Chris Harrison “fought like crazy” to reveal Eric Hill’s death on camera, air it

The Bachelorette cast member Eric Hill’s death was revealed to the show’s star and cast on camera, and that footage was included in the episode that was broadcast last night.

Host Chris Harrison revealed in an interview with TV Guide that while some on the show’s crew did not want to film or air an on-camera reveal, he “fought like crazy to shoot it and eventually use it”–though even show creator Mike Fleiss felt bad about filming it.

While the death of a cast member is the most brutally real thing the show has ever dealt with, and while I certainly don’t think they should have concealed it from the cast, the entire segment felt exploitative and crass, just another occasion for The Bachelor franchise to use people’s emotions to get ratings.

Watch the segment below. The choices that were made and that ended up in the episode all project a prioritization of getting footage for the show, not the emotional well-being of the cast. Having the guys fly out to L.A. and not telling them what it’s about until they’re on camera in Chris Harrison’s living room? And then Chris makes them sit on the couch after saying only, “we’ll tell everybody at once,” so they can sit awkwardly in silence on the couch until Andi rang the doorbell and then gives Chris Harrison a hug before he tells them all at once that someone they knew is dead? Disturbing.

Why not tell the men and Andi immediately, and then invite them to share their thoughts and feelings with each other, with Andi, and/or with Chris on camera, if they wanted to? Oh, because that prioritizes them, not the show. When Andi and one of the guys walk away, the camera follows them voyeristically eavesdropping. There’s so little respect here it’d be unbelievable if it was not what we’ve come to expect from The Bachelor, a show that has no problems humiliating people.

A significant part of my disgust with this comes from Chris Harrison making it impossible to trust a single thing he says. “As soon as we found out, you know, I definitely wanted every one of you guys to know as fast as we could,” he said. Try again, Chris. “As fast as we could” is telling someone on the phone–or, if you decide to tell them in person, doing that the second you see them, not once they can be gathered and arranged in front of cameras to capture their response.

Anyway, Chris told TV Guide, in part:

“After watching it all back and seeing how it was edited together, I stand by it even more. There were people within the show that didn’t want us to shoot us talking to Andi and the guys and those that didn’t want it to be televised at all, but I vehemently disagreed and fought like crazy to shoot it and eventually use it.

…We thought, ‘Let’s shoot it so we’ll have it, deal with it and go from there.’ We weren’t sure we’d ever use it anyway and were pretty sure we wouldn’t. [Creator] Mike Fleiss called me and said, ‘I’m sorry we shot this,’ and I said, ‘We had to.’ I 100 percent backed him up. I don’t think you get to pick and choose when you shoot things and when you turn the cameras off. This show is built on the fact that we show you everything and just because something is uncomfortable for me or the producers, we all of a sudden turn the cameras off? It seems hypocritical.”

Chris also said that the cast didn’t object (“They knew this wasn’t a contrived moment”) and added:

“I know we’ll catch flack for it, but I knew that going in to the Andi interview [in Week 4], which I thought was well handled. To have acted like Eric didn’t exist and this tragic event didn’t happen would have been incredibly disrespectful. If you watched the show knowing this was when he passed away and we didn’t say a word about it and went into the rose ceremony and acted happy go lucky, to me it would’ve been in poor taste. I’m not saying I’m right, and people will disagree and be angry or feel we took advantage of it. But I stand by the fact that we didn’t milk it and didn’t sensationalize it. I’m proud that we had the guts to show it. Again, maybe I’m wrong, and I’m not saying I’m the smartest guy in the world, but it’s what felt right to me.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.