Let me start with a disclaimer. I fundamentally believe that the United States has a system of built-in racism that must be dismantled. Dismantling all the paths that cause white people in this country to act in insensitive ways to anyone who isn’t white is (and should be) our second biggest priority right now. (The first being saving our democracy from lunatics and autocrats.) I sincerely mean that, and as a white person who came from a pretty racist town in the Midwest, I know that I, too, have blind spots and ways in which I need to grow on this topic.
I, like Chris Harrison, strive to be better on that topic. And that is all you can ask of a person. That they look at their blind spots, and strive to do better. To be more humane, more progressive, more sensitive to a topic that they had been insensitive about. And then, actively WORK to be better, and not just mouth words about it.
But really, the reason I want to write this column today is not to dissect racism and how we all need to be better (people have, and will continue to, write amazing books about that). Go read them!
This is about ABC and its host problem. I mean, I do get (completely) how after the George Floyd murder and protests, it is essential to change the dynamic of regular shows. That casts need to be more racially diverse to reflect the country. (They also need to have more women leads, but maybe that’s just me...) That is an admirable goal, and we should do that. To new shows. Upsetting the apple cart on established shows? Not so wise.
ABC, for instance, took two landmark shows of theirs, and removed beloved hosts just for the purpose of shaking things up. In both cases, they are to the detriment of the show.
I am still not over the loss of these two beloved hosts. Tom Bergeron, there since the beginning of the show (2005), was the heartbeat of the show. One just cannot underestimate how much he gave to this show. How many moments he saved with his witty banter, how he was a bridge when things got awkward, or things went wrong technically. How he kept the show going when there was suddenly an attacker on set who had to be tackled by security. So many moments, so many wonderful, funny, heart-rending memories of Tom Bergeron.
Erin Andrews arrived (2010) after they removed Brooke Burke (and, to be honest, I never liked Brooke Burke. She was lame and fluffy when that wasn’t what was needed in the role). Erin Andrews arriving was a good decision for the show. Her banter was funny and real, honest and warm. She balanced and complemented Tom Bergeron. They were a great hosting team.
Getting rid of them truly was like kicking out one of the legs of a table. It’s just not going to be right after that. The corporate brass just don’t realize how integral they were to the show. I say this as someone who has watched every Dancing with the Stars show since Season 10 (they are now on Season 30).
And what did they replace them with? Well, this.
Don’t get me wrong. Tyra Banks is beautiful. She is a great model. I’m sure her fashion show (whatever it was called) is wonderful. And she tried so hard this past season of #DWTS.
But dudes, she was TERRIBLE. As a longtime viewer, I hated every single moment that Tyra was on screen. Mostly because her presence was ill-conceived and unnecessary. IT’S A DANCE SHOW. All that matters (or should matter) is THE DANCE. They had her entering in all these flouncy gowns, for some bizarre reason, detracting from the time they have to showcase the dances. Blissfully, they cut that nonsense back as the season went along. But Tom and Erin didn’t have gobs of time just to showcase what they were wearing. NOR SHOULD THEY.
The hosts were there to move things along, not to take over and be a major part of the show. Do you GET THIS, ABC?
Initially, Tyra didn’t even seem to really know what was going on. Like she hadn’t even watched the show before. Which is inexcusable.
I mean, OK, previously we had someone who could compare something that just happened to something that happened in Season 12. We are spoiled that way. But we also LOOK for that kind of depth and intimacy from this show.
Hiring Tyra was a travesty that I hope they rectify, because I love this show and want to keep watching it. It’s very hard when you have to shield your eyes during all of Tyra’s parts.
But while I’m trashing ABC’s decisions, let me also give credit to what they did right. This.
After a long slog as part of the troupe, the wonderful and amazing Britt Stewart finally became a Pro dancer. Yay. More of this, please. (And Brendan as a Pro is also a great addition.)
Now we also have a host who has been with the franchise through thick and seriously thin, over nearly 20 years (since 2002), and gets booted with barely a fare-thee-well. (Tom and Erin were also dumped really unceremoniously and awkwardly.) All of these integral hosts really deserved better, ABC.
