When Chris Harrison landed the plum gig as host of a new ABC reality series called “The Bachelor” 10 years ago, it was “a groundbreaking moment,” for the former sports broadcaster.
Still, he had little faith that the show was going to make it past a few episodes. After all, the series was pitted against Fox powerhouse “Ally McBeal” and NBC’s popular Aaron Sorkin skein “The West Wing” — both series Harrison was sure would be around long after “Bachelor” got axed.
“It was my first foray into network television and I didn’t know how I was going to translate into that genre,” reflects Harrison. “Reality TV was actually pretty new at the time — ‘Survivor’ had only been on a year — and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. My goal was to stay on the show for two or three weeks and parlay it into a real job.”
Fast forward a decade and “The Bachelor” has become a reality staple with Harrison now one of the most recognizable faces in reality television.
“My role had never been done before,” he says. “I had to figure out what my part was.
“At the beginning I was more of a traffic cop that helped tell the story, but as the story evolved and I earned the respect of the viewers and cast members, I became a confidant and therapist. These women now come to me with their problems. It’s more fun but it’s also more challenging.”
According to “The Bachelor” exec producer Martin Hilton, Harrison “came alive” as a host once the show veered away from its original “traditional fairy tale” format.
“When we decided that it was more powerful to let the real stories play out — for good or bad — that’s when Chris stepped in to make sure our cast knew what they could and could not do,” says Hilton. “He became a clearinghouse for information and it made him all that more desirable to viewers and a much more important part of the show.”
Adds Harrison: “What I’ve learned from 10 years of watching these women interact is that it’s the ultimate study of human behavior.”
‘Bachelor’ brought roses to Warners | Harrison comfy as mentor, matchmaker | Casting director finds the femmes to fit the field | Auds engaged to romance-friendly franchise