How Chris Harrison Went From 'The Bachelor's Bro Host To Its Father Figure
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have had many faces come and go over the years — contestants, Bachelors, Bachelorettes, those drifting in and out of Bachelor Pad and Bachelor In Paradise. The locations have changed, the format has even changed, but the one true constant in Bachelor Nation is that of the presence of Chris Harrison. He’s the face of The Bachelor, always there with a knowing smile, a tissue after an elimination, or a smidge of advice before a rose ceremony. Even though Harrison is the only element on the show that’s always been there, he’s undergone his own evolution — from that of Bachelor bro to Bachelor dad.
Harrison’s roots have always been in television, but he wasn’t exactly in the romance department when he first arrived in California. According to “A History Of The Bachelor, By The People Who Lived It” from New York Mag, Harrison “moved from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles to help launch a horse-racing network, TVG. In addition to sports-casting, he was host of the competition show Designers’ Challenge on HGTV.” In the article, Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss talks about how hard it was to find someone to host The Bachelor, given that reality television was, in his opinion, looked down upon the early 2000s. Luckily for Fleiss, he got Harrison, and lucky for Harrison, he got a job. I'm sure that Harrison would have had a lucrative career announcing horse races or being the new Paige for HGTV's sort-of version of Trading Spaces , but The Bachelor has been very good to him, no?
In those beginning seasons of The Bachelor, Harrison was clearly still figuring it out. We were kind of all still figuring out, viewers included, mostly because the first seasons were pretty boring. Harrison's role at the onset was supposed to be host, but aside from delivering his classic lines like, “the most dramatic episode ever!” and ushering women in and out of rose ceremonies, he didn’t do much. 20,000 seasons later (okay, it's really only 20, at least of The Bachelor), Harrison has made himself irreplaceable. Now, don't get me wrong — Harrison still says things like, "the most dramatic episode ever" (which, according to New York Magazine, is something Fleiss came up with), but the new Chris Harrison has expanded his role to become comfortable enough to act as a father figure for the contestants and alumni on the show, instead of just a friend. And, everybody loves Harrison (except maybe Juan Pablo). It's just a fact.
I think this “patriarch of Bachelor Nation” thing really started happening when the show started breaking off pieces of itself for future seasons. Castoffs from The Bachelor become Bachelorettes (and vice versa), and nearly everyone from every season appeared on shows like Bachelor Pad and Bachelor In Paradise. They really owe a debt of gratitude to Real World/Road Rules Challenges of yore, don't they? Because Bachelor Nation was engaged all year long and not just during the taping of one season of The Bachelor, Harrison really got to know contestants. He worked with the same contestants repeatedly, and with that the role of fatherly-advice-giver emerged rather naturally. Who better to dole out advice for The Bachelor or The Bachelorette than the face of an entire franchise?
Every parent has their favorite kid (don't lie, parents. You do, even if you don't say it). In recent years, Harrison has been far more outspoken than usual about whom he does and does not like on the show. In an interview on The Meredith Viera Show, Harrison said that he wouldn’t want his daughter to date former Bachelor Chris Soules because he made out with every woman he had on the show (There was a lot of spit swapping that season). During Juan Pablo Galavis’ season, rumors swirled that Harrison and JP hated each other. According to US Weekly, Harrison’s diplomatic response to questions about their relationship was, "I hope [Juan Pablo] will see that there are many people around him who love him and are trying to help him, but, in the end, he must make the choice to listen and let them in.”
I think Harrison was upset by the way Juan Pablo treated the producers and contestants like Clare Crawley and just needed to give the jerk Juan Pablo a piece of his mind. That was the first real time I ever saw Harrison judge a Bachelor's decisions instead of playing the role of dutiful friend, and it made me respect him that much more.
Then, of course, there was the moment during The Bachelor after show where Harrison quipped to Ben Higgins that he should "stay off Snapchat." Does it get much more "dad" than reprimanding someone for social media usage? It's all in good fun, though, and viewers love the Harrison we know today. There are even some (including myself) who think that perhaps Harrison should become a Bachelor himself one day. He probably knows way too much about the process — and who wants to know how the sausage is made? — but damn, would that be good television.
Images: Rick Rowell/ABC