Chris Harrison, the affable host of the “Bachelor” franchise, may not make the production decisions, but he is the face of the show. So it is to him we turn for answers after incidents like the recent shocking “Bachelor in Paradise” scandal, which saw production temporarily halted on the summer spin-off following complaints of misconduct by producers.
Don’t worry, Bachelor Nation: According to a new interview with Papa Harrison in The Hollywood Reporter in advance of the show’s August 14 premiere, everything has been fixed. And also nothing was wrong to begin with. Seriously, everything was always great and is just getting better.
The fourth season of “Paradise” seemed to be doomed earlier this summer after production was abruptly suspended, the cast was sent home and the press began to air out allegations of sexual assault and excessive drinking on set. But an internal investigation concluded that there had been no wrongdoing, and production resumed, on an accelerated schedule and under a new set of rules. Contestants who returned to “Paradise” were restricted to no more than two alcoholic drinks per hour and were required to get permission from production before spending the night alone with another contestant ― all in the name of preventing another scandal on set.
Not that anything was wrong with the previous procedures!
“We’ve really learned from our mistakes, but there really weren’t any major mistakes made,” Harrison, rather confidently, told THR. “Yes, we’ve made some changes but if you talk to the cast, they’ve always been the most important thing to us — taking care of them and their safety.” You might think the most important thing to production would be maximizing on-screen drama while limiting liability, but no: The cast’s well-being has always been paramount.
Take the risks inherent in excessive drinking, an activity often depicted on the “Bachelor” shows. (Alcohol played a significant role in early reports about the incident that shut down “Paradise” production, with some sources alleging that the contestants involved were extremely drunk, and possibly even blacked out, during a nonconsensual sexual encounter. Warner Bros.′ internal investigation determined that no sexual assault took place.) “As far as alcohol goes, that’s never been a big thing for us,” Harrison insisted to THR. “Someone being sloppy drunk and being out of it does not give us good television.”
Indeed, the “Bachelor” franchise has never cared to make entertainment out of a “sloppy drunk,” or “out of it” contestants staggering and slurring around the set. The show has always chosen instead to show us sober men and women engaging in clear and rational dialogue. For example, who can forget the memorable first night of “Paradise” season 3, when Chad Johnson got so wasted he initiated several semi-physical, verbally abusive confrontations with fellow cast members, then passed out for the rest of the night ― at which point he, according to later conversations aired on the show, defecated in his pants?
Wait, that incident seems to prove the opposite of Harrison’s contention. Hmmm.
Look, there’s no evidence that “Bachelor in Paradise” is a diabolical scheme to torment and endanger contestants in the name of cold, hard cash. Harrison isn’t the only one to publicly defend the show; many of the former cast have stood up for production, citing real friendships they built with producers and claiming that they always felt safe while taping.
Season three contestant Evan Bass memorably pleaded for “Paradise” to return, in the midst of this summer’s controversy, pointing out that producers made sure he didn’t mix alcohol and medication when he became ill during taping. “I’ve watched staff and producers stop many situations before they became a problem, even at the expense of making ’great TV,” he wrote. By pausing production and conducting a thorough investigation when complaints were made about misconduct on set, the show’s production company, Warner Bros., further demonstrated a willingness to risk a cherished, profitable brand in the name of cast safety.
Still, there’s a self-satisfied tone to the reinstated show’s promotional tour ― down to an unseemly teaser that casts the show’s possible cancellation, in hindsight, as the true tragedy ― that doesn’t sit right. Harrison’s defensive public statements on the matter haven’t helped matters. The show has capitalized on contestants’ willingness to get sloppy drunk. It has made choices that led audiences to fairly wonder whether the cast’s safety was being sufficiently prioritized. (Exhibit A being Johnson’s drunken rampage in Season 3.)
In the aftermath of a scandal that could have brought down “Paradise” for good, the franchise seems to want it both ways: Getting credit for making vital changes to protect the cast while glibly dismissing the idea that anything was wrong with their procedures to begin with. Though the new rules seem like a positive change, the franchise as a whole still needs to take one important step to lay the groundwork for a fresh start: Publicly taking responsibility for its failings rather than minimizing or dismissing them. Unfortunately, as Harrison’s interview shows yet again, Bachelor Nation shouldn’t hold its breath.