A new era for Bachelor Nation has arrived.
We have now officially seen the first premiere in franchise history without Chris Harrison as the host, and we shouldn't be surprised that it was really wonderful—and "wonderful" is not a word we often associate with anything Bachelor. Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams felt like old friends at a fancy sleepover, helping their single pal Katie Thurston swipe on Tinder IRL. They hyped her up, they offered commentary and they spied through a window with popcorn in hand, offering their opinions on guys with trucks. (They like them, for the record.)
It was so much fun, and it made the show feel more joyful than it has in a long time, if ever. Instead of a dark undercurrent of reality TV machinations, there was fun, laughter—and a sense that maybe everybody is here to have a good time.
Kaitlyn and Tayshia have been contestants and leads before, and they're currently both in happy, engaged Bachelor Nation relationships. They're the perfect choice to shepherd a new lead through her own journey to find TV love, and bringing them on feels like a no brainer. It just really sucks to remember how we got here, and that it wasn't actually a no brainer at all.
Chris originally stepped down temporarily after screwing up in an interview with Bachelorette alum Rachel Lindsay, who has led the fandom in calling out the franchise's myriad of bad choices over the past few years. She grilled Chris about contestant Rachael Kirckconnell's history of racist actions, like attending an Antebellum-themed party in college in 2018. Chris thought maybe celebrating the Old South was somehow less racist in 2018 than in 2021, and asked that people give Rachael, who went on to win Matt James' season, some "grace."
When Chris was replaced by Emmanuel Acho for the After the Final Rose special, Rachel Lindsay dealt with so much backlash for holding Chris accountable that she had to leave Instagram. Still, the interview was a turning point for the franchise. Kaitlyn and Tayshia were announced as co-hosts for Katie's season, and then it was reported that a rotating roster of celebrities will helm Bachelor in Paradise. Now, Chris has stepped down permanently, and there's an opportunity here to turn an aging, antiquated franchise into something fresh, fun—and maybe a little bit modern.
This isn't even about Chris being a bad host, if you put aside the controversy surrounding him. You could even call him a very good host, in traditional terms. He was simply there, never taking the spotlight, never intentionally being noticed. He announced when it was time for the final rose, and offered platitudes when leads were weighing their options. He didn't add anything, and that was intentional, but maybe what this show needed all along was a host or two who had something to say.
Chris is also a divorced middle-aged white man who's never been a contestant or a lead before, and who doesn't actually know what it feels like to have to date 30 people at once. He's also never been a person of color on national television, or a woman being slut-shamed on social media, or a virgin navigating a show famous for its Fantasy Suites, and yet, he was the only person there to give on-screen advice. He's also one man, often dealing with a lead and 20-plus contestants, and he simply couldn't be in two or more places at once.
Ideally, the franchise could go even further than Tayshia and Kaitlyn. The guys need someone to lean on too, so why not bring in Zac Clark and Jason Tartick, their respective fiancés? Have the couples there to give couples advice together, and then have the men there to help the men, and the women there to help the women. When the lead needs a minute (and we imagine someone in such a stressful position might need a lot of minutes), let the couples take over the spotlight and offer some of the wisdom they must have gained after their time on the show.
A new host doesn't erase the problems that this show has faced in the past surrounding mental health and support for its BIPOC contestants and lack of representation, but it's at least a start. Here's hoping Katie's premiere was a beacon of more fun and less dark things to come.
The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.