Chris Harrison Understands Why Fans Hated 'Bachelor' Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s Proposal (Exclusive)
By Lauren Zima
This week brought Bachelor fans the most shocking season finale ever, featuring the most emotional scene ever, and after a live proposal on Tuesday night's After the Final Rose, the show's most dramatic 24 hours ever.
These are all titles given by the gatekeeper of the franchise, Chris Harrison. We spoke with him about Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s second proposal in just one season, that unforgettable (and controversial) unedited finale and why viewers are rallying around new Bachelorette Becca Kufrin.
ET: Why start Becca Kufrin’s season of The Bachelorette last night on After the Final Rose? Was there a sense of wanting to move forward from the ‘Arie’ of it all? Everyone seems excited about Becca.
Chris Harrison: That’s part of it. There is always that aspect of "Let’s move forward, take the next step." For Becca, it made sense. For the show it made sense. We actually weren’t sure if there was going to be a proposal last night. That was something that was very much up in the air. [Arie] had talked about it, he’d not talked about it. He was gonna do it, then he wasn't. We weren’t really sure if there was going to be a proposal, so we went with the idea that there probably wouldn’t be, and once the episode is halfway done, we’re thinking, How do we move forward with Becca? Is it just announcing her as Bachelorette? Do we want to go ahead and start the show? It seemed to work really well with Rachel [Lindsay], it got a good buzz going and got everybody into it.
Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not upset by it, but I totally understand why people are upset by it and why they thought it might be in bad taste. I totally get it for a number of reasons. Everybody watching the show just went through this [breakup with Becca], they’re just living it, and that’s one thing I don’t ever expect the contestants to understand. I understand it as a producer and the host of this show; things that take months to take shape and things that have happened months ago are playing out in minutes to the viewer. So, it’s hard for people to digest. It’s coming so fast. So, I understand how the timing could be shocking and throw everybody off. I don’t think people have seen the time and energy Lauren and Arie have put into their relationship. But even with that said, I totally get why people were a little thrown off. I took the read of the audience last night and nobody knew what to do [after the proposal]. I even made mention of that on the air, which normally I wouldn’t have done, but I could just feel there was this awkward, "We’re not sure what to do" feeling. So I thought, That’s how everybody at home is feeling.
I think it was self-imposed pressure. Also, when you watched his family, I think he felt a lot of pressure that his family wanted him to do something. I do think he felt the pressure of the show, and look, we’re all friends. I think he wanted to please us all and please Bachelor Nation. I try to take that pressure off and tell people, "You’ve got to live your life."
If you want to be better, then do better. I can see if you’re mad if you’re edited wrong, but you can’t say you’re mad it was unedited wrong. That’s a tough argument to make! … I thought it was fair. I thought it was a very good perspective of what went on. … I like Arie a lot, I really do. He’s a good man, he made some mistakes, and I think he owned those. That’s all you can do as a man or a woman, because we’ve all done it.
Arie was critiqued for being boring, then we got kind of an insane ending. Overall, how has this season made you want to approach next season of The Bachelorette in terms of what you want to deliver for fans?
You can’t really go from season to season like that and try to draw parallels and make them the same or different, they just are. Now that Arie’s done, my life, my energy goes into Becca and this season and making this as good as I can for her.
There was a great moment on AFR when you made things about the women; you brought the other women from Becca’s season out of the audience and up onstage. Was that a nod to your female audience? It gave a good sense of female empowerment.
It was a very impromptu moment. Bekah and Kendall were in my eyeline and I could see they were leaning forward ready to run up onstage. They said in my ear that I had a little time, so I just called them up. … I thought, What a great moment. One of the things I think is misunderstood about The Bachelor is the sisterhood, and the bonds that are built for the women and the men. A lot of incredible, lifelong friendships are formed because of these shows. … It wasn't a nod to anything going in the world right now, other than that I wanted these women to have their moment and be sisters. … And I think that’s how the fans watch our show, they’re all together, drinking wine and gossiping … That’s the beauty of this show: it really brings people together.
The unedited finale scene will go down as an iconic one in franchise history. Anything you would have done differently with it?
No. I’ve thought a lot about it. As producers, we're not always right. We make a decision the best we can not knowing how all the viewers are going to feel. … You have to show the bad with the good. You don't get to pick and choose your fairy tale moments and make it look all pretty, because life’s not like that. My life’s not like that, and I don’t know anyone else’s who is. It makes it relatable, and I appreciate Arie and Becca allowing us into that moment in their lives. It’s something that needs to be shown, because we all deal with and know that heartbreak. And would we all feel the same about Becca today if we hadn’t gone through that with her? Now we are all so behind this strong, independent, poised, graceful woman who handled that moment of heartbreak, I thought, so incredibly well. Now we all really want to see this story with her. If we’d shown some pretty fluff and named Becca as Bachelorette, would we feel the same? At the end of the day, I stand behind it, and that doesn't mean I’m right, but I’m glad that we choose to show you everything. I find it kind of ironic that sometimes we get yelled at for over editing or hiding the truth, and then when we blatantly show the truth, people are mad about it. We just do the best we can!