Last night was the premiere of the new season of The Bachelorette, and one thing that it proved was that the franchise does not need Chris Harrison. This morning’s news about Chris leaving the franchise for good is an effective move the show needed to take in order to stay fresh.
This year, the franchise has decided to do things a little differently by delegating two seasons of The Bachelorette in one year, and the first edition for 2021 follows Katie Thurston. Katie was a contestant on Matt James’ season and was well known for bringing a sex toy with her to James’ night one. She is also known for her confidence, humour, and standing up for herself.
I’ve been a fan of the franchise for a while now, and one thing that has been similar throughout is its predictability. That may be something that gives me a sense of comfort, however, it’s kind of gotten repetitive and boring, especially for such a ritualistic night like Night One. It has always been roughly the same format: a preview of the whole season voiced by Chris Harrison, a conversation featuring the lead and Chris Harrison, intros by Chris Harrison, and the whole night just narrated by...Chris Harrison. However, after the mess that Harrison got into last season when he defended Rachael Kirkconnell for attending a plantation theme party, his absence this season is refreshing. The show has made many promises about its commitment to change when it comes to representation, so I don’t see a world where having Chris come back would be a smart move. Taking Chris out turned an episode that is skipped by some fans for its blandness (and ignored by me as I scroll through Twitter) into something new. I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this season as much because we didn’t get to know who Katie is since she left fairly early on The Bachelor. However, the new vibe brought to this premiere episode made me fall in love with Katie, the new hosts, AND even the men more than I ever have in seasons before.
Like I mentioned before, what’s tricky about the franchise is the rituals. We only get to see a little bit about the men through limo exits, very short conversations in the mansion, and their reactions as the first impression rose and the rose ceremony are happening. It’s always the same process that starts to feel robotic, and fans have kind of just accepted it. The new hosts for this season, former Bachelorettes Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams, brought a different dynamic I’ve never considered to be something that would become a reality since it was assumed that Harrison would always be there. Instead of the expected serious and high intensity we get from Chris, we got fun energy, quirky one liners, and legit relatability from Tayshia and Kaitlyn.
Katie is all about being laid back, quirky, and sex positive. Even without Chris’ scandal, I don’t think Chris’ presence would have highlighted these things about Katie in the most authentic way. However, Tayshia and Kaitlyn are the perfect stand-ins for Katie. They are two very successful, hilarious, and supportive women who have also gone through the exact same experience. As they were introduced during the episode, one thing they kept saying was how they are there for Katie in any way she needs. It’s like they are her fairy Godmothers. It would be very hard for anyone to argue that Chris would do a better job at counseling and advising Katie than these two ladies. Yes, Chris has been there from the beginning, but going through the process as the actual lead (and being a woman going through it) is a whole other perspective he would never understand himself.
When Katie started the episode, they left her thinking that she would have to coach herself throughout the whole process. I thought this was an interesting choice by the producers and almost makes me think that for a little bit in the beginning that might’ve been the reality. But seeing Tayshia and Kaitlyn surprise her before the men started arriving in the limos was such a breath of fresh air. It just felt so...real. Nothing seemed fake, rehearsed, or like false sympathy that we’ve gotten so used to from Chris. To top that off, a lot of Katie’s persona is about being sexually liberated, and she had that conversation with Tayshia and Kaitlyn before the men came in. Imagine her trying to have that conversation with Chris? I don’t think that is anything any of us wanted to see, or something that Katie even wanted to have a genuine and real conversation with him about. Kaitlyn and Tayshia know exactly what it’s like to be in Katie’s shoes, and their freshness to the role as hosts give us a genuine take on the first night that we haven’t had from Chris…ever. Not only is he a man, but he also has done this process for over a decade. At what point do his reactions come from acting?
Katie’s men are also so wholesome. On first impression, they all seem to be there for Katie and genuinely like her. There also wasn’t anyone who stuck out as a villain to me quite yet, which is also pretty different for a first night episode. Katie embraced all of the weird quirks of the guys which included fake British accents, cheesy jokes, and even the dude named Connor dressed up as a cat. Like, she really liked him, and he even got on my list of guys to look out for. I noticed some more diversity than I have for past white Bachelorettes, so that is most likely production responding to multiple calls of changing the franchise from the inside out with true representation (and not only when it's most convenient to them).
Despite the different vibe that was over the whole episode, important rituals like the first impression rose were still done. My pick from the first half of the show, Greg, ended up getting it. In recent years, The Bachelorette's choice for this rose usually gets far, and, in some cases, has also ultimately become the winner in the end. We’ll see if Katie follows this trend.
Overall, this episode was probably one of my favourite premiere episodes ever. The lack of Harrison didn’t invalidate or delegitimize the integrity of the show. If anything, it showed that there can be a powerful synergy with the lead. Katie is a bubbly and fun person, so why not bring in other bubbly and fun hosts to uplift that? The excitement that Kaitlyn and Tayshia brought to the role is refreshing, and it gives us a sense of security knowing that Katie is in good hands. I’m sure Chris always wants the leads to be successful, but since he’s had producer credits, there’s no denying that he wants the drama to happen for better views. Tayshia and Kaitlyn don’t have that, though. They are here for Katie, and Katie alone. Something about that gives this process of finding love a new life that I don’t think Chris was able to provide. Most importantly, Chris has proved that he is just not the right fit for a show that has committed itself to making changes in the representation and treatment of the BIPOC community. In order for change to be made, it needs to happen from the inside, and this decision gives me hope that the show might actually be making legitimate moves towards a more inclusive show. I’m confident that this season and his absence in the future of the franchise will show us that Bachelor Nation will thrive without him there.