The Bachelor franchise host Chris Harrison announced in February that he’s “stepping aside for a period of time,” and we now know how long that will be: forever. He wrote on Instagram, in part, “I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of The Bachelor franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter. I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together.”
ABC and Warner Horizon, the production company that produces the series for ABC, said this in a joint statement:
Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of The Bachelor franchise. We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.
They did not say that they’re paying him somewhere near $50 million to take that journey, just like Chris Harrison didn’t say he’s getting a cash payout. But that’s what Deadline‘s report says: Chris Harrison will receive a “mid-range eight-figure payoff and promise to keep his mouth shut.”
Is it actually $50 million? Entertainment lawyer Anita K. Sharma told The Daily Beast that it may be less. “You know the entertainment business. There’s a lot of spin and bluster. I would take that with a grain of salt… I think everybody exaggerates, and mid range sounds really good as opposed to low range. Nobody’s going to say low range,” she said. And Page Six reported that “Harrison demanded a $25 million payout.” Still, that’s quite a lot of money.
A person identified as “a source close to Chris” told E! News that “Chris is saddened to leave The Bachelor franchise. It was his whole life and identity for many years and he was hopeful he would continue his contract.” That person said that Chris “has been in tough negotiations for weeks.” Those negotiations apparently paid off. Former Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni wrote in his newsletter Sunday that Chris was “negotiating his exit” and “it’s definitely not an amicable split.” He also reported this, which I found very interesting:
But behind the scenes, Harrison was questioning the legal theory behind his sidelining. (I’ve got some questions as well, especially since Harrison was often asked by producers to defend contestants’ bad behavior in public.) As the talks became increasingly nasty, Harrison came with ammo of his own, namely two decades of dirty laundry on the show, including, I’m told, some potentially damaging information about franchise creator Mike Fleiss. Whether that dirt ends up in a publicly-filed lawsuit will depend on whether Harrison will accept the final rose … er, a settlement agreement with an NDA.
Deadline‘s Dominic Patten basically confirmed that, writing that, on Monday night, “Harrison lawyer Bryan Freedman [was] pledging to unleash the Shiva of lawsuits exposing a swath of The Bachelor’s alleged dirty laundry unless his Gersh-repped client emerged feeling the financial love.
Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister reported that, “As negotiations were underway, Harrison’s team came to the table with ammo of their own — one example is bringing up former allegations against The Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss, who was accused by his wife of domestic violence, which led to a police probe in 2019.”
Meanwhile, a lot of Bachelor and Bachelorette fans are pretending they’ll never watch again now that their absolute favorite part of the show, Chris Harrison, is not going to be there to point out that there’s one rose left.
Did they actually stop watching? The Bachelorette season 17’s premiere was down 29 percent among all viewers and 36 percent among viewers 18 to 49, according to Nielsen data. That sounds like a lot, but it’s in the same neighborhood as other major summer reality shows. ABC’s game show The Chase returned Sunday and lost 40 percent of its total viewers and 37 percent of its viewers 18 to 49, Nielsen data shows, while To Tell The Truth was down 24 percent and 23 percent respectively. Celebrity Family Feud, however, was up 18 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
On other networks, last week’s Monday night premiere of American Ninja Warrior was down 13 percent among all viewers and 25 percent among viewers 18 to 49, while Hell’s Kitchen was down 21 percent among all viewers and 21 percent among viewers 18 to 49. Both shows air Mondays from 8 to 10. It’s worth noting that all these ratings only include people who watched live or on a DVR that night, so they’re not super-useful in this era of DVRing and streaming. But I present them here for comparison.
After just 10 minutes of the new season, I was declaring that the show doesn’t need him at all, because what Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe brought to the show made for much better television—though The Bachelorette was still fundamentally the same show that it has always been.
And let’s not forget that removing Chris Harrison 100 percent does not fix The Bachelor franchise’s problems, and I hope no one at ABC or Warner Horizon thinks that now that they’ve taken this step, they’ve won the marathon.
This story has been updated with information from Variety, The Daily Beast, Variety, and Page Six.
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