‘The Bachelor’: ABC Not Rushing to Name Chris Harrison’s Permanent Replacement (EXCLUSIVE)

Popular on Variety

In a dramatic twist that rivals all on-screen antics from “The Bachelor,” Chris Harrison officially departed the hit dating franchise this week, after nearly 20 years as host of the series.

As the face of “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise” and all of the other spinoffs within the ABC juggernaut, Harrison has hosted more than 50 seasons altogether, dating back to 2002. But after making racially insensitive comments during a widely-panned interview where he defended a contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, who attended an antebellum-themed plantation party, Harrison became subject of a media firestorm that never went away. After months of waiting on the sidelines as guest hosts began to fill in for him, Harrison officially parted ways with the franchise, following a legal settlement and acrimonious exit negotiations behind closed doors.

Now, with guest hosts rotating in-and-out for the current season of “The Bachelorette” and the upcoming summer season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” there is one question on Bachelor Nation’s mind: Who will replace Harrison?

Insiders explain that the search for a permanent replacement host is not top of mind among ABC brass — at least for now. While the position is a major slot to fill, the network has the luxury of time and isn’t in a major rush, since, according to two well-placed sources, it’s likely a permanent host won’t be named until the upcoming season of “The Bachelor,” which goes into production this fall and doesn’t premiere until January 2022.

ABC and Warner Bros. declined to comment on their process for replacing Harrison.

Once news of Harrison’s departure broke, the team behind the franchise has been inundated with calls from talent agents pitching their clients, who all are interested in the prime part.

A slew of names are being floating around, and any of the general contenders that might be top of mind for Bachelor Nation are fair game. But, there is no shortlist on the network or studio’s mind, according to people familiar with internal discussions. The new host could, perhaps, come from within the franchise. Anyone from former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay (who recently ended her “Bachelor” contract with Warner Bros.) to “After the Final Rose” interim host Emmanuel Acho (who got rave reviews for his guest-hosting turn) are possibilities.

According to insiders close to the franchise, there’s no frontrunner for the job yet.

Not filling Harrison’s role with a high-profile hire could save the franchise some money. The host was making around $5 million per year, according to numerous insiders.

The current season of “The Bachelorette,” starring Katie Thurston, is being co-hosted by former “Bachelorette” stars Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe. Many fans on Twitter applauded the duo, who brought supportive female energy to the role.

According to two individuals familiar with ongoing conversations, bringing back Adams and Bristowe for the next season of “The Bachelorette,” starring Michelle Young, is more of a possibility than naming either of the women permanent hosts for the franchise.

This past Monday’s premiere of “The Bachelorette” Season 17 — the first to be hosted without Harrison — hit an all-time premiere low, dropping 24% from last season, with 3.6 million total viewers, per Nielsen Live+Same Day numbers. However, the show still won the night as the top-rated program in the 8:00-10:00 p.m. time slot. Typically, “Bachelorette” rates lower than “Bachelor,” and numbers grow throughout the season as viewers become acquainted with the lead, in this case, Thurston.

Later this summer, “Bachelor in Paradise” will be hosted by a rotating slate of celebrities including comedian David Spade, rapper Lil Jon, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” actor Tituss Burgess and musician Lance Bass. Fan-favorite “Bachelor” alum Wells Adams and his partner “Modern Family” actress Sarah Hyland are also expected to appear in the season, though Variety has learned their deals have not officially closed. Sources say that ABC is enthusiastic about the slew of “Bachelor in Paradise” guest hosts freshening up the show with a lighter tone.

For now, “The Bachelor” has a new kind of suitor — in a competition of roses for who will take control of the show.