How much do we love Chris Harrison as The Bachelor host? Let me tell you, ABC. Let me tell you what you are now so clumsily and stupidly missing.
Chris Harrison started with this franchise from its very first show. I’ve been watching this show (and all its iterations: The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise) from the very beginning. Chris Harrison is the glue that holds them all together. Why? Because he was adaptable. He rolled with the punches. He knew what was good comedy (much like Tom Bergeron). He knew when to be serious or thoughtful. He had a heart, and watching him, you really believed that what he (and the Bachelor franchise) wanted was for this person in front of us to be happy and find love.
He could also switch to wacky, by navigating what Bachelor in Paradise became. Not smarmy (as many of these love on an island shows became), but fun and fun-loving. When we had our first gay couple (who started out as straight, but declared her gayness on TV), Chris rolled right along with that, guided us through that. It was truly landmark.
He’s officiated many Bachelor/Bachelorette weddings.
And when many Girls/Guys Tell All shows threatened to deteriorate into screaming matches, Chris Harrison was what calmed everyone down. He has grown and evolved during the course of the show (getting divorced, and then finding hot sexy love with the wondrous Lauren Zima). (*winks at Lauren Zima* Miss you, babe.)
It is gut-wrenching to me that Tom and Erin are gone from DWTS. It is also gut-wrenching to me that Chris Harrison is gone from the Bachelor franchise. In both cases, these hosts are such massive, integral parts of the show that I truly don’t know if the show will recover with other hosts.
(So far, in the case of Tyra, UGH NO.)
Having Taysha and Kaitlyn as pseudo-hosts on the first episode of The Bachelorette post-Chris Harrison was an idea, but not a good one. Having David Spade as the host of Paradise is an even worse idea.
You don’t have someone wacky in an already wacky situation. Chris Harrison was the center, the calm of the storm, the one who stood for integrity and honesty and truth and true love. And you BELIEVED THAT about him. I did. I believed he was honest and honestly going through this experience. I don’t believe that about David Spade. He’s not an honest guy. He’s a comedian. (For that matter, he’s also not a guy who’s found true love himself. What does he know about this process? I fully expect it to devolve into being like these other smarmy love island shows now.)
So, I write this, as a longtime viewer of both of these shows, feeling like they’ve both recently been hacked to pieces.
Will I continue to watch? Since I really love the dancing most of all on DWTS, sure. That part is still great. (I miss all the great dancers I’ve come to love. And the fact that this show used to be on three times a year and now is down to only one season is also gut-wrenching.)
But I will be gritting my teeth through all the Tyra parts, for sure. HATE HER AS HOST. HATE HER.
Will I continue to watch the Bachelor franchise? Since I love Katie, I am watching this one. I will probably watch Bachelor in Paradise, if only because it will generate fun columns. But I HATE the idea of David Spade as host. It’s really an affront to who Chris Harrison was, and the place he had in this show, which obviously ABC has forgotten, or never understood.
I will say this. Emmanuel Acho (who has an excellent book—Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man—that everyone should read) was a great fill-in for last season’s After the Final Rose. He did what needed to be done in the moment.
But truly, ABC, the BETTER resolution of this would have been to have Chris Harrison continue to walk through this, and talk about his evolution, and bring us not-understanding white viewers with him. Maybe even have a Bachelor special on how The Bachelor plans to do better and be more integrated? All kinds of things, all manner of paths you could’ve explored.
But instead, you take the easy way out, and get rid of Chris Harrison. So lame. So pathetic.
So much of this show (obviously ABC doesn’t get this) is about psychology. What one does when one has a breakthrough is work through it. Accept it honestly, talk about the blind spots, go forward. All of which Chris Harrison did in social media. That’s all you can really ask of someone.
I know it’s not going to happen, but both of these shows would be MUCH better off with their previous hosts reinstated. Not having them really guts the franchise. I mean, can anyone imagine Survivor without Jeff Probst? No. Good hosts aren’t just plug and play. Especially when you’re dealing with emotional, complicated stuff like The Bachelor (no, seriously, it is).
Maybe they’ll bring Tyra Banks to The Bachelor franchise and bring back Tom and Erin? A girl can dream... (That, at least, would be a better fit.)