reflects that. I think you look at social media and the interactions each and every week, relating to the show, it’s just such a big part of the social conversation amongst our fans. For me as the host it’s been it’s been such an honor. It’s been so cool getting to work on a show that has such an unbelievable and loyal fan base like no other show has. And you feel that on social media.
How do you think the franchise is doing with its diversity efforts?
I can only speak on behalf of the two years I’ve been hosting the show, but I think that diversity and inclusion efforts have been and continue to be a big priority, both from a casting standpoint as well as behind the camera.
What can you tease for “Bachelor in Paradise” Season 9 given that you’ve already finished filming?
It’s full-on insanity, as people might expect. It’s fun because we have a lot of former Bachelorettes going to the beach, favorites from past seasons. What I would say is there’s going to be some couples that are going to absolutely shock and surprise people that nobody saw coming. When people fill out their bingo cards at the start of ‘Paradise,’ they’re not going to expect who ends up together at the end.
What was the mindset behind getting involved in the “Fan Out Loud” campaign?
College Football season is the best time of year for me, and I’m really excited to be a part of this, working with CLC. College Colors Day sets the tone for college football fans to rock their gear. And certainly I’m going to be doing that. My Florida Gators have a really big game playing at Utah against a really good team, and I’m rocking my orange and blue.
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