'Bachelorette' Premiere Postponed: Chris Harrison's Update on All Franchise Shows Amid COVID-19 (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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The season premiere of The Bachelorette has officially been postponed. The ABC dating show's newest season was supposed to debut on Monday, May 18 -- however fans have noticed that slot has now been taken for the finale of another Bachelor spinoff, Listen to Your Heart. (The music-driven show premieres on April 13, and was originally supposed to conclude the week before The Bachelorette.)
It's no surprise that The Bachelorette's premiere date would be postponed, as coronavirus concerns forced production to be halted last month, just hours before Clare Crawley was supposed to meet her men for the first time at the Bachelor mansion. But now it's official.
In an interview with ET's Lauren Zima, Chris Harrison provided an update on plans for The Bachelorette, as well as where every other Bachelor franchise show stands amid the continued coronavirus pandemic.
The Bachelorette is the franchise's No. 1 priority over all other shows, Harrison said.
"It's crushing us right now. We know that this too shall pass and there are bigger problems and bigger fish to fry, but we really wish we were making an incredible show with Clare," he shared. "I mean, we would be over halfway done [with filming by this point], and Clare might be narrowing down finding the love of her life. How exciting -- and I hate that that is stolen from her at this particular time."
Crawley and her contestants were released by production soon after filming shut down on March 13. Originally, the plan was to reconvene two weeks later, but with the current status of the pandemic, there is now no set date to start back up again.
"Maybe we do it all this summer, but if things don't go as planned with this virus and with this quarantine, maybe we won't have time to do it all," Harrison noted. "So we have to think, 'OK what is our priority?' It's trying to create any content in the interim, and then let's get The Bachelorette."
"In this quarantine time, I am never going to say never to anything again. It is unprecedented. We have never dealt with this, our schedule -- like everyone's -- is ripped apart," he said. "We had a calendar. It is completely in the shredder."
Still, the team remains optimistic enough about eventually resuming filming that they've started casting again for Crawley's suitors. Harrison previously said it was unlikely that the same group of men would be available to film again after the shut down.
"Are they going to be healthy enough? Are jobs going to be on the line if they leave? All of our lives are turned upside down, so it's naive to think that all of these guys are going to be able to come back and pick right back up where we left off," he explained. "We are going to continue casting, so if you have someone... let us know."
BACHELOR IN PARADISE
Paradise usually films in Mexico in June -- but with the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent travel restrictions, that show is also up in the air. Harrison also noted that the series usually involves castoffs from the most recent Bachelorette season, so Crawley's cycle still takes precedence.
However, there is another crop of fresh Bachelor Nation contestants who could be used for Paradise this season -- the cast of Listen to Your Heart.
"Maybe that's the move -- we got some great cast members that you guys are about to be introduced to on Monday, and I think people are going to fall in love with them and connect with them the way they do with Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants," Harrison said. "So maybe that's a way to get there faster, I don't know!"
BACHELOR SUMMER GAMES
The franchise's Olympics-inspired spinoff, Bachelor Summer Games, was never officially confirmed by ABC, but it was "on the docket," Harrison told ET on March 11. He revealed at the time, however, that it was "highly unlikely" it would come together, given that "a key component is getting foreigners in our country."
Late last month, the International Olympic Committee confirmed its plans to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, until the following year -- and it seems Summer Games might follow suit.
"Bachelor Summer Games was scheduled for production... I believe [in] May, after Bachelorette. We would have gone and quickly done Summer Games, and then gone into Bachelor in Paradise," Harrison revealed. "Maybe it will be rescheduled with the actual summer Olympics for next year, but for now, that's off the table because obviously we can't do it."
"There's no way to do it -- we can't do it all via Zoom, unfortunately. So, that's on the back burner," he added.
THE SENIOR SPINOFF
In February, the franchise started putting out casting notices for senior citizens looking for love. The target crowd was contestants aged 65 or older... which happens to be one of the most at-risk populations for coronavirus.
"Honestly, that was so early in production and in the incubation period," Harrison told ET of the senior spinoff, which still didn't have an official title. "I know that we were going to probably do it, but my guess is that we are going to put a pin in that."
The show that started it all, The Bachelor, usually films from September to November -- which is still months out. However, with Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise schedules affected by COVID-19, Harrison said The Bachelor is also likely to experience changes.
"Obviously the schedule for The Bachelor is going to be changed as well," he said, sharing that they're also casting for the next installment of that show.
"I do want to emphasize we are casting for [men for] the next Bachelorette, that is Clare, and [women for] the next Bachelor, we don't know who that is yet," Harrison declared. "If you want to nominate someone, go to ABC.com/casting and nominate someone for The Bachelor and Bachelorette. We are still looking."
The Bachelor has one of the largest gaps in the franchise between when it films and when it airs (a season that finishes filming in November debuts in January) -- so that could be on its side.
"Bachelor and Bachelorette, that is the franchise, that is our baby... It may sound silly to be loyal to an inanimate object but I am loyal to this franchise, I am loyal to those shows," Harrison told ET. "The Bachelor and Bachelorette are what makes our world go 'round, everything else comes off of that. So yeah, I think it's important."
THE BACHELOR PRESENTS: LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
In the meantime, the franchise is gearing up to debut its newest "baby," Listen to Your Heart. The series will see 20 singles on musical challenges and Bachelor-style dates, as they search for love and a music career -- and it will premiere on schedule as the team works from home to make it happen.
"People were asking, 'Why can't we get Listen to Your Heart earlier?' We were rushing to get Listen to Your Heart out on Monday, April 13. We were crushing the post department, now we are doing this from home, so even the version that I just watched, is not cut, it's not ready to go, it's not ready to air," Harrison said.
"So, I am still watching rough versions of the show. It is not even ready to be consumed yet," he continued. "We are doing our best to get content on and create as much content as we can, but trying to do it from home like everyone else is."
With fans looking for ways to stay occupied and entertained amid self-quarantine, Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss teased the team was coming up with new ways to fill Bachelor Mondays.
"I've been talking to Mike every day, if not every other day, and Rob Mills at ABC, and we've all been brainstorming," Harrison revealed. "Maybe I can get into a studio safely, and we Zoom with people. Could we shoot a highlight-type of special, where we go back and look at the great episodes or maybe the great seasons of Bachelor and Bachelorette history? We [could] talk about those and we [could] have special guests. Maybe we Zoom, we Skype them, that kind of stuff. What can we do with Listen to Your Heart, could there be specials?"
"We are trying to think, 'What can we do to create content?' This is before we are shooting The Bachelorette, because again it is going to take time once we get back to production actually to crank things up -- so, how can we create things in that space?" he added.
Regardless of what happens, Harrison thinks the Bachelor franchise will be forever changed.
"I can't imagine the show will look exactly the same," he said. "One thing about The Bachelor that has been really good socially is that we have always just developed and embraced moments no matter what is happening in the world, and this is going to be one of those times."
"Clare's season will probably be a little different -- you will probably see them discussing, 'Who were you quarantined with? What were you doing? Did you, god forbid, lose anybody?' Those conversations are going to happen and the thought that all of those people were unaffected by this is very slim," Harrison continued, also noting that it's possible Crawley might bring up having gotten to know some of her contestants via social media before filming. "It will be a brave new world and I think as a reality show, you embrace that and you just roll with what comes to you."
The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.