It’s been a big couple of weeks in Bachelor Nation, mainly centered on the fact that we’re finally getting a Black Bachelor next season. After mounting pressure to address the lack of diversity and racial sensitivity within the franchise, including a petition with thousands of signatures, ABC made their big announcement that Matt James would be the next Bachelor last week. But given that ABC and The Bachelor have otherwise been silent about the racial issues within the franchise, the timing and nature of the announcement raised some questions.
On Watch What Happens Live this week, Rachel Lindsay said she “hated the timing” of the announcement “because it does seem like a reaction to what is happening in our country.” She questioned, “Did a man have to die in such a public way on a national stage for you to say now is the time for us to have a Black Bachelor?” While ABC execs claim that the decision to make Matt James the Bachelor was made independently of the current Black Lives Matter protests, it’s hard to see the timing of the announcement as anything but reactionary. Normally, the new Bachelor is announced after The Bachelorette airs, and he’s chosen from contestants who have already been on the show. ABC may have wanted Matt James as the Bachelor all along, but would they have made an announcement this soon without external pressure?
On WWHL, Rachel also continued her calls for a wider focus on diversity and inclusion across the franchise, and said that she’s been in contact with the producers about how to implement these practices. So far, ABC or Bachelor execs have not detailed an actual plan to ensure a more diverse show, though The Bachelor executive producers said in a statement, “We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television.” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke echoed, “This is just the beginning and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise.”
On top of the questions about the Bachelor franchise’s intentions with the announcement, it also made us wonder—what is going on with The Bachelorette? Way back in March, Matt James was initially announced as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s season, which was delayed indefinitely because of the pandemic. Obviously, he won’t be competing on The Bachelorette anymore, but was this news to Clare? On the heels of the last week’s announcement, a source told Us Weekly that Clare “wasn’t given any heads up,” and that she “didn’t know about Matt becoming the Bachelor until the GMA announcement.” On Wednesday, ABC exec Rob Mills went on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show, where he firmly denied this report. He said that “of course we would never do that to Clare,” adding, “she found out the day before.”
At this point, it kind of feels like Clare Crawley is the forgotten stepchild of the Bachelor franchise, but don’t worry, her season is definitely still happening. This week, various announcements were made, and now we have a lot more clarity about when and how they’re moving forward. ABC unveiled their official fall programming schedule earlier this week, with The Bachelorette slotted for Tuesday nights (The Bachelor will return to Monday nights in January). ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke spoke to Deadline, confirming that the show is scheduled to start filming in July, and that there is a “very thoughtful” plan in place for how to make it happen.
— Mike Fleiss (@fleissmeister) June 17, 2020
In his interview on Ryan Seacrest’s show, Rob Mills outlined more details of what’s actually going to happen. Production for Clare’s season will be contained within a “bubble,” with all cast and crew tested for COVID-19 before entering. Instead of the beloved Bachelor mansion, Mills said “They’ll be at some sort of resort,” where the entire season will take place. While travel is off the table this year, Mills promised that “there will be plenty of different date locations that will feel hopefully as close to The Bachelorette as possible.”
So we won’t be getting trips to exciting locales like Australia or Cleveland, but it’s better than my initial idea of doing the whole season in an empty airplane hangar. And despite all the adjustments, there’s one thing that even a pandemic can’t take away from us: makeouts. When asked about whether we’ll see kissing on this season of The Bachelorette, Mills said, “We think it’ll be absolutely safe.” Personally, I feel like it’s going to be triggering to watch Clare make out with multiple randos in one episode, but at least something will feel normal again.
Images: ABC/Paul Hebert; Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen / YouTube; fleissmeister / Twitter