'Bachelor' Debate: Who Will Be ABC's Next Star?

The Bachelorette Eric Bigger, Peter Kraus and Dean Unglert - Split - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of ABC

Update: Rachel Lindsay named Bryan Abasolo as her winner on Monday's season finale, officially taking the frontrunner out of the running in the discussion below. Read about the finale here.

The Bachelorette hasn't even picked her winner yet, and already Bachelor Nation is abuzz with questions about who the next Bachelor will be.

Though the ABC reality franchise traditionally selects a runner-up or fan-favorite from its sister show — meaning one of the four Bachelorette finalists (pictured above) would be the frontrunners — the long-running dating series has also been known to have more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Case in point: When two-time runner-up Nick Viall was chosen as last year's Bachelor over fan-favorite Bachelorette castoff Luke Pell in a last-minute twist. If memories go further back, Brad Womack was even the Bachelor twice.

Though the audience might be expecting an official announcement during the live After the Final Rose special, which airs after Monday's Bachelorette finale, Chris Harrison says they are taking their time with the decision.

"More than likely the next Bachelor will come out of the final three because that’s what history tells us," the franchise host told The Hollywood Reporter at the recent taping for the Men Tell All reunion special. "But we’re also going wait to see what happens with Bachelor in Paradise, because that’s where Nick came from last year."

So, will the next Bachelor be the one who Lindsay dumps? Will he follow in her heels and be historic? Or could he come out of left field? THR's resident Bachelor franchise experts Jackie Strause and Christina Schoellkopf debate the best options below.

Jackie Strause: I think we can safely say that of Rachel's three finalists, Bryan Abasolo is out of the running for the Bachelor. Even though we don't know who Rachel picks on Monday night, Bryan has long been the frontrunner and, at this point, seems like the obvious winner. He will also be continuing the trend of the first-impression rose getter going on to win the season. (Other examples: Jordan Rodgers, Shawn Booth, Roberto Martinez.) But even if Bryan doesn't win, the fans really don't seem to like him. A quick search of his name on social media proves it, so I'd say he's out of this debate. Do you agree?

Christina Schoellkopf: I agree about Bryan’s slim chances. Even on night one he turned fans off with his slobbery first kiss, the first smooch of the season. Typically, ABC cares strongly about the likability factor in casting their Bachelor or Bachelorette. Remember when they unofficially chose Caila Quinn as the Bachelorette and began filming her season promo, before abruptly choosing the more likable JoJo Fletcher instead?

Strause: Yes, you bring up a good point. Even Luke Pell had his bags packed and was told the night before he was flying to the Bachelor Mansion that they went with Nick Viall instead.

Schoellkopf: Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like Juan Pablo — who even Chris Harrison admitted that he didn’t like. But even in casting Nick for The Bachelor season 21, they waited until he was more likable following his admirable behavior on that summer’s Bachelor in Paradise before giving him his own show.

Strause: Since Chris said they plan to wait to see how Paradise shakes out before announcing the next Bachelor, they could be looking to cast someone from Paradise. There is one likable contestant who fits both of those bills: Dean Unglert.

Schoellkopf: Dean Unglert has scored major points. For one, he took the high road when producers reunited him with his estranged father. He took to his social media to encourage viewers to be tolerant of his dad’s Sikh faith and after the episode aired during the Men Tell All, he had no ill will towards ABC for how the whole thing was portrayed. Ahead of the season, Rachel told me she asked the Bachelorette team to avoid casting “babies in their twenties.” Yet, she gave him a chance. That says something.

Strause: But Dean himself also told us at the Men Tell All taping that he wasn't quite ready to be the Bachelor. By that point, he'd already filmed Paradise, so that experience hadn't changed his mind. Would an overwhelming fan response this summer do the trick? The thing is, I agree with him. I don't think that he is mature enough to handle an entire season. I would not tune in for more date questions about, "What is your favorite dinosaur?" I can tell you that.

Schoellkopf: Don't forget his pickup line the night he met Rachel...

Strause: Oh, I haven't, and neither has Rachel. He told her, "I'm ready to go black and never go back." Recently, a fan posted a photo with him and wrote, "Went black, but came back." Rachel actually commented on the photo with a correction: "Sent back... He didn't come back lol." Now, thanks to Lee Garrett, Chris Harrison said social media checks will be par for the course moving forward. That line living on could knock Dean down a peg.

Schoellkopf: That comment is insensitive. Period. But I applaud Dean for approaching other conversations about race on the show respectfully; he denounced Lee’s ignorance and he considerately expressed his thoughts on interracial dating while he was on the show. He's 26, but he conveyed his old soul early on, opening up about his troubled past and the loss of his mother. As Rachel put it, he kept it real — and it doesn’t get more likable than that in a reality TV setting. Plus, #DeanForBachelor was trending after he was dumped. This season has addressed race in ways the franchise never has before. Do you think they will want to keep the heavy dialogue going by casting Eric as ABC’s first black Bachelor?

Strause: Eric is an interesting one because he's a bit of a dark horse, both for Rachel and for the Bachelor race. He's also inexperienced in the relationship department, but Bachelor Nation completely fell in love with him after his hometown date and seeing his family. His charm undeniably has rubbed off on Rachel, who is the happiest whenever she's around him. That doesn't mean she is in love with him, but she certainly enjoys their time together and you know he would be an entertaining lead. But something tells me ABC isn't ready to name the first black Bachelor. They took a big step in the diversity department, but I don't think they're going to leap. The Bachelor in Paradise cast is still majority white contestants.

Schoellkopf: Paradise’s diversity has slightly improved from the last season: three nonwhite men this year compared to only one in 2016. The franchise is obviously obsessed with historic firsts (“the most dramatic episode ever!”). The casting director, Lacey Pemberton, Harrison and Lindsay have all told me that they are open to it, but emphasized that it’s less about the race of the person and more about their character and personality. But will Eric’s character still hold strong if we see him exiting on Monday?

And that brings me to Peter. By week two on Rachel’s season, he was one of the top three most-tweeted about contestants on the show, according to Twitter analytics. So we know he has been a fan favorite from the beginning — what’s not to like about a salt and pepper-haired gentleman with adorable gap teeth? But I think the problem with Peter is that he doubts the process too much to lead his own season. He obviously freaked out during his hometown date and voiced his concerns about getting down on one knee so quickly in a relationship. Viewers are not going to sign up for a 10-week journey with a guy that doesn't plan on proposing at the end. That’s a hard sell. But Peter does fall into the perfect age range. He's 31, the average age of Bachelors at the time of their season premiere, and I think he has a better chance compared to Eric.  Something tells me they wouldn’t cast the first black Bachelor directly after the first black Bachelorette.

Strause: I agree. I think Peter is a great, great catch — but is he great TV? I truly don't know. He certainly has Bachelor Nation on his side, but my hesitations now have me wandering over to the cast of this summer's Paradise, and also to some blasts from seasons past. We've mentioned another great catch Luke Pell, but he recently went on the Almost Famous podcast and said he is dating someone. Wait... what about the newly single Ben Higgins!

Schoellkopf: It’s possible! It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve brought a Bachelor back from the dead. (Brad Womack, seasons 11 and 15.)  His Almost Famous podcast with Ashley I. proves he isn’t shying away from staying connected to the Bachelor world, and that he still has a following. But if we're going with wild cards, I have my bets on Robby Hayes or Wells Adams making the best impressions on Paradise

Strause: Is that your strongest case? Then I pick Ben as my wildcard, but Peter as my safe bet.

Schoellkopf: Well, if we're going with wild cards... I say Chris Harrison!

Now that we've presented all of the options, who do you vote for?