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New ‘The Bachelor’ Series Set for Summer Following ‘Bachelorette’ Coronavirus Shutdown (EXCLUSIVE)

Chris Harrison The Bachelor
Courtesy of ABC

Bachelor Nation, prepare to take a trip down memory lane.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic that caused production to be halted on the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette” earlier this spring, ABC has solidified its summer programming plans for the hit dating franchise, landing on a retrospective greatest hits series, hosted by Chris Harrison, Variety has learned exclusively.

Premiering on June 8, the 10-episode event series, titled “The Bachelor: The Most Unforgettable – Ever!” will revisit some of the most iconic seasons from the franchise’s 18-year history. Each three-hour episode will cover a full season from the dating show archives, highlighting some of the most devastating rose ceremonies, passionate proposals, unexpected new arrivals, dramatic meltdowns, biggest breakups and most romantic moments that Bachelor Nation has ever witnessed.

“We really wanted to give Bachelor Nation something to watch, and immediately, there was this clamoring and desire from our fans to watch old seasons,” Harrison tells Variety, explaining that the idea for the show came from viewer input on Twitter.

Harrison will host episodes from the famous driveway outside “The Bachelor” mansion, which happens to be a five-minute drive from his own home in the Los Angeles area. He will be joined by a skeleton crew that will practice social distancing on set to ensure responsible safety measures. In each episode, Harrison will also lead virtual catch-ups with fan-favorite Bachelor alumni, checking in on their lives after the show.

“’The Bachelor: The Most Unforgettable – Ever!’ is a love letter to our fans who have been with us through some of the most heartwarming, heartbreaking and unexpected moments throughout Bachelor history,” says ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke. “We can’t wait for Bachelor Nation to fall in love all over again as we take this wild journey down memory lane.”

Not all seasons that will be included have been determined, but Season 18, starring Juan Pablo Galavis, will be showcased, meaning upcoming “Bachelorette” star Clare Crawley can appear via video chat.

“If you don’t know Clare or aren’t invested in Clare yet, that will give you a deeper investment in her season,” ABC’s reality programming chief, Rob Mills, tells Variety, confirming that Crawley will absolutely still be the new “Bachelorette” when production on that show can safely resume. (The executive is hopeful production on “The Bachelorette” can commence mid-summer, aiming for a fall debut, though all plans are tentative, given the uncertainty generated by the coronavirus pandemic.)

In regards to which other seasons will be included during the greatest hits, sources say the very first seasons of “The Bachelor” from 2002 and “The Bachelorette” with Trista Sutter, which aired in 2003, are being considered. Other top contenders to be recapped across the eight weeks are Kaitlyn Bristowe (“The Bachelorette” Season 11), plus former “Bachelor” stars Sean Lowe (Season 17) and newly-engaged Ben Higgins (Season 20). Variety has learned that Peter Weber’s season will not be included in the event series, given that it recently aired earlier this year.

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ABC

“The Bachelorette,” which normally shoots in early spring and begins airing in May, had barely started production on its new season when the pandemic caused a widespread shutdown across Hollywood this past March. The typical yearly programming slate for the ABC franchise includes “The Bachelor,” which airs in January, followed by “The Bachelorette” in the spring, and summer series “Bachelor In Paradise,” which begins airing in August. A new music-centric dating show, “The Bachelor Presents: Listen To Your Heart,” is currently airing, and will wrap up its six-episode season in mid-May.

With production plans in limbo for both “Bachelorette” and “Bachelor In Paradise,” and stay-at-home orders placed across most of the country, it became clear that no previously-planned “Bachelor” programming would be ready for air this summer, so the network settled on the new retrospective spinoff, which requires very little new production, since it will be largely comprised of previous franchise footage.

“A lot of our fans have not seen some of the classic seasons that made this franchise what it is because they’re younger, they came in the middle or maybe three quarters of the way into this franchise,” Harrison says. “Our thought was let’s just give them a little taste of some of these great seasons, do something different in a bite-sized format. We’re going to see the entire journey of one season in a single night, and along the way, talk to some of the characters, find out what they’re doing, where they are now and what those moments meant to them.”

Mills adds, “It’ll be all the good parts that you like with none of the filler.”

Although “The Most Unforgettable – Ever!” has yet to go into production, Harrison says the entire team is in step with Warner Horizon, which owns the show and runs production, to figure out the safest way possible to produce the series during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As far as safety is concerned, it will be very deep, very detailed,” Harrison says. “I’ll probably mic myself, the crew will come in and set up an unmanned camera, and there will be one producer in the other room directing the camera. For the interviews, I will be reaching out via the internet to speak to our alums, so no one else will be in the house, no one else will be in contact.”

While “The Most Unforgettable – Ever!” was created as a direct response to the need for content during the coronavirus production shutdown, ABC hopes the series will unite fans, during this isolated time.

“Even if you’ve seen the past seasons, it will provide new context and new information, and will just be a fun way for all of us to get together in Bachelor Nation and get back on social media together,” says Mills. “One thing we’ve learned is how much this show means to people. This show is so different — so many friendships have been formed through this show. Socially, it just provides this bond. People are scared and feeling alone, and it might sound crazy, but this is a way to make feel people not as alone, at least for Monday nights.”