ABC Sets Return Dates for 'The Bachelorette' and 'Bachelor in Paradise'

THE BACHELOR – KATIE, MATT JAMES
Courtesy of Craig Sjodin/ABC

Katie Thurston, the next 'Bachelorette' star, with Bachelor Matt James

The Bachelor franchise has been busy since wrapping its problematic cycle with Matt James.

On Wednesday, ABC set premiere dates for the recently announced Bachelorette season with Katie Thurston and confirmed that summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise will indeed return. The 17th season of The Bachelorette, the first of two seasons of the female-led series that is set for 2021, premieres June 7. Once that wraps, the franchise will head back to Paradise for season seven on Aug. 16.

The second 2021 cycle of The Bachelorette, which will star Michelle Young, is set to air in the fall (a premiere date has yet to be announced).

The news of Paradise's return means the Bachelor franchise will be taking over Monday nights for back-to-back TV seasons. The planned "seniors" spinoff, which had been eyed for a fall slot in the pre-pandemic era, notes a source, also remains in the works and has been putting out casting calls since the most recent Bachelor season.

Bachelor in Paradise, which reunites former contestants on the beach in Mexico, was postponed for the 2020 summer season due to the pandemic. After laying out a COVID-safe production plan with the 2020 season of The Bachelorette, which was filmed at a Palm Springs resort, and the 2021 cycle of The Bachelor, which was filmed at a resort in Pennsylvania, the team behind the franchise will now be applying their "bubble" blueprint to Paradise. (A filming location has yet to be announced.) Moreover, casting will have three seasons-worth of recent contestants to pluck from, in addition to contestants from previous seasons. "Breakout fan-favorites from The Bachelor franchise are back and ready for a second (or third) chance at finding love," reads the ABC synopsis, hinting at the return of familiar faces.

The Bachelorette, meanwhile, has been in production in New Mexico since shortly after James' Bachelor season wrapped in mid-March. Thurston and Young, who both hail from his season, were announced as the 2021 Bachelorettes during The Bachelor finale special.

ABC's decision to double down on the Warner Bros. TV and Next Entertainment-produced franchise for the summer comes amid a controversial time for the veteran franchise. James' season as the first Black Bachelor, which was meant to be historic and reflect changes made behind the scenes in order to make the franchise more inclusive, ultimately exposed systemic issues within the reality series over its continued handling of race. The racially insensitive behavior in winner Rachael Kirkconnell's recent past and host Chris Harrison's initial problematic defense of her behavior resulted in widespread backlash and criticism over how the landmark 25th season played out both on camera and behind the scenes.

In response to the criticism, ABC and Warner Bros. announced that Harrison would continue his hiatus and would not return to host the first cycle of The Bachelorette. Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are instead taking over his hosting duties; a host, or hosts, for Bachelor in Paradise have yet to be announced. As previously reported, Harrison's future with the franchise remains up in the air. Harrison, meanwhile, has retained power attorney Bryan Freedman, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The fallout from the current events surrounding the franchise prompted the executive producers to address continued criticism from alum Rachel Lindsay, who has been pushing the franchise to diversify its decision-makers. "As we continue the dialogue around achieving greater equity and inclusion within The Bachelor franchise, we are dedicated to improving the BIPOC representation of our crew, including among the executive producer ranks. These are important steps in effecting fundamental change so that our franchise is a celebration of love that is reflective of our world," said ABC Entertainment and Warner Horizon when announcing that Harrison, who is also a producer, would not return for the near future.

Left in The Bachelor's wake is James, who called off his relationship with Kirkconnell over the controversy and left the franchise with few words, most notably that he looks forward to seeing "the institutional change take place." Many Bachelor Nation stars have publicly expressed their disappointment with the franchise, opting to take a wait-and-see approach on how changes plan to be implemented. Viewers alike have expressed that sentiment; in a recent column for THR, columnist and longtime viewer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted: "The show's producers bear the responsibility of being slow to make the substantial changes that have been publicly called for over the past few years. ... Also, their inability to thoroughly vet contestants with a history of questionable behavior makes it appear that they don’t find these past indiscretions problematic."

The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise are produced by Next Entertainment and Warner Bros. Unscripted Television in association with Warner Horizon. Creator Mike Fleiss, Martin Hilton, Nicole Woods, Bennett Graebner, Peter Gust, Tim Warner, Louis Caric and Peter Geist are the executive producers.