Friday, March 1, 2024

‘Bachelor’ Producers Freeze When Asked About Franchise Diversity Woes

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The Bachelor producers froze Saturday when asked at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour about why the franchise seemingly has a hard time handling racial issues.

During a panel featuring showrunners from Jeopardy, Dancing With the Stars and Shark Tank, NPR’s Eric Deggans polled Bachelor producing trio Jason Ehrlich, Claire Freeland (both newcomers) and franchise veteran Bennett Graebner about why former star Rachel Lindsay and Matt James were both critical about how the Warners-produced franchise talks about race.

Freeland, who joined the Warner Bros. TV-produced Bachelor franchise in January 2023, attempted a response by saying that the show’s goal is to “represent the country” before shifting away from the question. Deggans, a respected veteran journalist and TCA member, then reiterated the question in a more direct fashion. At that point, all three producers remained mum for around 10 seconds, creating one of the more awkward moments of press tour. Deggans ended the prolonged silence by then saying, “Guess we have our answer.”

“It is impossible for me to comment on the seasons before I joined them here,” Freeland told The Hollywood Reporter following the panel. “I can only speak to the seasons I have made as part of the U.S. franchise as well as our plans as we go forward. And that is to get better at some of the areas that have not necessarily been as strong, perhaps, before in the past on the franchise.”

Freeland singled out The Golden Bachelor, which was for seniors, and Charity Lawson’s season of The Bachelorette as examples of positive representation within the franchise. “I think you’re seeing much more representation. And that’s really the goal going forward,” she said. “I can only speak to what I’ve done here over the last year. I hope that shows what our plan is for the franchise and what we’ll do as we go forward.”

Reporters present for the panel were buzzing after the panel about the producers’ failure to properly respond to a question that has plagued the franchise for at least a decade, if not more. Some took to social media to share their surprise.

“Notably, two of the three producers onstage representing the Bachelor franchise are new and had no involvement with the seasons @Deggans referenced. But the third? Who literally sat there in silence, not even a ‘no comment?’ It was flabbergasting,” wrote cultural critic Myles McNutt.

The panel was part of Disney’s second day at TCA and came mere hours after Disney Television Group president Craig Erwich formally announced The Golden Bachelorette, following the breakout success of The Golden Bachelor. The executive noted earlier in the day that The Golden Bachelor reignited the franchise and brought in a slew of new viewers who previously had not engaged with the dating series.

Shortly afterward, new Jeopardy showrunner Michael Davies fielded a question about the ethnicity of its hosts and contestants across its multiple iterations. “[Jeopardy] has a duty to represent everyone. Talent beyond the host, the contestants, the questions. It has to represent everything that’s great about this country, including diversity,” he said, defending his choice to tap Ken Jennings as the lone host of the syndicated show. “No, I don’t think a straight, white man is the only person who can host Jeopardy. As we expand the franchises, we will fail if that’s the only person who can host.”

Speaking of Jeopardy, Davies also explained the “fractional ownership” that existed between Jennings and Mayim Bialik, who recently announced that she had been fired from the syndicated game show. “Over the past two and a half seasons, what we’ve heard from our TV stations and other interested parties, was that they wanted more consistency. A singular host,” he said. “Mayim is a superb host on Jeopardy and I hope to continue working with her on primetime. But Ken won the job to run the syndicated show. To make a program where the greatest of all time at Jeopardy gets to host is like playing an NBA game and Michael Jordan is the ref.”

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