'Bachelor' Surprise: Was Colton Underwood the Best Pick?

ABC had more options than usual when it came to naming its next male franchise lead.
Paula Lobo/ABC
Colton Underwood on 'GMA'

ABC named Colton Underwood as the next star of The Bachelor on Tuesday morning. It wasn't as shocking as the last Bachelor, but — for those who don't follow spoilers — it's become clear that the two-time franchise star was not the most obvious choice.

There were a handful of viable options heading into Tuesday's announcement. Becca Kufrin's recent season of The Bachelorette produced a heartbroken and well loved runner-up in Blake Horstmann, and saw fan-favorites Jason Tartick and Wills Reid emerging as underdog candidates in the Bachelor race. But it was Underwood who, after getting dumped shortly after going public with his virginity, cemented a starring role for himself when he returned to the franchise on summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise.

The former NFL player, 26, almost never made it to his fourth-place finish on Kufrin's season. Early on, Kufrin's friend and fellow Bachelor contestant Tia Booth confessed that she and Underwood had a brief romantic fling before he went on Kufrin's season. Booth later came back to tell Kufrin that she wasn't over Underwood shortly before his elimination. As soon as Underwood landed in Paradise earlier this summer, he and Booth entered into a rocky relationship. Ultimately, he decided he wasn't ready to fully open his heart to someone new, and he exited the spinoff series on Monday night's episode.

His announcement as the Bachelor was made on Tuesday's Good Morning America. "Third time's the charm, that's what they say, right?" Underwood beamed to anchor Michael Strahan. Though he said he adamantly wants to be engaged by the end of the journey (which begins taping in the fall and will air in January), Underwood remains a divisive pick — judging by the franchise viewers who have taken to voicing their opinions on social media.

Is Underwood the right move for the long-running franchise? The Hollywood Reporter's show experts discuss the pros and cons, and what it means for the future of the franchise below.

Jackie Strause: Kimberly — I know you aren't thrilled.

Kimberly Nordyke: Not at all. I have a feeling producers are going to milk two themes throughout the season: 1) Is Colton really over Tia and ready to move on? and 2) How will he — and the women — handle his virginity going into the fantasy suite dates? I'm already exhausted just thinking about it. Moreover, is Colton really that interesting? I'm just not excited to watch a full season of The Bachelor where he is the star. He doesn't really bring anything interesting or new to the table.

Strause: I know that he came as a surprise, given how much backing both Blake and Jason had after Becca's season, but really, all the signs were there. Producers were focusing on the Colton-Tia drama from the start of Becca's season, and they still haven't let it go. Bachelor in Paradise was the Colton and Tia show. He certainly follows the Bachelor/Bachelorette trope where on-camera tears and a broken heart lead to being the star of the next cycle. And then, after all of his flip-flopping with Tia, he told Michael Strahan on GMA that he "absolutely" expects to be engaged by the end of his season. It's official: His Bachelor grooming is complete. 

Ashley Cullins: I'm actually thrilled it's Colton — even though I was kind of hoping the producers would throw us a Venmo John wild card. I only saw the last few episodes of Becca's season because I refused to watch Arie's and therefore wasn't all that invested in her story. (No offense to her.) Blake and Jason seemed nice enough and certainly deserving, but I didn't find either of them to be leading man material. A 26-year-old former NFL tight end who's a virgin is definitely unique — and he seems like a good Midwestern boy next door. Although, I'm with Kimberly in hoping his virginity and Tia aren't the only plot points. 

Natalie Jarvey: I worry that because of his background as a professional athlete, Colton is too polished for this show. Sure, that might seem like the perfect quality for a Bachelor but some of the best seasons are when the lead isn't afraid to throw out the playbook and get a bit messy. I know we saw him open up and get emotional with Tia, but I'm not sure that's enough evidence that he'll give us the drama that's necessary to make a good season of The Bachelor.

Strause: I wouldn't be surprised if his emotional showing on both Paradise and the Men Tell All are what got him the gig. After a somewhat lifeless season with Arie, Bachelor Nation deserves a lead who is in touch with his emotions and who isn't afraid to be vulnerable. I felt that Jason was actually a little too polished, though both he and Wills — and even Blake — would have been more progressive picks given their families and backgrounds. We've seen Colton shed several rounds of tears and I also applaud his approach on how he hopes the show handles his virginity. Instead of shying away from it like they did with born-again virgin Sean Lowe (who is actually the only Bachelor to have married his winner), Colton wants ABC to "normalize" his personal choice. He wants to tackle the "stigma around virginity" that "you’re not romantic or sexual." I am curious to see if — and how — ABC accepts that challenge.

Cullins: Can I interject here: Again — a super hot dude who loves dogs, helps children with Cystic Fibrosis AND cries? Sold.

Strause: He is a wholesome choice and that is something this franchise could certainly use after being hit with backlash over Arie's season — when the "kissing bandit" was criticized as the wrong lead in the #MeToo era — and Becca's cycle, which was hit with bad behavior and scandal time and again, including one contestant being convicted of sexual assault. One way to fix the franchise's vetting issues is certainly to lure more wholesome contestants with the safest pick. He's also dated someone famous outside the franchise (Aly Raisman), and has the biggest social media following of the new bunch — two checks in the "potential ratings" column for ABC.

Lexy Perez: I can honestly say that I'm Team Colton. He is a 26-year-old who has not only had a successful career but who is also open with his emotions, despite some loud criticism. It was unfair to put him at the center of the Tia drama on Paradise when it was clear that he was in love with Becca and simply going on the show to try to start over again. As much as you say he doesn't know what he wants, I beg to differ. Just because he didn't want to be romantically involved with Tia doesn't make him a bad person. We can’t deny the fact that he was open from the start about his reservations. She just refused to listen and accept it. From their statements today, it sounds like even they are ready to put it to bed. I also hate the criticism he's received over being open about his virginity. That’s something he shouldn’t even have to announce, but the fact that he did says enough. Just ask Ashley I.

Nordyke: With Jason, Blake and Colton presumed to have been the three finalists, we're still facing an issue where producers seemingly are not making diversity a priority when casting the show. After taking a huge step forward with Rachel's season, here we are three seasons later with three white stars in a row (first Arie, then Becca and now Colton). As Ashley mentioned above, they had Venmo John as an option. But also, why not Wills? Or John? Or Kenny? Or Eric? Eric may not have made any new fans with his treatment of Angela on Bachelor in Paradise, but I'm still a fan of his charm and overall positivity. Kenny showed his devotion to his daughter when he left Bachelor in Paradise, which may have been one of the most "aw"-inducing moments of the season. And Wills certainly has style and more of his personality to reveal to viewers. It seems like a missed opportunity.

Cullins: Those guys would definitely draw viewers — I especially dig Kenny — but give me more Venmo John if not Colton. He's clearly intelligent and his personality is so upbeat that it's somehow endearing that he makes out with everyone. I'd love to watch that adorably nerdy guy find his match.

What do you think of Colton as the Bachelor? Sound off in the comments, below.