Is 'Bachelor in Paradise' an Audition for ABC Franchise?

4:59 PM 8/7/2018

by Jackie Strause and Kimberly Nordyke

The Hollywood Reporter's show experts weigh the top picks for the next star of 'The Bachelor.'

From left: Jason Tartick, Colton Underwood, Wills Reid, Blake Horstmann
From left: Jason Tartick, Colton Underwood, Wills Reid, Blake Horstmann
Courtesy of ABC

Who will be the next Bachelor? ABC has a few choices.

Unlike The Bachelorette, which traditionally sees its star announced on finale night of The Bachelor, ABC has the benefit of time when it comes to picking its male star. The Bachelorette wraps in late summer and The Bachelor doesn't return until January, giving the minds behind the series the ability to see how the rest of the summer plays out among Bachelor Nation before crowning its next lead.

Heading into summer spinoff series Bachelor in Paradise, more than one Bachelorette finalist could be auditioning for the starring gig. Monday night's finale saw runner-up Blake Horstmann getting his heart broken by star Becca Kufrin, who is now engaged to Garrett Yrigoyen. Seasons past have seen the runner-up be too rattled to return (ahem, Peter Kraus of Rachel Lindsay's season). Is Blake a shoo-in or could Becca's other exes, like Jason Tartick or Bachelor in Paradise stars Colton Underwood and Wills Reid, swoop in to take the role?

Below, The Hollywood Reporter's franchise experts Jackie Strause and Kimberly Nordyke debate several options, taking into account what the reality stars have said about being the next Bachelor.

  • Wills Reid

    Top six finalist of 'The Bachelorette' season 14; 'Bachelor in Paradise' season 5 star

    Paul Hebert/ABC

    What he's said about being the Bachelor: "If I’m single after Paradise, I would consider it," he told THR at the recent Men Tell All taping. When asked about the possibility of becoming the first black Bachelor, he added, "Personally, I think America is more ready than they think they are. I don’t think the world is going to end if there’s a person of color being a Bachelor or a Bachelorette. We clearly saw Rachel [Lindsay], how she handled it with such poise and grace. I don’t think it would be anywhere out of the norm or far out of reality for that to happen. That’s how our world looks now and it would be great to see that reflected in the show."

    What JS says: Aside from how long overdue this franchise is to having its first black Bachelor, Wills would bring a comedic side that the show rarely leans into when it comes to the male leads. His Paradise performance will be telling, but — as much as he would be an exciting, welcome and less-obvious pick — the fact that the show didn't even put him in the hot seat during the Men Tell All means they are probably not testing the Wills waters. They would have given him more air time if they truly wanted to see the Bachelor Nation response.

    What KN says: He'd certainly be the most stylish Bachelor ever! I think what is working in his favor is how he handled himself when he got dumped by Becca Kufrin. He showed a sweet, sensitive side during their relationship and was very mature about the breakup. However, I don't think we ever really got to know Wills that well during her season. Moreover, he is part of the Bachelor in Paradise cast, and apart from Nick Viall, producers have historically not waded into the pool of that raunch-fest when casting the stars of their flagship show.

    Odds: 1/4 roses.

  • Peter Kraus

    Runner-up on 'The Bachelorette' season 13

    Greg Doherty/WireImage

    What he's said about being the Bachelor: "When you let uncertainty or fear guide your decisions, you risk missing out on what could potentially be the greatest opportunity of a lifetime. So live dangerously, live without the fear of the unknown, and continue to live and love with a heart that is truly open to anything," he wrote, in part, in a lengthy Instagram post when Arie Luyendyk Jr. was announced as the Bachelor instead of him.

    What JS says: Bachelor Nation no doubt still holds a candle for Peter Kraus. His casting would be welcomed, with open arms, by the viewers who were left devastated over his Bachelorette exist. His memes still infiltrate Bachelor Nation on Twitter every Monday. The last time he spoke out, he didn't rule out a return — it was ABC who admitted that he wasn't "100 percent ready." But the drama surrounding his departure from the show and those failed negotiations raise concerns over whether the long shot would actually come back and, if he did, would he truly trust the process? 

    What KN says: I have gone on record to state my support for Peter as the Bachelor, and I still stand behind that. It's been about a year now since we saw Rachel Lindsay dump him, and that's plenty of time to "get over" her and be "ready to find love again." What a great story for TV, right? It's right out of the Bachelor playbook. Plus, he's a huge fan favorite and some viewers are still lobbying for him on Twitter (the #PeterForBachelor hashtag is still alive). Also, he hasn't been gone from the public eye as long as Arie was, and he is still fresh in the collective mind of Bachelor Nation.

    Odds: 2/4 roses.

  • Colton Underwood

    Fourth place on 'The Bachelorette' season 14; 'Bachelor in Paradise' season 5 star

    Paul Hebert/ABC

    What he's said about being the Bachelor: "Obviously, we have to get through Paradise and there’s a lot of conversations still to be had. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there and we’ll see what happens with it," he told THR at the recent Men Tell All taping. When asked if he thinks America would be accepting of his virginity if he were to get the starring role, he replied: "It all depends. The Bachelor/Bachelorette is known for being romantic and for being intimate. I think the stigma around virginity is, 'Oh, you’re not romantic or you’re not sexual.' So that’s an interesting topic in the fact that if ABC was ready, it would be something to showcase."

    What JS says: Colton proved that he can open up on the Men Tell All, showing a range of emotions with his frustrations and tears. But the way he handled the whole Tia situation, which hasn't even begun to play out on Paradise, is a cause for concern. Anyone who jumps around the franchise too much always raises a red flag and, on top of that, I don't think he would be the most mature, or attract the most mature contestants, if he were to be the star.

