To say that Chris Harrison has emerged as The Bachelor's breakout star implies that there was a time in which he wasn't. Which is sort of false: as the host of the show, he's more visible than any star or contestant has ever been. That being said, he's gotten more and more attention during the ten-plus years he's hosted the franchise, especially during the past few seasons.
In 2012, Harrison announced that he and his wife of 18 years were getting a divorce. While producers of the show (of which Harrison is one) likely worried that Harrison's divorce would make viewers doubt his ability to guide the tortured souls on The Bachelor and Bachelorette down the path to love, they worked hard to make sure Chris was still viewed as a sage. He says nothing negative about his ex-wife, instead showering her with praise in any interview he gives. (Though has been rumored to be dating a former Bachelor contestant.) He still sits and chats with Bachelors and Bachelorettes about their feelings just as he always did. And this season, as the hearts of viewers everywhere have been trampled on by clueless wonder Juan Pablo, Harrison has become more important than ever. No longer confined to the opinions expressed in his blog posts for Entertainment Weekly, Harrison has shown himself to be far more credible than he appears in his brief appearances on the show. In interviews with multiple "legit" publications, Harrison has even shown himself to be downright funny sometimes.
Take his Grantland interview with Juliet Litman, released this week. For any fan of the show, this interview is a MUCH WATCH. Not only do Litman and Harrison have a great free-flowing rapport, Harrison reveals fascinating details about how casting works, what he thinks about specific contestants and what he does in his off-time on location when the show isn't filming. For instance: this explanation of why Harrison likes the Bachelor more than the Bachelorette:
[The] Bachelor gives us better television. Girls give better drama and they give better TV. Guys, it's like, we're just physical. I have a problem with you, great, let's pull it out, put it on the table, measure it and let's move on. And so if we have a fight, an hour later we're drinking beer and we're bro-ing it up. That's not good TV. That lasted 30 minutes. Whereas women like Nikki and Clare [two current Bachelor contestants], that'll last weeks and that'll fester and go on. It might last a lifetime.
Harrison expanded on those thoughts for the New York Times Magazine this week. For him, the show might be about love but it's also very much about business:
[Juan Pablo] made comments deriding homosexuality and saying there should not be a gay Bachelor. What do you think?
The question is: Is it a good business decision? I just spoke at U.S.C. the other night, and I explained it like this: Look, if you've been making pizzas for 12 years and you've made millions of dollars and everybody loves your pizzas and someone comes and says, "Hey, you should make hamburgers." Why? I have a great business model, and I don't know if hamburgers are going to sell.
People are asking because they would like to see themselves represented.
They do, and that, to me, is a different topic. Is our job to break barriers, or is it a business? That's not for me to answer. If you want to talk about that with me on a philosophical level, I'm happy to: I am 100 percent for equality and gay marriage.
And then, later:
Have you considered a less hunky bachelor, like maybe a chubby guy?
No. You know why? Because that's not attractive, and television is a very visual medium, and I know that sounds horrible to say, but I know that at 42, in the eyes of television, I'm old and unattractive. Sure, I can put a suit and tie on, but I have hair on my chest and I don't have a 12-pack.
Though Harrison's logic here doesn't quite follow through (It's okay for him to host the show but not star in it because he's not hot enough? Straight people are pizza and gay people are hamburgers?) and his answers to questions about diversity are disappointing, the interview does reveal him to be far savvier than he's ever been allowed to be on the show. As each season of The Bachelor has passed, ABC has realized that to keep the show on the air, they need to appeal to the people that hate-watch it as much as the people who genuinely believe in its power. Interviews like these make Harrison out to be a savvy, complex, opinionated, real human – and a far more appealing figure than any of the individuals starring on his reality show.
Images via ABC