There has been much criticism in recent years of the “Bachelor” franchise of shows because it has yet to have an African-American lead for either its male or female iterations of the show.
Part of the problem has been the fact that ABC realized years ago viewers like seeing someone they were rooting for in the previous cycle become the lead of the next cycle, which then presents a cyclical problem if a person of color did not make it far in the competition.
ABC president Channing Dungey says that the way the network hopes to combat that problem is by picking a more diverse cast from the get-go.
“I would very much like to see some changes [with ‘The Bachelor’],” Dungey tells the 2016 TCA summer press tour audience. “I think one of the biggest changes we need to do is we need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning because part of what ends up happening as we go along is there just aren’t as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next bachelor or bachelorette, so that is something we really want to put some effort and energy towards.”
When asked if the show could simply choose a non-white lead, Dungey acknowledges that they certainly could, but the audience engagement is an important factor in the success of the show.
“The show has been very much in a cycle where the first runner-up in one cycle becomes the person who leads the next cycle and it works very well for us because the audience feels really engaged in helping to choose that candidate, so the thing we would like to try to do is widen the pool of choices.”
When asked later if the audience’s investment in the next cycle’s lead is more important than featuring a person of color, Dungey says they would really like find a person who fits both bills.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s more important,” Dungey tells Zap2it. “I feel as though our audience is incredibly passionate and invested in the show and we’d like to try to find a way to do both.”
That’s all well and good, but ABC has had a chance to do that. Marquel Martin did not make it to the end of Andi Dorfman’s “Bachelorette” season, but he was incredibly popular with the viewers. Instead, ABC chose to go with Chris Soules as “The Bachelor.” And “Bachelor” Season 20 3rd-place finisher Caila Quinn is half Filipino, but ABC chose to to pick JoJo Fletcher.
Now, maybe Marquel or Caila said no. But it isn’t as simple as saying there has been a lack of viable non-white candidates. And there is a strong sentiment that Juan Pablo Galavis doesn’t really count as a non-Caucasian bachelor because race and nationality are not the same thing.
However, Dungey is right — an inherent problem in the way the “Bachelor/ette” finds its leads is that if there are only a couple contestants of color, their chances of making it to the end of the competition are not great.
Perhaps a cast that starts out as more diverse will be the solution. Until then, we’ll all just have to watch the black suitor on “UnReal,” which Dungey says she enjoys as a viewer.