Reportedly gets a huge severance in return
When you announce you are “stepping away” from a franchise temporarily, believe me – it usually isn’t “temporarily”.
This is exactly what happened to Chris Harrison, The Bachelor host who now isn’t The Bachelor host as he was fired by ABC and Warner Horizon Television Tuesday after nearly two decades with the franchise.
He also hosted The Bachelorette, an edition with the gender roles reversed.
The axing came after he made racially in sensitive comments on Extra on February 9, defending a woman to the show’s correspondent – who happened to be former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, the first black woman to lead the show. During the interview, Harrison defended a contestant who was photographed at an antebellum-themed party in 2018 and liked racially insensitive social media posts. The controversy threw the franchise into turmoil as Harrison announced shortly thereafter he was stepping away from the show.
Extra is syndicated by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. Both it and Bachelor producer Warner Horizon are owned by WarnerMedia, who recently announced a merger with Discovery Communications.
You can tell from the terse press release ABC and Warner Horizon Television wanted to move on quickly from Harrison: “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” – although his journey will lead him right to obscurity, joining fired sitcom star Roseanne Barr who was dismissed from the revival of her show in 2018 after sending a racist tweet.
Reports surfaced Harrison received a hefty severance – in eight figures – and signed a non-disclosure agreement. It’s a pact similar to what former ABC 7 sports anchor Mark Giangreco made with his employer (though for far less money) after departing the top-ranked station after he made an on-air comment about Cheryl Burton back in January.
ABC 7 (WLS-TV) and ABC share a parent with The Walt Disney Company.
The franchise has had it shares of controversies during the last twenty years on the air, with many groups accusing it of being sexist early in its run (thus The Bachelorette) as this space mocked the show back in 2010 (at least the Orioles joke held up.) But Bachelor and Bachelorette later came under fire for a lack of diversity in the show’s casting, leads included. And when they finally had minority leads, there were even more controversies as Matt James’ season last winter (the first Black Bachelor) attested. What was supposed to be a triumph for adding diversity to the mix turned out to be a nightmare as the season was panned by viewers and ratings sagged.
Reality and reality-competition shows have had a spotty history dealing with racial issues and stereotypes for years, notably with Survivor and several cable shows including The Real Housewives Of Atlanta and Love And Hip-Hop.
A Dallas native, Harrison added to his resume when was tapped by Disney-ABC Domestic Television (now Disney Media Distribution) to replace Terry Crews as host of the syndicated Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, a job he held from 2015 until the show’s cancellation in 2019 (Millionaire recently returned to ABC’s primetime lineup on a part-time basis with new producer and host Jimmy Kimmel.) Reruns of the Harrison-era Millionaire still air on local stations, but it is unknown if the arrangement would continue next season. Ironically, Disney used Millionaire reruns as a replacement for syndicated reruns of Cops, as all iterations of the former Fox series were pulled after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
There is something to be said about “reality TV” being staged for the cameras. But real life takes over once the cameras stop rolling, and when those elements start spilling over into the product, it may be too much for viewers. But that’s the world we live in now – take it or leave it.
Oh yes, the “reality” in reality TV just got real.