    What KN says: Anyone who says he shouldn't be the next Bachelor because he's a virgin should rewatch Sean's season (while not technically a virgin, Sean had chosen to abstain until marriage). Still, do we really want to spend three months watching producers find new ways to mine drama from his virginity? Also, like Wills, he is part of the Bachelor in Paradise cast, which I think lowers his chances of becoming the next Bachelor. Plus, I have a feeling that producers are going to get as much out of the Colton-Tia storyline as they can on Paradise, so we may all be over that by the time Paradise ends.

    Odds: 2/4 roses.

  • Ben Higgins

    Lead of 'The Bachelor' season 20; 'The Bachelor: Winter Games' season one star

    Courtesy of ABC

    What he's said about being the Bachelor: "I think it was always going to be a discussion," he recently told Entertainment Tonight about his open-door relationship with producers. "I have a great relationship with the show. What I like about where my relationship is with The Bachelor now is they know where my life’s at. They understand where I’m at as a person. And if they were ever to want me to go back on the show — I don’t know if they would or not — but they would know that, hey, this is a better relationship than the last time. It’s not me coming into a blind scenario where I don’t know anything. It’s a conversation of, 'Is this really right for you right now?' And we haven’t had those conversations yet but we always stay in touch."

    What JS says: Ben is arguably the favorite contestant of the franchise, so it seems like the job is his for the taking. It's hard to imagine a scenario where the former Bachelor tells the producers that he's ready for Round 2 and doesn't get the gig. On his Bachelor-themed podcast with Ashley I., Ben is open and honest about himself, candid about the process, and has always been extremely self-aware. But, he might be better saved for a cycle where the fresh-faced options are less exciting.

    What KN says: Of all the men on this list, he'd be my last choice. I'm not ready to see another former Bachelor return. I'd prefer to watch someone new and follow their "journey" instead of rehashing what we've already gone through. Like I said about Arie, Ben also has grown accustomed to the fame aspect instead of the actual "looking for love" aspect (see: Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?, The Bachelor Winter Games and all the other reality and game shows he's appeared on since starring on The Bachelor). And I don't even think he was that interesting his first time around. The thought of watching him on another season just makes me tired.

    Odds: 2/4 roses.

  • Jason Tartick

    Third place on 'The Bachelorette' season 14

    Paul Hebert/ABC

    What he's said about being the Bachelor: "This process exceeded my expectations start to finish, in every category and competency," he told THR at the Men Tell All taping. "Because of that, I look back on this so favorably and I would absolutely consider what could be next with this franchise. I’ve become a better person today from the show and I think I’m in the best position I’ve ever been to find the happiness I’m looking for. Coming into this, I had guarded walls and just scars that had come from insecurities from running from relationships, but at this point, I have a very open heart and I’m leading with my heart and not my calculated head. I feel like I’m in a really good spot to find someone and it feels good knowing that."

    What JS says: Jason would be one of the more progressive choices the franchise could make. His open-mindedness on this franchise could go a very long way, given the controversies of recent seasons, and he has a knack for eloquently expressing himself, another refreshing quality. Skipping Bachelor in Paradise could be a sure sign that he's a top contender, since only one Bachelor (Nick Viall) has ever gone from Paradise to the starring role. Since his elimination, he also appears to be campaigning for the gig in the press.

    What KN says: If it isn't Peter, then Jason has my vote. The way he handled himself after getting dumped by Becca was something future competitors should aspire to. The smart, well-spoken corporate banker was extremely gracious, and the fact that he wanted to remain friends with her speaks to his maturity level. Plus, his brother and brother-in-law are a model in what a healthy relationship should be, and I think that sets a great example for Jason, who seems to be truly serious about finding someone to settle down with.

    Odds: 3/4 roses.

  • Blake Horstmann

    Runner-up on 'The Bachelorette' season 14

    Paul Hebert/ABC

    What he's said about being the Bachelor: On the After the Final Rose special, the heart-broken runner-up told Becca Kufrin: "If people think that this is going to keep me down, they didn't watch the season too closely. I've learned and I've grown from a lot in my life and this will be no different. I'll learn to grow from this. I'm not going to be scared now of falling in love again. My person's still out there and I'm never going to apologize for how hard I love." The following day, he told reporters (including THR) on a press call that he would "definitely consider" the starring role. "If I was considered to be the Bachelor, I definitely wouldn’t take it for granted," he said. "I saw how hard it was for Becca in that last week, and I know it would be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, but I think it’d all be worth it."

    What JS says: Looking at the franchise's track record, Blake being a devastated runner-up who is still open to love makes him an obvious pick for ABC. After Arie's lackluster performance, Bachelor Nation could certainly benefit from having an emotive star who can verbally express how he feels (a strength of Nick Viall's) and who isn't too shy, or reserved, to break down and cry in front of the cameras (a la Ben Higgins). His life story provides a depth to his character that balances out his young age. He appears to be one of the more genuine guys to come around this franchise.

    What KN says: Watching his breakup with Becca was heart-wrenching, and he certainly has sympathy and support from Bachelor Nation right now. Is he over Becca enough to become the next Bachelor? Unclear, but Becca was also devastated by her own breakup with Arie and, not long after, she signed up as the Bachelorette. Still, as much as I believe him to be a decent human being and overall good guy, I'm not sure Blake is dynamic enough to carry an entire season of the show.

    Odds: 4/4 roses.